Figuring out household finances can become a real sore point for family caregivers. After all, having someone living in your home raises the cost of basics, like food and utilities. And if multiple family members help care for a loved one, it can be challenging to track who paid for what. Here are some ideas that can help:
1. Call a family meeting to establish big-picture principles.
When it comes to money issues, it's important to lay the cards -- including the credit cards -- on the table, with all the relevant parties involved. Work out a general approach to spending that everyone can get on board with. Once a year, hold a special meeting to address big expenses coming up, such as a new roof or a faltering washing machine.
2. Keep a receipt box.
If multiple caregivers are involved, tracking expenses is critical so that nobody later complains of spending more than his or her fair share. Have a clearinghouse system in which all receipts -- for medication and drugstore supplies, medical co-pays, hairdresser appointments, and so on -- are deposited in one place, with the payer's name indicated. Some families find it useful for one member to track individual spending on a spreadsheet.
3. Work out a single rent check.
Track bills for a month or two and compare them to life before your loved one moved in. Come up with a single figure that includes proportional amounts for electricity, heat, food, and other basics. This eliminates dickering over individual bills every month, while allowing your loved one to feel as if he or she is contributing. (It works in reverse if younger family members move in with an older generation.)
4. Set up payment systems.
Another approach is to decide together on a general system for how bills are to be paid. Some families choose to use one credit card for medication, another for supplies or food, and so on. If your loved one insists on writing checks, look into having another family member's name on the account. In the event the person becomes too ill or disabled to physically write checks, access to this account won't be lost.