Recently, my younger sister received mail for my older sister for whom she is the guardian. The mail contained a check based on dividend’s my disabled sister had been receiving over the past ten years. Her former employer had been unable to locate her. During this discovery, I researched websites for unclaimed funds in several states. There were numerous accounts held in her name. While none of those amounts might cover the costs of her care, every penny still counts.
Something similar occurred following the death of my first husband, as well as my father. There were electric company accounts with deposits. An old dental bill that had been overpaid. Given the transient nature of our society - young adults transplant themselves frequently, aging parents move to remain close to their children, middle aged adults move to retire - it’s not surprising. As caregivers, we can continue to support our loved ones through following up on opportunities to grow the funding for our loved ones’ care.
Money Tips for Caregivers
Below is a list of money tips for caregivers, culled from tips offered by Fulton Bank, with branches in the Northeastern U.S. and other personal experiences:
Inventory everything. Before computers came into existence, my father kept a yellow legal pad with an ongoing inventory of bank accounts, the names of legal and financial representation, and insurance contracts. He made it easy for me to locate the necessary information when the time came. I’ve done the same thing, with names, addresses, and now email contacts for individuals who represent my interests. I only wished he would have specified what to do with his beloved Murano glass collection. Lucky for me, I came into the possession of a few more than my share.
Review credit card statements, create bill payment plans. A consistent review of credit card statements and other incoming mail will provide an apt picture of your loved one’s financial situation. When the son of another set of aging adults we help care for discovered his parents were overdue on their credit card payments, a long conversation ensued. Their children formulated a payment plan to wipe out that debt and ease some of their financial burden which had been causing undue strain on their health. Sometimes, we wind up in a situation which might cause embarrassment without realizing its impact on our well-being.
Count on your community. There are a wide variety of options in local communities designed to support the aging of a loved one. These supports might come in the way of counseling, a free day of respite caregiving, training, and other free programming that gives caregivers confidence in their duties.
Consider how managing someone else’s money might impact your finances. Named as the POA for both my parents, I understood their financial picture. Their long-term care policy had lapsed. Retirement savings had dwindled. My father was prescient in his purchase of insurance policies, yet if both parents remained in their current state, financial instability would set in. In a position to help offset their costs, I promised my father they would receive the best care I could offer if their savings ran out. He died without knowing if that was possible. His insurance policy allowed for my mother to reside in a care home until her death. There are always hidden costs to caring. We want to provide for our parents in the same way they provided for us. Financial counselors and social workers can provide caregivers with professional guidance on how to balance managing one’s own money while managing someone else’s care. The creation of two budgets will provide a solid picture of both, and help caregivers envision their lives as separate.
Our loved ones have life experiences which contribute positively or negatively to their bottom line. My parents helped to care for grandchildren and took out loans on their insurance policies to cover college costs of their children. At one point, my father feared he was upside on an insurance policy. He kept that fact hidden for a long time, worried over how he might pay it back. I might argue that stress was a precursor to his Parkinson’s. In the end, he finally did confess. We contacted a lawyer who worked through the issue. When the policy was sold to another insurance carrier, there had been a processing error. He was so relieved. We were too.
Annette Januzzi Wick is a writer, speaker, and author of I’ll Have Some of Yours, a journey of cookies and caregiving. (Three Arch Press). A frequent contributor to Cincinnati.com, her work has appeared in Cincinnati Magazine, nextavenue.com, Still Point Arts, 3rd Act Magazine, Ovunque Siamo, Belt Magazine and Creative Nonfiction (both forthcoming). Visit annettejwick.com to learn more.