I am making tiny progress in my attempt to take over managing my mother's finances.
My mother is 80, and she is having a great deal of problems making sense of her bills and keeping on top of them. She has been basically driving me crazy with frequent phone calls asking me to troubleshoot individual issues, and of course without having the bill in front of me to look at, it's practically impossible to figure out what is wrong.
I have offered several times to manage ALL her bills if she would put my name on her checking account, making it a joint checking account. She was very reluctant to do that, but yet she kept calling me for help in figuring things out.
Finally, last week, she agreed to let me do it because it's just beyond her and it causes her a great deal of stress. She always complains about her "paperwork" and "catching up."
So we agreed I would go over there this weekend to set things up. I created a simple spreadsheet with all her individual bills and months left in this year, to show her how I'd fill in the amount of each expense. Once we went the bank to turn her account into a joint account, and got myself a set of checks with both our names, I would then contact each utility company, her car and homeowner's insurance providers, etc. etc. to ask them to start sending her bills to my address. I would also create online accounts to pay everything that way, and an online account to monitor her checking account as I would need to know when her Social Security deposits were made, and in what amount, so I can make sure to balance her checkbook, which has been another extremely trying thing for my mother.
I was over there yesterday and it was as if we never had the earlier conversation. (I suspect my mother has dementia.) There was another protracted conversation about it. The frustration nearly drove me to tears. She trusts me to manage her bills, but what was keeping her from agreeing is embarrassment that people that "know her" at the bank or elsewhere would think she has dementia (a word I have never used with her in conversation). She also did not want me to pay her common charges for the same reason and felt that people would look at her funny if they knew her daughter was paying her bills.
I finally got her to agree to my plan but by the time we got to that point, it was noon. I called the bank, which was about to close, and asked what was required to turn my mother's account into a joint checking account. She said you just need to come with your mother to sign the signature card, and bring your power of attorney paperwork with you. So, because I don't want to lose pay by taking time off from work, we'll have to wait til next Saturday morning to do that.
Once that is done (and I sure hope my mother will remember why we're there next week) then I can start the other part of the process, contacting billing companies to mail me the bills, and setting up the online accounts.
There are 2 bills I'm concerned about that I actually left for her to handle because they are current bills and I knew I wouldn't be able to start paying her bills for probably a few weeks.
One is her electric bill, where she owes as I recall around $1,000. The problem i think is that she's on a budget plan where they bill you a fixed (same) amount every month, but it obscures the true cost of the electricity you're using. We had a very cold winter here and my mother had her electric heat up to her usual 72 or so degrees, not realizing how much she was running up.
The other big bills include 3 bills from private ambulance companies from when she called 911 to go to the hospital. She's done this multiple times before because she has atrial fibrillation and she panics when her heart starts fluttering. For some reason, now she's getting these big bills, and I'm worrying that I should have taken down info on them so I could call to inquire about them on her behalf, but i honestly was feeling so overwhelmed and emotionally drained from just having to convince my mother I need to step in, etc., that I instructed her to just pay the current bills.
She said they had greatly reduced the amount owed of one of those ambulance bills and i think she is expected that to happen with the others, although she hasn't spoken to them and doesn't know why she's gotten these bills. I may have to intervene. I have such limited time.
And of course there's her checking account, where her balance differs from the bank's by about $2,000, she said, although the difference is in her favor. Still, it should be balanced, and I'm looking at her checkbook and seeing a zillion different notations and notes of her. It could be impossible to "balance" and maybe not worth the aggravation. But if I decide to just go with the balance the bank says it has, then she's going to want an explanation as to WHY or where did she make a mistake or whatever.
I did 2 other things while I was at my mother's: I started helping sort through her "paperwork," which includes several large piles on the floor around her desk. In the past when I've tried to throw things out,she protests and says she wants to read that but hasn't had the time. Well, half this "paperwork" was junk mail or articles on nutrition or other matters she has an interest in. I threw a lot of it away, knowing that she likely will never get around to reading it.
The other thing I did, and you may disapprove of my tactics, is I saw my mother's password written down on a sticky on her monitor, and I wrote it down.
When I got home, I was able to log in and delete over a hundred junky emails in her inbox. These emails tend to paralyze her. Many of them were spam emails that resulted after she went online and clicked on a political ad. She's an Obama supporter, and so she gets dozen's of these emails every week asking for money to support the campaign.
I had to laugh because when she got these personalized emails from the President or Michelle Obama, she really believed they were coming from them personally, and she wrote them rather lengthy letters as if they were really being read by someone, explaining that she was a self-employed artist and couldn't afford more than a $5 donation.
I unsubscribed her from as many of these as I could. I hope I did not overdo it, but I do feel that minimizing her junk mail and clearing through some of the piles at her desk will help lower her level of stress and anxiety.
My level of stress and anxiety is another matter. I had all sorts of errands planned for after I left my mother's, but I felt so drained, i really had to push myself to do a few of them. Eventually, I hope that managing my mother's bills will be more or less routine, but right now, it's been like pulling teeth even to get this far, and really, I have yet to set anything up.
I do have an older sister but she doesn't want to be "involved" with dealing with my mother so it basically falls into my lap. My sister's way of dealing with my mother is to avoid contact as much as possible.
I recently purchased a book on Amazon written by a longtime cartoonist for the New Yorker. The book is filled with cartoons that delve into the author's own experiences caring for her aging parents before they died. One of them had Alzheimer's. As a cartoonist, she was able to to inject some humor into all these trying situations, and I really got some chuckles out of some of them already, which I can relate to.
I think the title of the book is something her parents would always say (like my mother) whenever she brought up certain topics: "Can't We Talk About Something More Pleasant?"
Thank god, my father does not have any mental issues. While my parents have been divorced since I was 6, I have talked to my father a few times about my concerns about my mother, because since my sister is not helpful, my dad is really the only person I can talk to who truly understands the situation and can offer advice. I think I will call him today to see if he has any suggestions.
This was NEVER something that was on my radar, but I think caring for my mother as she ages is going to be a huge part of my life moving forward. It's scary. It's practically a full-time job. Not having had kids, I haven't ever experienced really taking care of another human being; i was always just responsible for myself, and I've been fully independent of anyone else, financially and otherwise, since I was 21.
There are many things I still want to do with my life, namely, travel. I am determined to still be able to do things like this but my mother's slowly increasing dependence on me is definitely a complicating factor.
Another challenge to deal with down the nearby road is getting her to start paying for occasional housekeepers. I have done the vacuuming and dusting in the past, but working f/t, i can't do this anymore. Right in her complex is a woman who cleans houses, and I urged her to start with her first because she knows her, and to find out what she charges. But that hasn't happened. Getting my mother to do things is very difficult. I have my hands full right now.
Once I get her bills in order, I may just call someone, but I also worry about having a stranger in the place alone with my mother and I might feel the need to be there while she cleans.
I worry about theft, mainly. Yesterday I returned to my mother a nice bracelet she'd been wearing Mother's day and which slipped off her wrist onto my car seat. She hadn't realized it was missing. That's the kind of thing i worry about should strangers come in the house and wander through the rooms without her constant supervision. It would be too easy to take something.
In other news...
The Las Vegas author paid me the final balance ($145) she owed me for editing her manuscript.
And the other author finally got a job! She's very excited becus it pays $20/hr and she said she'll finally be able to give me 2 more books to start editing by end of June. Of course, she's changed the start date more times than I can count, but it would be nice to have a new project to work on.
In addition to that, looks like I'll have something else "big" to edit for another client who is an IT director at a private Jewish school in New York City. He's written a new software program that he wants to launch. I've been editing his work emails for several years now and he really likes my editing, but often times i have difficulty understanding what he's trying to say and the subject matter is not something I know much about. Guess we'll see how it goes. He has trouble organizing his thoughts; that's why I edit his work emails...he said he's mailing me a document his lawyer drew up and wants me to sign so I'll have to review it carefully as i don't plan to hire a lawyer myself. I expect it's mainly aimed at keeping me from talking about his new software program.
Taking over my mother's bills...someday you may have to do this too
I am making tiny progress in my attempt to take over managing my mother's finances.