“Oh, we’re just like family here...” That’s a catchphrase heard in many a workplace: Still, periodically—at least annually if not monthly—workplace personnel and operations need an itemized review. It should checklist financial accountability and quality control plus records management as well as work flow. In between regular reviews, it’s especially crucial (weekly, if not daily) to keep an eye on cash flow. That’s regardless of its being a cash-register business, a shopping-cart enterprise, or other kind of establishment. If such annual audits and interim supervision are lax or, worse, lacking...even dependable longtime workers can succumb to a stock way of doing things, or to sloppy work, or to the temptation of stealing...a little at first, nothing noticeable, but eventually a lot. Too many times, we hear stories of the trusted gray-haired bookkeeper of 20 years suddenly running away to Paris, absconding with the bank account.
So, too, in families: All of the above is applicable to managing the affairs of the elderly.
Typically the elderly entrust their financials, entirely and exclusively, to one family member or financial adviser rather than dividing financial responsibilities among two or more parties. Whether that (for example, the appearance of favoring one child over another) leads to hurt feelings, the elderly may still become a victim of mishandled financial affairs, not because they chose the wrong son or daughter or professional fiduciary—accountant, lawyer, or so on. Rather, as years go by, the elderly may be victimized when no one else is reviewing that aspect of the family financials in either a friendly or formal way. As the Romans put it, “Who shall guard the guards?”
In a household setting, where there’s no calendared financial review or reminders, there’s risk—real risk—of money loss. It arises from a trusted fiduciary’s poor decision-making or bad investing, from occasional or emergency “borrowing,” or from benign neglect or worse...from a secret resentment long-held since childhood or from a costly addiction like alcoholism or gambling or substance abuse or an extravagant lifestyle and so on. Any of that may lead to misappropriating / embezzling an elderly person’s funds or misusing / exhausting that person’s assets.
Case in point: Elderly parents transfer the title or deed, for their home, to one of their children. Usually this is done to obtain Medicaid for medical help. One or both of the elderly parents may already be ill and in need of expensive home care or nursing home care. The parents trust the child to keep the residence in order, pay the bills, and ensure that they will always have a place to live. But if there is no standard scheduled accountability for such financial management, the child could eventually be tempted to take out a mortgage on that house and pilfer away the equity in the parents’ home. As a worst-case scenario, the mortgage is not paid. The bank forecloses on the property. Or if the “adult child” as a debtor (in debt to others) doesn't personally mortgage the house, his or her creditors may force a sale of the house to recover money they’re owed. And then where are the elderly residents to go?
That’s why the role of Financial Caretaker for the Elderly must also involve a regular Financial Accounting, meeting Financial Calendars for the Elderly. Sure, it would be an additional safeguard to have more than one family member as a Financial Manager for the elderly in a family—for an absentminded parent or aging aunt or retiree seeking to be carefree at last. But too often it’s not practical or plausible to delegate a shared management of those financial affairs. Sibling rivalry or geographic distance and so on may interfere with setting up a joint power of attorney bestowed on two or more family members. But at the very least, such financial power must be subject to periodic—at least annual if not monthly—checklists of financial accountability and records management.
Who should review the financial paper trail of the person whose been entrusted as a fiduciary for the elderly? First and foremost, that person himself or herself should have easy access to well-kept records for the elderly person whose care they have undertaken. It may be prudent for that person to enroll online or onsite in a short program on Being a Financial Caretaker and Meeting Financial Calendars for the Elderly. I am happy to announce that an entertaining and informative record-keeping tutorial program is being introduced online by The National Chamber of Commerce for Women in Elder Care™—NCCWEldercare.com.
Just as important...the elderly person, too, should be able to ask for the peace of mind in seeing an annual if not monthly financial statement though, in many a case, the elderly person may be too embarrassed or intimidated to ask for that kind of documentation.
And that’s where a third-party reviewer should not only be available, but also named in the fiduciary paperwork (in the power of attorney, etc) as having that right of review—to review at least an annual financial statement issued in regard to an elderly person’s funds. That third party’s right of review should be enforceable, if necessary, in a court of law. The third party may be a trusted professional like an accountant, lawyer, or Private Geriatric Care Manager. Or he or she may be another family member. Or it can be a representative from an organization named as a beneficiary in a charitable bequest (as, for instance, in a “legacy” donation specified in a last will and testament). Or, again, it can simply be a third-party monitoring organization like The National Chamber of Commerce for Women in Elder Care™—NCCWeldercare.com—who contracts to review, at least as a once-a-year checkup, the financial affairs of an aging or elderly person who wants that little bit of extra financial assurance, who wants that peace of mind.
When the third-party reviewer comes to sit down and look at the financials (the paperwork)... he or she—as part of a home-visit “consult”—can also assess the physical needs and well-being of the elder. That may include whether the elder needs a home attendant...a review or recommendation regarding assignment of a home attendant, supervision of a home attendant... whether the elder needs doctor appointments and or an escort to doctor’s appointments... following up on doctor’s prescriptions, making sure that prescriptions are filled and that the home attendant administers the treatments, as prescribed, to the elder...assessment of eligibility for entitlements, whether the elder qualifies for food stamps, medicaid, or transportation like Access-a-Ride (a form of private bus not limited to regular bus routes, at a very nominal cost)...
Next week Tuesday as part of our Home Risk Management™ Agenda:
How “ObamaCare” affects the elderly
Meantime, Be Well, Feel Good...