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.

Savoring Your Time as an Adult Child

I had a conversation today with a woman who is a Certified Caregiving Consultant named Bobbi Carducci. She and her husband Mike cared for Rodger Carducci (Mike’s father) for 7 years. Bobbi and Mike host thought leaders on their weekly podcast who share invaluable insights and helpful tips on the challenges caregivers face.

It’s easy to look back on your time as a caregiver and imagine all the places you could have managed differently. I let that baggage go in the middle of my own caregiving journey because I wanted to keep moving forward. The second-guessing of my choices started to paralyze me.

Today, I can freely admit the one thing I wish I had done, and considered, was how to better be the daughter. I spent countless hours of my time in my parent’s community chasing down medical team members, making calls about insurance, banking or tax matters.

I wish I would have used that time to just hang out with my parent’s.

Thankfully, my parent’s had planned well and had the resources for me to hire these individuals. Maybe the additional interaction with others would have also provided them with more engagement. I will never know, and can’t change the past for myself, but I can share with you now how I look back on my time as the primary family caregiver.

You don’t know what you don’t know. Trying to figure it out is exhausting. You can start by listening to a few episodes of Bobbi and Mike’s Podcast Rodger That.

I frequently and adamantly recommend you schedule a call* with a local Aging Life Care Manager. In minutes they can help you navigate the maze of medical options and choices for your loved ones. Lastly, if you need help figuring out how your loved ones finances are structured, or if you have concerns about fraud or abuse, contact* a Daily Money Manager. Encouraged.

* Please use the tools on the sites to find these professionals to INTERVIEW them and make sure they are a good fit for you and your loved one. Some people like high-energy while others find a calm demeanor a better fit. The best place to start is to ask your Estate Lawyer, Financial Advisor, and even your Accountant. They will most likely have other clients who have used these resources.

Dealing with Dementia in the Family

I was interviewed about how to deal with dementia in the family and how to prepare for the worst on Profit Boss® Radio with Hilary Hendershott. What I failed to mention was that helping your loved one maintain purpose and meaning maybe the most important consideration.

It was posted on the anniversary of my parent’s marriage. I was the primary adult family caregiver to my two parent’s who were nearly simultaneously diagnosed with vascular dementia (mom) and Alzheimer’s (dad).

There are many things to know and consider if you have a parent with dementia. Recent studies continue to promote that:

  1. Be physically active and enjoy regular physical activity. Cardio helps both mind and body.
  2. Consider following a mediterranean diet and eat healthily.
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Drink less alcohol.

I believe the MOST IMPORTANT element is to consider your brain a muscle you need to exercise. Meaning and purpose and working toward a task and goals is a great way to exercise your mind.

You can hear the interview and some simple tips on how to navigate this phase of life if you are facing this situation here. Shared.

High Blood Pressure and the Increased Dementia Risk

Untreated high blood pressure is linked to an increased risk of dementia. Taking medication to lower your high blood pressure can reduce the risk of dementia. If you have been diagnosed, it could slow the progression.

Someone in my life who I dearly love has been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment and has chosen not to take medication that will treat her incredibly high blood pressure. She is brilliant, curious, and didn’t like how it made her feel after a few days so she stopped taking it.

I understand pill aversion and I am guessing I might be on that side of the fence when it’s my turn to start taking medication.

If you are a logical person and you know that:

  1. Taking high blood pressure medication can reduce the risk of dementia;
  2. Once diagnosed, taking high blood pressure medication can slow the progression of dementia;

…. shouldn’t you work to find a high blood pressure medication that works for you?

Ask your doctor for a different option is the one you took made you feel different.

I can only imagine how a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment and dementia may feel. I do see how many things seem to be taken away and life changes for the dozens of clients I have worked with over the years. I understand the feeling of loss as well as witness the inability to understand the impact of dementia on an individual’s ability to manage (Anosogosnosia).

What I hope is that I will find a way to help the person I love reconsider their choice because it could lead to a devastating impact should she have a stroke. It will also put the health of her husband at risk since caregivers often predecease the person they are caring for. It is not my choice to make, but I do hope information can help. Doing nothing in this case actually seems to me to be the worst choice.

However, I was told “It is an act of love to offer the compassion & love for another’s journey without enforcing your own judgement & viewpoints.” And that I will do. Tried.

Research from the NIH National Institute on Aging published in December 2019 reported “Treating high blood pressure with medication not only improves older adults’ cardiovascular health, but also can reduce their risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a thorough examination of long-term data from four countries.”

If someone has already been diagnosed Johns Hopkins Medicine reports “… if you didn’t have Alzheimer’s and you were taking blood pressure medication, you were somewhat less likely to develop dementia. And if you had dementia from Alzheimer’s disease and you took certain antihypertensives, the disease was less likely to progress.”

Helping Celebrate the Important Life Dates

My parent’s got married 67 years ago today. When I was the adult family caregiver, I worked to find unique and fun ways to celebrate with my parent’s when they could no longer plan or manage these life events.

I went back to read my post from 7 years ago, I openly admitted that slight effort felt overwhelming to me at the time. What I recognize now is that I didn’t have to manage everything. I could have asked a sibling to help, but none of them were local which brings some extra hurdles to both financial and medical task management. (I recognize I’m still making excuses for not giving up CONTROL ; > )

Celebrating 60 Years of Marriage

What I learned on the journey was that there are resources that I could have hired to help manage the medical needs of my parents (Aging Life Care Managers), and handle the day-to-day finances (Daily Money Managers).

What I regret now that both of my parent’s are gone was that I didn’t focus on being the daughter and find the joy in planning and celebrating these events with my parents. I got mired in the management and coordination of their care and finances. If I could do it again, I would manage things differently.

On their 60th anniversary, I did enjoy a nice visit. At this point they were in a two room apartment in Assisted Living. We had all dreaded moving our parents from their 3-bedroom apartment in Independent Living just a few months prior, but the community said we either moved them into Assisted Living or they would be moving them out of the community.

My parent’s were so happy with their new, smaller apartment. Neither myself or any of my siblings would have believed this to be true until we witnessed it.

I noted on this day we talked about how few couples make it to their 60th wedding anniversary. My Mom shared how lucky she felt they made it this far and was with their current life. At this point, both of my parents were living with dementia that was progressed enough that they could no longer manage their daily activities without assistance and cueing.

I’m honored I was able to celebrate this day with my parent’s. I hope you are able to find the joy when they are still on this earth here with you. Reflected.