You have to make this call:

“Hello Cable Company, I’m calling for on my father’s account. He’s 85 years old and I just received his bill and see you have charged him $29.00 for Cinemax the last two months and he never ordered it.” The Cable Representative replies, “I’m sorry, you’re not listed on the account, I can’t discuss with you [the fact that we are ripping your poor father off on his bill] unless you have authorization.”

Here’s the situation. Mom or Dad has reached that age where you need to assist them. It’s not the easiest time. You have to adopt to a role reversal. As a child, your parents took care of your needs – provided the love and assurance you needed as a child so you could grow. They were the caregiver and you were the care-receiver. Now – years later, you’re up there in your years, as well, and you now have a new role – it’s your time to be the caregiver. So how do you address the above telephone call with the cable company? Here’s how you reply:

“I understand I need authorization. I have a Durable Power of Attorney for my father. I can email it to your right now so you have it and can keep it on file and then we can talk.” The Cable representative replies, “That’s great. Send it over.”

You proceed to email it over – and then you can talk to the representative and get the credit to the account. I wish I could tell you what to do so the same time consuming and annoying problem does not happen the next month. When I went through this process with my father, I found it was as continual effort to make sure these “service companies’ that we rely upon for service – did not overcharge and take advantage. A 2015 study in The Motley Fool ( estimates that every year, seniors are taken for $2.9 billion per year in financial fraud (and that number is believed to be way under reported) and another $17 billion in what they call “financial exploitation” (which are the legal forms or ripping people off by selling products and service that people do not need). Truth be told – it’s a nasty world out there and beyond looking out for yourself, you need to look out for Mom and Dad.

There are many scenarios where having a valid Durable Power of Attorney is critical when it comes to helping a parent while they are living. Another key one is the need to have that Power in case they are no longer competent to act on their own. In that case, nursing home care needs arise on an urgent basis and Medicaid planning must occur quickly. If you have the Power of Attorney available (it must be signed when Mom or Dad were legally competent) you can make the necessary transfers of assets to effectuate a Medicaid plan to save the assets. If the power is not in place – you would have to go to court for appointment as a conservator which costs money and takes time that may not be available to get the Medicaid planning done in time.

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