What to do if an elderly person is physically unable to pay bills

September 18, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

NEW YORK - As people live longer, more Americans are finding themselves helping older relatives manage their money.

Taking financial responsibility for someone in fragile mental or physical health can be both a personal and fiscal challenge.

Geriatrics experts say it's important to understand that many older people don't like the idea of giving up control of their money, even if they need to do so.

The AARP, the largest organization representing people over age 50, has the following advice for caregivers who find themselves in the position of paying a sick person's bills:

Make a list of the relative's sources of income that can be used to cover expenses, including Social Security, IRAs and pensions. This may require communication with the person's accountant, broker, lawyer or financial planner.

Set up a joint-check account and request that copies of the statement be sent to you and the relative. To do this, you may need to secure a power of attorney.

Use a joint debit or credit card to pay for the person's groceries, prescriptions and clothes.

Verify credentials of anyone who may be hired to assist with the elderly person's finances and monitor account statements to guard against embezzlement.

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