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Finance Related Planning and Support for Caregivers

How Much graphicFinances can be a tough and tension-filled topic, especially as most of us consider discussions around our personal finances to be private. It’s common to be uncomfortable hearing about other’s financial situations. We know money-related issues cause the most arguments and disagreements in marriages and among family. The same can be true of the relationship around caregiving. Finances are such a critical part of growing older independently—so do not be afraid to talk about this with your loved ones, older family members, etc., you can do this!

As caregiver and champion, partner with your loved one to gain a complete understanding of the family resources in order to understand options and plan for aging. Partnering in this way may also help prevent, or make it easier to detect, financial abuse or elder scamming. Having a pro-active conversation with your loved one about the need to understand their financial situation may be challenging – but if done with compassion and understanding, can be one that opens up a new level of your relationship.

When approaching finances, keep the perspective that you’re not trying to pry, or to be nosy, but rather be a partner to make sure their wishes are honored, or to pitch in with financial management. Keep in mind, this conversation requires trust and may need to take place over time. .

You will want to have a complete understanding of the resources of household income including:

Social Security, Pensions, Annuities, Interest bearing accounts and earnings, Savings, Veterans Benefits, Public Assistance, Rental Income, Life Insurance and others.

You will also want to understand household expenses such as:

Rent or Mortgage, Household Bills, Health Care and Medical Expenses, Taxes, Groceries, Pet Care, Transportation, Shopping and Entertainment, Household Help or other Assistance, Life, Car, and Household Insurance, and others.

Having an understanding of household expenses and income can provide you with the ability to, together, determine the best options for the future. You may also be able to identify ways to save money or lower expenses.

Having knowledge of the household resources can also help to determine if your loved one qualifies for financial support from Medicaid, which may provide support services (in-home help, assistance with daily activities, and more) or other state support programs.

You should know, however, there is often a “financial look-back period” of a number of years (often 5 to 7 years) when an applicant accesses public benefits. The purpose of this period is to make sure family resources have not been given or “gifted” to others in order to qualify for public benefits. When planning for the future, it is very important to work with professionals who can help you to apply for benefits and ensure eligibility in the best ways possible.

You may also want to discuss becoming a co-signer on your loved one’s financial accounts so you may assist with day-to-day financial affairs more easily. You will need the explicit permission of your loved one to become a co-signer.

Your loved one should have a Durable Power of Attorney for Finance. This legal document:

If your loved one is not receptive to financial assistance, you may consider hiring a professional to provide support and guidance. Sometimes finances are easier to discuss with a non-family member.

When your support with finances may be needed -- what to look for:

As we grow older, we may experience difficulty managing financial affairs. In fact, having unpaid or late bills, especially when out of character, is often a clue that a loved one needs support. Also be aware of mail piling up, going unopened, or unattended.

It is important to be attentive to financial management—not only for reasons of finance and stability, but also for indicators of other, more significant changes in your loved one. For instance, an inability to handle financial affairs may result from cognitive impairment or other physiological change.

For some, not addressing financial issues is a lifelong trait, and unfortunately one that can create significant difficulties in later years. Letting finances go unmanaged could also result from the decline or death of a partner or spouse who handled finances throughout a relationship, and no longer able to do so. Finally, difficulty with finances can be a result of depression or difficulty managing change.

Next step: Legal and financial planning resources

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