If you are caring for an elderly parent or family member—or expect to assume caregiver responsibility in the near future—money management is one of those topics that invariably comes up. Unfortunately, it’s also invariably fraught with stress, whether you’re discussing your own finances or those of your aging parent. However, once your loved one needs a caregiver, the money management discussion can no longer be avoided.
Here are some tips from the Family Caregiver Alliance about what a caregiver should know about money.
As a caregiver, how do I start the money management conversation?
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, initiating a conversation about finances is hard; money is always an emotional issue. As a caregiver, your parent’s finances may affect your own money management decisions and those of any siblings you have. It’s best to start with the basics, even though your mom or dad may be hesitant. You need to know your loved one’s wishes, the actual state of their finances, and whom you can rely on to physically help or contribute financially. A family meeting to discuss these questions is a good first step.
I’m my parent’s primary caregiver; how do I approach money management issues with my family?
The subject of money, perhaps more than all others, triggers emotional responses among family members. If you’ve taken responsibility for caring for your aging parent, you rightfully have many questions and concerns, especially if you’ve quit a job or cut back your hours to become the primary caregiver.
According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, you’ll need answers to these questions from your family members:
- How will we, as a family, make money management decisions and decide how Mom/Dad’s money will be spent? Who will be responsible for paying bills and accounting for finances?
- Are you OK with Mom/Dad reimbursing me for some of the expenses I incur as a caregiver? If so, which ones and how much? If Mom/Dad moves in with me, what should he/she contribute for food and living expenses?
- If I’m the primary caregiver, can we spend some of Mom/Dad’s money to help meet my financial needs?
- How about respite care? Will you pay someone or will you help me when I need a break or a weekend away?
- What will we do if Mom/Dad’s money runs out? How much can we realistically contribute and for how long?
- How will we make decisions if Mom/Dad needs more care than I can provide? What are our options (assisted living, nursing facility, live-in care)? How will finances factor into our decision?
The Family Caregiver Alliance suggests it might work well if the caregiver is also the one handling the money to avoid petty disputes when expenses come up. But you may want to agree on a system for transparency, such as sharing monthly or quarterly expense reports and account balances with all family members. Try not to let old resentments or other family issues creep into the conversation; stay focused on the situation as it is today and how to plan for the short and long term. Remember, if you didn’t provide the care, your parent’s money would be spent on other caregivers or living arrangements.
Keep in mind, illness, aging, and finances are complex issues even under the best of circumstances, so be prepared for some conflict and frank discussions. Ultimately, however, money management conversations should be an opportunity to draw your family together to care for your loved one.
For more information about tips on money management for caregivers, please see:
“What Every Caregiver Needs to Know About Money,” Family Caregiver Alliance, last modified 2015, https://www.caregiver.org/what-every-caregiver-needs-know-about-money