To Pay or Not To Pay – Managing the Bills

There’s no arguing that the women in my family are quite capable, some would even say head-strong (or pig headed). So needless to say having the conversation about ‘power of attorney’ with a woman who has spent the last 40 years managing her own life is something that I have avoided like the plague!

Are you managing the bills for your parent?

However this week I was forced to ‘man-up’, if you will, when I discovered that my mum’s phone line had been disconnected because she hadn’t paid the bill in several months. For all my mother’s shortcomings in the area of mathematics, keeping track of bills has never ever been an issue, so this most recent event has me reeling. My lessons in compassion were definitely tested. As I started prodding for information before I got on the phone, I realize that my mum is creating an elaborate story to cover up the fact that she has been very depressed lately over herfailing memory – but many heated words are exchanged long before I get to this revelation.

A heated argument then ensues about having to keep up with the phone bill because this is her only lifeline to the outside world when she’s not well, and essential for emergencies given her current medical condition. I hate these arguments because I can never keep my emotions in check; I always end up saying something that I regret despite all the yelling inside my head to keep my mouth shut! I manage large crews of people during live televised events where stress levels are high, and I’m cool as a cucumber, but when it comes to discussing practical issues with my mother I lose it like a 4 year old.

This time, when she informs me that she does not plan on calling for assistance ever again, I oh so ungraciously inform her that she could at least have the courtesy of calling me to say good-bye... all of this over the phone while my mother is standing in the superintendent’s office of her building. And now I feel like the worst daughter ever!

And to add insult to injury I have to call the phone company and spend the next 3 hours being bounced around from department to department until someone will deign to speak with me. After giving them my mother’s full address, account number, date of birth (with an emphasis on her current age), and her mother’s maiden name, they inform me that they will gladly take my credit card info for the payment but they cannot give me any other information, namely when they will reinstate the phone, because they are unable to divulge that to anyone other than the account holder. Really? You’ll take my money but won’t reinstate her phone until you talk to her? And how do you propose to do that? I didn’t realize the phone company used smoke signals to contact their customers! I finally get to speak to a manager who has the intelligence to realize that this 80 year old woman was not going to willing confess her neglect, and the only way they were going to get money was to deal with me.

Caregiver Lesson Learned: Add Your Name To Your Loved One's Accounts

At the end of all of this, I did learn something very valuable: you don’t have to have power of attorney to have your name added to a loved one’s accounts. Once the phone was back up and running, we called all the utility companies and added me to the accounts so at least now they will be able to divulge ‘top secret classified’ information, like whether or not the accounts are in good standing. I recommend every caregiver do this before they get to a desperate situation — dealing with my mum is trying enough without having to then deal with red tape! (and yes, I have managed to postpone the power of attorney for yet another day... when the going gets tough, the tough go into denial!)

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Do you manage your parents bills for them? Share your advice, experiences and thoughts in the Comments section below.

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