If you are considering DMM services for your elderly relative, be especially careful when choosing the right individual or program. A trustworthy, competent daily money manager can be a godsend. But an incompetent or less than honest one can spell disaster.
Keep in mind that neither federal nor state governments regulate the DMM industry, so there is little oversight of these services. And don't let your guard down just because an agency is a nonprofit. Agencies can lie about nonprofit status or engage in underhanded methods of funneling fees into a for-profit company.
All this means that you must do your homework before settling on a DMM program. Here's how.
The best way to start your search is through referrals.
- Family and friends. Often, the best way to get referrals is from trusted family members and friends who have had a good experience with a particular DMM program.
- AARP Money Management Program. Low-income seniors may qualify for the services of this program. The AARP Money Management Program website, at www.aarpmmp.org, also provides referrals to DMM agencies in twelve states.
- American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM). This organization provides referrals to DMMs in your area, although it doesn't vouch for the competence of these organizations. The AADMM also has a new DMM certification program. To get certified, DMMs must perform 1,500 hours of DMM services and pass a written test. (For more information, visit the AADMM's website at www.aadmm.com.)
- Local elder assistance agencies. Nonprofit and government agencies that assist elders may be able to provide referrals to reputable DMM programs. To find elder assistance agencies in your area, contact your local Area Agency on Aging (AAA). (You can find your local AAA by visiting the federal government's Eldercare Locator at www.eldercare.gov.)
Interview Several Programs
Once you have obtained several solid referrals for DMM programs, interview them all. Ask lots of questions about the services they provide, fees, training and supervision of managers, and insurance coverage. (For a list of questions to ask any DMM program, visit the AADMM's website at www.aadmm.com and click "Questions to Ask.")
Check for Insurance Coverage and Bonds
Find out what type of insurance coverage the program has and whether it is bonded. (Being bonded means that a bonding company has secured money that is available to you if you file a claim against the DMM.) This will give you an idea of what kind of protection you have if something goes wrong.
Ask for several references from each DMM program that you are considering. Contact the references and ask lots of questions.
Precautions When Using a DMM
Your vigilance should not end once you've screened and selected a DMM program. Avoid problems and identify fraud early on by doing the following:
- Limit funds in checking accounts. If the DMM will be paying bills for your older relative, give the manager access to one checking account only, and then limit the funds in the account. That way, if the DMM empties the account, your loved one won't lose their entire nest egg.
- Have your elder relative sign all checks. Some eldercare experts advise that DMMs prepare checks for their elder clients, but that the client sign all checks, if physically possible.
- Give banks the heads up. Ask your elder relative's bank to keep an eye out for forgeries.
- Review statements. A trusted adult should get copies of all bank statements and financial records and periodically review them. If the DMM will not provide you with full access to financial records, then terminate services and find another DMM.
For help managing the care of your older relative, you may find it helpful to consult the following Nolo resources: Long-Term Care by Joseph L. Matthews (Nolo), and Social Security, Medicare, and Government Pensions, by Joseph L. Matthews and Dorothy Matthews Berman (Nolo).
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