Managing Through the COVID Lockdowns

The community where one of my clients has been living happily for over a year, sent me a note about new cases found and the process they were going to take to test everyone. This morning I learn that my client is one of 17 residents who tested positive today and my heart breaks. My colleague was going to visit because we have noticed she has been a little down lately.

No wonder. Many of us have seen the report that isolation is as harmful to us as smoking a pack of cigarettes’ a day. Forbes just shared the grim statistics of community residents across the county. “90 percent said they never left their campus, 60 percent said they never even went outside their building to take a walk, and more than half said they had no access to any activities within their facilities.”

In the beginning, we noticed that the forced lock-down actually benefited “Susan” because she was finally meeting and spending time with the other residents. However, when they went into full lockdown, where they have to stay in their rooms ALL DAY LONG, and eat their meals alone in their rooms, we can hear the sadness in her voice when we call.

This time I am going to start a silly postcard campaign so that she is at least getting a note and knowing that we miss her. We are all calling her too. Her family doesn’t live nearby so phone calls help. However, nothing is worse than being sick alone … AND too sick to even answer the phone.

My hope is that this former teacher will enjoy some silly postcards. Are there other ways to stay connected with someone who doesn’t use a computer, a smart phone, and for now, is too sick to talk on the phone.?

I sure hope that she ends up with a mild case. While she is in her 80s, she has very few other pre-existing conditions besides mild-cognitive impairment.

Please send me a note if you have any other ideas on how best to help those isolated during quarantine, and even worse, all alone as they fight COVID. Asked.

The Link Between Hearing Loss and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

The Lancet produced a report in July 2020 on dementia prevention, intervention, and care. In the report they state that a growing body of evidence supporting modifiable risk factors for dementia that include:

  • less education
  • hypertension
  • hearing impairment
  • smoking
  • obesity
  • depression
  • physical inactivity
  • diabetes
  • low social contact

The bottom line: “It is never too early and never too late in the life course for dementia prevention.” They are citing many of the factors as things WE CAN DO SOMETHING about — whether it is getting more education which affects our cognitive reserve to health factors that can trigger neuropathological developments.

The single factor with the highest impact and in our control is hearing loss. If you or a loved one has some hearing loss and are concerned with some recall and memory, you need to have a discussion with your audiologist. Ultimately, you won’t recall what you didn’t hear, so could some of your issues be from hearing loss?

For many of us concerned about changes to our memory and recall, I found this report reassuring. We can be our own best health advocates, and I hope you will download this report and figure out if there is something that you can do for yourself or a loved one. Empowered.

Whatever it Takes to Keep Our Loved Ones Safe

COVID frustration and fatigue. I am most frustrated that we don’t have clear information, guidance, and an understanding of what is safe or uniform protocols for managing the risk of spread. I don’t go anywhere without a mask because that much seems clear to me. I can’t fathom being the reason someone else is exposed to COVID.

Zoom and phone calls have had to do to stay connected with family, friends, and clients. Given the uncertainty, I’m gonna fall on the side of caution.

I know … I look MARVELOUS in a hair net.

I was happy to finally get to visit my client in person in their new community. During the screening process at the front of the community, I was asked if I had left “Virginia” in the past 14 days, I shared that I had been in Washington, DC — which is less than one mile from my home. It’s also less than 7 miles from the Adult Community I was visiting. Because I had been “out of state” I was given a hair net and a plastic smock.

I had never heard of these “covid precautions” but was fine to do whatever I needed to do so I could visit.

I’m a rule follower but find it hard to understand the rules. If it means it will keep someone else safe, I’m gonna do what is asked of me.

I hope you and your family are finding ways to stay connected and support your loved ones. I’m seeing how the isolation is impacting several of my clients and hope we have a clear way forward soon. Prayed.

A Quick Way to Ensure You are Well-Represented

When my parents health started to fail, I was the adult child that was local and stepped up to help. While my parents had planned well, what I needed was information on their accounts, the locations of their personal documents, and access to their online accounts to help reset codes and update account information.

While I wrote a book that will walk you through this process, I am happy to give you a summary of what you need to collect and organize so you can do it yourself. Having a summary of this will help your spouse, partner, and loved ones that will step in to help should you need it.

Every adult should have a Durable Power of Attorney. It gives someone the ability to step in for you and pay bills, and manage your financial affairs if you are unable to do this — even temporarily. We did this for my son when he turned 18, and I used it to file his taxes one year when he was traveling.

For those of you caring for someone, you know how important, frustrating, and necessary it is to have this document in place. What many people don’t know is how difficult and time-consuming it can be to have a financial institution recognize the document. Many couples don’t realize until, it is a problem, that being married does not give you instant access to a spouse’s account if you are not named on it.

In hopes of giving you a simple guide to organize this information for yourself, I am releasing this free download.

Get a free copy of this guide at http://www.MemoryBanc.com/POA

Feel free to share it with everyone you love. Offered.

Adulting and Life Preparedness: Are YOU Ready?

While I am commonly asked to talk on topics of What to Save and What to Shred, the REAL question is what do we need to have organized and WHY.

We all think we are doing just fine managing all this information in our heads, on our computers, on our phones, and in file cabinets … but if you have EVER had to step in to help someone else, I am telling you that 90 percent of your frustration will come from the search and your inability to help.

While I got passionate about this topic as a caregiver, I am now admiring the millennial concept of “Adulting” and working to expand the topics beyond the “having kids” and “buying a home” milestones.

The reality is that retirement is not a finish line, it’s just a new stepping stone in life and we need to continue to learn and grow as we age — especially since many will be in retirement for nearly a third of their lives.

Check out this Ask the Expert session hosted by Ann McClure.

For an inexpensive workbook that will walk you through the process of getting all of your information organized, you can check out this product on Amazon. Full disclosure: it is my book and I will get a few nickles if you order one. It did win an award and several thousands of families have used this to help organize their household information.

Strokes, Free Will, and Frustration For All

I am working for a gentleman who had a stroke. He is challenging every tool I have as well as frustrating his family who is very concerned for his safety and fiscal well-being. It’s hard to help someone that can’t recognize they need the help. While he saves up the mail and is happy to have us manage his bills and medical claims, he is taking cash out of his ATM regularly and has no recollection of where his cash went.

He left the rehab facility after his stroke and returned home where all daily living rules have changed. His habit of eating out could no longer be met. The doctor told him he should not drive, yet he is driving all over. His friend is bringing in meals for the two of them and now he is spending way beyond his means but has no awareness of money management.

I walked into this account while he was in rehab to find he was already $70,000 in debt and no longer had any credit on either of his cards.

The family members are beyond frustrated. I fully understand. You try to help and then your loved ones undo all the help you layered in not recognizing or appreciated the help. Then they usually get mad at you for butting into their lives.

A caregiver is coming in daily to help, but “Mike” keeps getting in his car and driving around. He doesn’t understand the need for social/physical distancing. He also doesn’t believe that he needs to stop driving. The doctor told him he had to go to the DMV to get assessed and put in a request to suspend his license. He still has a license with a valid date in his wallet and is continuing to drive. That is the biggest challenge – what are some options to stop the unlicensed driving?

When my parents were driving on suspended licenses, I quickly ensured that we first followed the need that caused the driving. Do they need groceries? Do they need to get to a medical appointment and aren’t used to calling cabs?

Once we knew those basic needs were met and this was more about control and freedom than need:

  1. I made sure they had umbrella insurance. If they were in an accident, my guess is that their auto insurance would not cover them since they were driving on suspended licenses.
  2. I calmly conveyed the possible consequences that they could harm themselves or others (they poo-pooed this idea); that their insurance didn’t cover uninsured drivers and an accident could consume their savings (they pulled out a valid license … they had torn up the notes from DMV suspending their licenses and requiring they turn in the driver’s licenses); that they could be taken to jail.
  3. We unplugged the starter (a neighbor helped to reconnect it after they told them what their horrible children were doing to them).
  4. My brothers came into town to help once things got REALLY bad and hid their cars. This is the one that finally worked.

Some other suggestions from other care managers include:

  • Offer to schedule defensive driving lessons. There are specialists that work with individuals who have lost their license and help coach positive skills behind the wheel.
  • Call the local police and see if they will visit the driver and offer a friendly warning. One family that did this put a boot on the car following the visit from the police.

The balance of free will and safety with love and family dynamics can make all of this so frustrating. I hope some of those suggested might help you. Experienced.

Guilt: The Hidden Emotion carried by Adult Family Caregivers

For those of us caring for or having cared for a loved one (dementia or major health issues that require you as the family member to step up and advocate), we know that guilt is a constant companion and lingering emotion long past death. What could I have done better, different? Why didn’t I do X, even though Mom made me in clear she wanted Y?

Since I help with the day-to-day finances, home upkeep and am often named as the Power of Attorney and Trustee, I am finding I’m very sensitive to the language used by other professionals on the care team. While I am not involved in managing the home care or medical choices, I am usually copied on the discussions about the medical needs since they usually impact the finances.

I still have crazy dreams every once in a while where I have failed to visit my Mom in her memory care community. It’s almost been five years since she had her heavenly departure, but I guess these are similar to the dreams I used to have where I forgot to show up for my final college exams.

If you serve in a capacity as a:

  • Friendly visitor
  • Care Manager
  • Financial Advisor
  • Personal Care Assistant

Please recognize that the adult family caregiver is already grieving, probably feels the constant companion of guilt for NOT being involved enough, and focus on sending positive reports and using the care team in place to manage those things that need addressing that you can resolve without the family caregiver. Of course you should absolutely speak up if you feel the individual is in danger or could harm someone.

What I believe after living this journey with my parents is that “You don’t know what you don’t know” — which is perfectly OK. However, if you have not ever lived as an adult caregiver, recognize that the person that is living this journey, what you share with them matters and I hope you will just consider that filter when you send them updates on visits with their loved ones. Suggested.

Dreamwork Makes the Care Team Work

Caregiving was already hard, but I feel like Covid and the isolation has made things twice as difficult. I hope you are all managing to adapt and have resources and options to help best serve those you are caring for now.

So many things seem to go wrong and fall through the cracks. I have two clients that are alone in their homes and the effort and care of the team is the only way they can safely stay in their homes. These clients are lucky to have the money to afford these resources. I don’t think most people really understand that aging in place brings with it different costs that can be as much (and even more) than a care community.

I’m lucky to have passionate individuals on these care teams that contribute insight and truly care about how we can best serve their needs.

My Aging in Place Dream Team includes:

  • Aging Life Care Manager: Someone needs to be the lead on medical appointments, follow-ups and health care needs. I tried to manage all of this for my parents and wish I had brought them in sooner than her last year to help. I regret the lost time managing her health care needs when I visited her memory care community versus just being able to sit and spend time with her as a daughter.
  • Friendly Visitor: There are a variety of individuals who are able to engage, help, and guide through hobbies, shopping, and setting up and helping with Zoom calls to socially distant friends and family.
  • Home Care Team: Whether it is an individual or an agency with a deep bench, having someone that can help with the activities of daily living as well as ensure they are safe in their home 24/7 has been a necessity.
  • Daily Money Manager: Someone to pay the bills and manage the home maintenance.

In the past two months, we have experienced an Identity Theft (he gave his banking information to someone that he thought was Apple Support even through he has a Dell); a flooded apartment; phone service outage; a failed car inspection (he has a car that family can use when visiting that was his wife’s and is important to him); yard care needs (this rain has really helped the kudzu grow).

There are many handoffs and follow ups needed to keep the team in synch. We share a digital calendar for one client and the other one has 24/7 in-home care that updates the schedule of visitors.

For both clients we have talked about having them live in a care community. Right now it’s a hard transition with required 14-day isolation and difficult to decide to move someone into a care community where we know Covid wreaked havoc. We recognize that we are the ones helping them lead their lives in spite of all the Covid barriers.

The reality is that you will make the best choice with the information you have. I just realized how much I valued the team of individuals helping support these individuals in their homes lead the lives they had planned. While we are all feeling so isolated lately, I am happy to be part of these thoughtful care teams. Appreciated.

Assistive Technologies in the Home

I’ve been on the hunt for simple options in the home that will enhance engagement. We have Google Home in our house and we struggle (and laugh) at our inability to get answers to what we think are simple questions.

As many of us are concerned about loved ones that are isolated during this pandemic, I’m digging in to see if there are things I can give to enhance the lives of my loved ones and clients.

Two things I learned about were Echo Show and Birdsong. To learn more about their origins, and how they have been enhancing the lives of older adults watch this video.

I offered a client that lives alone to buy and program the Echo Show that converses with you using the name “Alexa”. It has video as well as audio and displays his calendar, and can accept and make video calls to others using the Alexa app. We are in month two and have noticed that he is taking his medication more regularly when “she” is in the home.

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I have yet to have him really say anything glowing about it, but when I did remove it for a few days to update it, he asked about where it was … so I will take missing it being in the home as a positive response.

I have programmed it with prompts to:

  • take medication
  • get and drink a glass of water
  • remind him it is laundry day or trash day
  • load the dishwasher

He has to be in the kitchen to hear it, but I have embedded some of the reminders with updates on the weather, a run down of his day, good news, jokes, and even interesting stories.

He lives alone and covid has made us all feel isolated. My hope is that this will only enhance his day-to-day well being.

Please tell me if you have found success with any technologies. Curious. 

Here are two options for the Amazon Echo, the second one is more expensive. While I do not sell ads on my site or accept placed promotions, I may receive a small commission on products purchased through these links.

What is the Right Deci$ion for Mom and Dad’s Care?

For those podcast fans, please check out Rodger That a weekly podcast focused on the caregiver. Here, skilled caregivers, Bobbi and Mike Carducci offer their personal and practical insights on caring for a loved one with dementia, as well as tips to help caregivers prioritize their own emotional and mental well-being.

Bobbi & Mike interviewed me on how caregiving can be emotionally & physically challenging, but also a rewarding, selfless act. However, it shouldn’t come at the expense of your financial health & well-being.

We discussed a few things I learned as the adult family caregiver for two parents for 5 years, as well as have used to help dozens of families as a Daily Money Manager in the metro-DC area. #Honored.

Scams are Thriving

In one month, I have had two clients click a pop-up on their computer, call the number posted and give their checking account and routing numbers / online passcode to their bank to the scammer on the other end of the call. Thankfully, neither of them resulted in any losses, but the amount of work created has been almost overwhelming.

I have told both my clients and their families that the computer does pose an increased risk to becoming a fraud victim. The science tells us that as we age, we become MORE trusting.

Both clients have some cognitive impairment. One immediately recognized her mistake and called the bank, but the other one we thankfully walked in to see the person controlling the computer and immediately turned it off.

We have a lot of people that are sitting along in their homes for longer periods of time and looking to find ways to entertain themselves. In addition to isolation being unhealthy, now it seems the accompanying boredom has made older adults ripe for engagement.

If you have a loved one you are worried about, is there a way to contact their bank to be alerted when a new bill payee is added to the account? Can you receive alerts if a transfer is requested?

Managing the purpose and meaning of handling your finances with the risk of having access to money is a fine line.

The one option that seems to help as someone is getting more forgetful and becoming a greater risk is to set up a sister account that includes a check book and only maintains a small balance. For many clients, we work with them to move money to the account when they write a larger check, but are also minimizing the risk of loss. Often, they don’t even know it is a different account and just share the spending with us when we call and visit.

Are you all seeing this increase?

Have you had any success with other options?

The best offense if a good defense. Practiced.