Bill paying services are professional assistants, account managers, money managers or even software programs who can be hired to take over all or some of the following money-centric tasks:
– Receive and review all your loved one’s bills
– Pay bills on time
– Check to make sure charges are legitimate
– File financial documents for easy access later (to prevent document hunting)
– Balance checkbooks
– Negotiate with creditors
Also called “concierge” or “third-party” bill-paying services, these companies will guarantee security, so you don’t have to worry about an important document getting into the wrong hands. Broadly, these services eliminate the chance of missed or late payments, and keep an eye on your loved one’s finances to prevent or quickly solve problems related to paying bills.
Bill Paying services can be tremendously useful for seniors, especially those with Alzheimer’s disease or a related dementia. Even someone living in a home that’s completely paid off will have expenses that add up to hundreds or even thousands of dollars paid out monthly.
Common bills include the following:
These are “fixed costs” that stay the same. That doesn’t even include food costs, typically around $500 monthly, and other common expenses like gas for transportation and pet food.
And seniors have a high rate of additional bills—less predictable ”variable costs”—each month because someone over 65 will average more medical bills from doctor appointments and prescriptions.
Keeping these expenses straight, and paid on time, becomes harder as one ages, but Alzheimer’s disease (or a related illness like Lewy body or frontotemporal dementia) can make paying bills practically impossible. This is when a bill paying service is the right choice for a senior and caregiver.
Difficulty paying bills is one of the first signs of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Someone in the early stages of dementia might try to hide their difficulty managing money because of embarrassment, or because they are worried about losing independence. Watch for these signs:
– Fear or worry when talking about money
– Difficulty counting paper money and change
– Cannot understand bank statements
– Leaves bills unopened
– Makes strange purchases
– Loses money without explanation
– fake charities
– government imposters
– phony sweepstakes or lotteries
– fraudulent insurance payments
A caretaker, usually the spouse or a grown child, can manage their loved one’s bills or even assume Power of Attorney to take over the finances of a loved one with dementia. This arrangement solves the problem of bill paying for a person with dementia, but it can still get complex and stressful.
For some families, there is a better solution: bill paying services for seniors that specialize in helping people who are elderly or have a debilitating chronic illness like Alzheimer’s.
One might wonder why a bill paying service is better than setting up automatic payments out of checking accounts or via credit card. The answer is caregiver relief—these bill paying companies offer an extra layer of support in a difficult time.
Expenses can be unpredictable even if it seems like bills arrive at regular installments. Consider the sheer number of bills that can pile up (see list above), and then factor in unbilled living costs like food and the impact of unexpected expenses like a medical emergency or home or car repair.
With rising costs of living, seniors can also use the additional help managing finances because they often live on a fixed income, without a lot coming in, and solutions like credit cards might spiral into a debt problem.
Bill paying services do charge a fee, but what one receives in exchange for that fee is significant help, security, peace of mind, and the potential to save more money long-term.
After finding a bill paying service with which you are comfortable (see below), they’ll ask for these documents:
– A stack of bills from the last year
– A voided check from your loved one’s bank account
You can hire someone at a bill paying service to manage just one bill, or several. The service will contact the billing companies and arrange to receive bills themselves. They will also connect with your bank and make a relationship there.
Usually, an electronic payment plan is set up, either directly out of your loved one’s bank account or from an escrow fund that you’ll establish (and need to replenish) so that bills may be paid without any bank account access at all.
The service will review all bills before paying, looking for errors or fraud. Then the bills are scanned and saved, typically in a secure online portal that authorized family members can access when necessary through the company’s website.
A bill paying service will be smart about maintaining records, because one of the benefits is easy access to documents later (no more digging through stacks of paper come tax time).
Bill paying services are not regulated by federal or state authorities. Take these steps to make sure you’re in good hands:
– Ask about protection. A bill paying service should be partnered with financial security companies offering firewalls and encryption. Confirm there are safeguards before signing a contract.
– Ask about insurance coverage: What type of insurance is offered, and are they bonded (meaning money is set aside to pay anyone who files a claim)?
– Ask for references: Get at least two clients who have used the service to confirm they are satisfied
The cost for bill paying services for someone with Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia is usually between $50 and $100 per month.
Medicaid recipients may be able to get more affordable help, because some bill-pay services offer a discount to clients who are lower-income or have relationships with local governments. Be sure to inquire.
Bill paying services are not the same as financial planners or daily money managers, who charge more (sometimes up to $100 per hour). Bill paying services are not staffed by accountants and do not advise on financial matters including investments; they are more like assistants who handle tasks one needs help with, especially paying bills and balancing checkbooks, and this makes them ideal for people with dementia.
There are several options for bill paying services for your loved one with dementia, including:
– SilverBills, which links clients with trained account managers who pay bills and provide a monthly budget statement.
– Plumb, which offers multiple levels of bill paying, including services especially for family members who are older or have a disability.
– Privately hired Care Managers will sometimes take on the task of paying bills for a client, although not all of them will do so. Find a care manager here.
More local options could be available to your loved one. A good idea to find a local bill-paying service is to contact the closest Area Agency on Aging (by clicking here). AAAs help seniors, especially those with dementia, find resources including help with finances.