“You’re It.” Financial Caregiving and Money Beliefs

by | Apr 5, 2021 | *Financial Awakenings, Money Psychology, Retirement Planning, Weekly Column

“Mom, I can’t take time off work today to take you to your doctor’s appointment, so I’ve arranged to pay for an Uber driver instead.

The elderly parent’s need for transportation is met. The son or daughter’s obligation and desire to help is fulfilled, with the Uber fee costing much less than the expense and disruption of taking time off work. It’s a win/win for everyone, right?

Only if one could strip all the emotional history and money scripts from the individuals involved. Some seniors might feel really uncomfortable getting into a car with someone they don’t know. Others may be offended and feel minimized by a family member’s refusal to help out personally. Others may feel obligated to pay back the cost. The list of possible emotions goes on and on.

The caregiver may also feel angry at being relied on, resentful at having to pay out of pocket, or guilty for not showing up in person. This list also goes on and on.

A friend of mine has, somewhat by default, become the support person for an acquaintance with no family or other friends able to help him with finances or take him to medical appointments. She summed up the situation this way: “I don’t want to be ‘It,’ but he has no one else.”

None of us want to be in the position where we have no one on whom to rely for help when our cognitive or physical faculties are waning and we can no longer drive, shop, or manage financial matters. I’ve helped several clients negotiate their last years when they had no one but my associates and I to be “It.”

In such cases, though, I am paid to be “It.” As an advocate for my client’s finances and wellbeing, I don’t personally do everything. I may arrange for services like Uber drivers or grocery deliveries. I also can enlist the services of a professional caretaker whose business is personal advocacy to seniors and who will take clients shopping and be with them at medical appointments. However, my clients pay for all those services.

The situation for most people who are “It” is much different. Most would not think of asking to be compensated for their time, or even their out-of-pocket expenses like gas or meals or small purchases. They may have a money script that asking for reimbursement is rude or selfish. They may believe that a “good person” should always help with no regard for the cost to themselves.

Even if reimbursement were offered, how many people that are “It” would accept? Again, money scripts abound as to why a person would not accept a monetary gift of gratitude from someone they helped. Some may see it as being greedy. Others may not believe the other person is sincere in their offer to compensate them. Others may truly be happy to give their time and money to help, especially if the senior’s income is limited, and may feel the joy of giving minimized by the offer to pay them.

For seniors just beginning to need help, one solution is to consider establishing a paid support system to the degree that it’s financially possible. This could include a bookkeeper that can provide some minimal services in the beginning and increase those services as your needs increase. Learn about available services for deliveries, personal shopping, transportation, housekeeping, and home health care—and actually use them. Expanding your circle for everyday assistance in this way may make it easier for the person who is “It” for you to focus on helping you with bigger decisions or issues.

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