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Other People's Money

They say it isn't easy getting old. Neither is being the child of someone who is.

Back in November, someone walked into a branch of US Bank, where my parents have an account, and opened a credit card in my father's name. After dealing with some confused and unhelpful employees, we got the credit card canceled. Last week, a better US Bank employee cancelled and reversed several charges made by a well-known scam company, and the other day, Mom got another call from Lifelock saying that someone was taking money from her US Bank account.

Enough. As much trouble as it was, on Saturday I took Mom to my credit union, where they're buggo on security, to open a new checking account. I knew it would be a hassle to change all the bill pay info and direct deposits, but just getting there and opening an account was a lot of trouble. Good thing I decided to start at 9 AM.

I put Mom's wheelchair in the trunk of her car. It wouldn't start. I moved the wheelchair to my car, drove Mom's scooter where she could transfer herself to it, helped her into my car and put the scooter in the garage.

"I need my purse," Mom said.

"Give me your keys and I'll get it."

"My keys are in my purse."

After some impatient remarks, I drove home to get my set of keys to the house. After getting Mom's purse, we headed for the foothills. It was snowing and foggy, but not terrible for driving. Even so, it had been hard to talk my mom into going out on a day like that.

After we got to the credit union, an agent told us that since the existing account was in Dad's name, we'd need him present or have a power of attorney to open a checking account. US Bank, this wasn't. We came here for more security, but this was another hurdle. Dad couldn't come since he's in a nursing home, but luckily I had the power of attorney on a thumb drive in my purse. Unfortunately, the credit union didn't allow any thumb drives on their computers. The agent said there was a FedEx/Kinkos around, which she knew how to get to, but not well enough to give me directions. (She couldn't even find the credit union on the map.) We looked up the location on the computer, and after a few tries (the internet connection was spotty), I saw how to get there.

Since the credit union is in a city where I don't know my way around, it took me 30 minutes of wandering and backtracking on slick roads to find the place. I got the papers printed and got back to the credit union in ten minutes.

A different agent set up the checking account, verifying IDs and signatures, and Mom and I rambled on down the road. It was half past twelve.

I took some of Mom's laundry home to wash since my parents' water heater was broken--again. Later I brought back the laundry and some Atkins frozen dinners (hat tip to Galina), ordered some hot wings and watched Breaking Bad, the show Mom is addicted to, and went home exhausted.

The note from the plumber who went to my parents' house a few weeks ago mentioned a dirty screen on the water heater. A Youtube video produced by people who make screen cleaners showed how to fix it. Their tight spot vacuum brush would have been great, but I made do with a long duster, turned up the temperature (it was set low), and heard the burner fire up.

Next, mom and I gathered the bills, with some dispute over how to organize them, and paid most of them. Since there's a large balance on one of the credit cards, Mom and I called American Express to get a credit card with a 0% introductory rate on transferred balances. For security purposes, they had to talk directly to her. Since she's hard of hearing, we both had to have an ear to the phone.

"What's your email address?" the agent asked.

I told Mom, and she repeated part of it to the agent. I told her the last part.

"Is that E-N"?

"No, it's I-N. T-E-L--"

"No, it's T-L-E."


"Is the last part G-O?"


"No, it's C-O."

"So, Colorado--"


This went on for five minutes. After we got the email address straightened out, the agent read all the fine print, none of which Mom could hear at all between her hearing problems, fuzzy phone connection, and the agent's Alabama accent. You're probably thinking this would have been easier to apply for online. We tried that. Due to clerical errors, both applications (that was the error) were cancelled. Nevertheless, Mom was approved for the card, and the balance was transferred. It reminded me of Joel Greenblatt's description of reading financial statements in the search for good investments: shovel, throw, shovel, throw. That's how you get to buried treasure, right? It took half an hour, but the new card will save my parents about $2,000 in interest. And tomorrow I'm going to send in a motor vehicle record search request to the state to find out who has a lien on my parents' car. Someday soon, I hope I'll have time to see my father.


tess said…
at the end of the day, I HOPE you felt like great things were accomplished! :-) you're a darned good daughter, Lori!
Lori Miller said…
Thanks, Tess. It feels like we're making headway.
Galina L. said…
I am happy to know that my almost random comment eased a little bit your big load of tasks. I am sure you are happy to be able to help your parents, but it doesn't make it easier.
Lori Miller said…
Atkins frozen dinners are the same price as Meals on Wheels, and they're way better.

At least I'm doing things that play to my strengths--money management, diet and plumbing. If I had to nurse my parents, I'd really feel like I was pushing a rock up a hill.
horfilmania said…
Lori, you have my support and sympathy. I went through the same hell with my Mom. After dropping her off safely at her home, I'd go back to the car, make sure the windows were rolled up and there were no people around and I would scream my frustrations out loudly; actually scream. It helped. I try and forget the Mom I knew in the last 5 years of her life and try to concentrate on the Mom I knew to be the true one but when your dealing with the newer, older one, it's really hard to keep things in perspective. Well, you know what I mean. The best thing I did was to get Mom to agree to a joint account with me as equal partner after Dad died. I don't know what I would have done if she hadn't due to her mental deterioration. I paid all her bills, had to replace the furnace in her house and eventually pay all her medical and nursing home costs. Saved me a lot of grief.
Lori Miller said…
Sorry you went through such a difficult time. Oddly enough, my parents and I all get along better now than we ever have. And while some of the things I have to do are tedious and time consuming, there's satisfaction in putting things back in order.

I agree that it's good to have either a joint account or power of attorney.
Patience ... Patience ... Patience

You coped very well and dare I say it others have been in very similar situations!

I think a stiff whiskey may have been called for .. or at least a glass of wine.

But Well Done Lori

Take Care

All the best Jan
Lori Miller said…
Thanks, Jan. The leaks (both water and dollars) are getting plugged. There's more to do, but seeing the progress makes me happy.
Galina L. said…
I will have to make a difficult decision some time in a future. My mom(76) is in Russia, she believes it would be very difficult for her to join me in US, she visited me in Canada and hardly lasted one month - everything was too foreign for her - language, customs. Now I live in Florida in a too hot climate from my mom's point of view. I hope when she would feel it is getting too difficult to be by herself, she would be less picky. So far I try to visit her at least once a year, sometimes more. She is on a LC diet now and rather healthy for her age. The only health issue - slightly elevated blood pressure, mostly controlled with the diet.
Lori Miller said…
It's a difficult situation. I can see your point--you want to take care of your mother--but I can see her point, too. If she doesn't speak English well and there's no Russian community, she'll be lonely if you're at work all day.
Galina L. said…
I absolutely see her point too, but in a while our situation would be disastrous. She also resides in the same area since 1970, where people live for decades and if a grandma dyes, her grandchild moves into the is like a little village inside big city. Mom is very active in her little community. I wish I could find some way for her to stay at home.

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