Five Reasons To Get Financial Support

checkbookI realized how much control of the checkbook meant to my mom. While I was terrified she was going to be taken advantage of … she was totally unconcerned over the idea that she might lose her wallet. The reality was that she didn’t remember ever misplacing her wallet or purse.

What I came to learn was that the biggest threat to her financial security was not what most expect. It was the number of non-profits that wanted to get a few dollars to fund their mission. It felt good to my mother to be able to send off $25 to a charity.

A recent family asked me to step in and help their mom. We were all shocked to find that she was giving away over $2,000 every month in $25 and $30 increments. While mom was resistant to help, she was surprised to learn how much she was giving away every month and had not realized how quickly those small amounts accumulated. She now holds the bills and we work together once a week to pay bills and balance the checkbook.

If you have concerns over these issues, bring in a daily money manager can help. Not only can having a third-party mitigate any sibling/family concerns, but it also offers five other benefits:

  1. You can be the daughter/son. I realized that I was spending hours every week dealing with bills, medical details, and following up on a host of random items that I would have rather not been doing. I would have preferred to be able to just hang out with mom.
  2. You can empower your loved ones longer. Taking out the personal family history can help in finding simple solutions to manageing the money. You can just suggest they try it for a month and see if it helps to have a second set of eyes if you are noticing bills going un-paid or being over-paid. As tax season approaches, it might be a good time to try out some extra help.
  3. You have info you need if a community is considered. If you consider moving a loved one into a life care or retirement community, they will require a summary of personal assets. How quickly would you be able to pull that information together, and might it make mom or dad anxious if you were going through their papers?
  4. Real numbers to compare costs. Most people assume a retirement or assisted living community is instantly more expensive. In several cases, I have found it was less costly than keeping a loved in their home and bringing all of the care and services to them. Find out how and when you might consider a community option.
  5. Fraud and scam avoidance. One of the things a daily money manager will do is reconcile the checking account and monitor the credit card for extraneous charges. For one client, we found that the bank had deducted $1,000 more than the actual checks value. While the adult child was monitoring the account from across the country, they couldn’t know the actual amount of the invoice to know that $1,000 too much was debited from dad’s account.

After serving in this role for mom and dad for five years, I realized that I would exchange some of the money I inherited at mom’s death for free time and mother-daughter time had I known what I now know. Recognized. 

If you want to find a daily money manager in your area, check out American Association of Daily Money Managers (AADMM).




Aging is like traveling to a foreign country.

I just returned from a mission trip to Belize. It dawned on me while I was there that planning for aging is a lot like planning for trip to a foreign country. You can read books and learn about what to expect, pack for a variety of experiences, but when you arrive, you depend on the help of those around you to make the most of your journey.

I packed rain boots but didn’t realize that the duct tape wasn’t going to hold so I needed to buy a new pair. My new boots were only $8 and are a unique memento of my trip.

The flies swarm in the rain and I wasn’t even that phased by the fly in the bottom of my cup of coffee on the 6th day.

The warmth of the people and their suggestions on how to cure heat rash (rub a lime on your skin), avoid the killer bees, and even the tasty chew on the leaves of the all-spice tree made our visit memorable.

As American’s we are fiercely independent but need to learn how to share life plans, as well as our weaknesses (not just our strengths), and accept help when we might need it most.

Life is a journey, and I hope to make the best of it even up to the end, when most likely, I will need the help from others to manage even my day-to-day activities.

My mom had a stroke, what do I do?

stethoscopeHeartOver the past month, I have had several friends tell me a parent is having trouble medically and they are unsure of what to do. In the midst of a crisis, having the conversation about how to help often comes across as gloomy, as if you don’t expect them to get better. It’s why I suggest that you have the conversation early and often. If it’s part of general conversation, exchanges of ideas, hopes and wishes, it is not gloomy. When you discuss your options before there is a crisis, you have a lot more choice.

Many of us realize that after mom or dad had a medical issue and now needs more care. Your options are limited if you are doing your selection from those facilities that can take you; or interviewing those caregivers that are available.

While I was frustrated by my parent’s unwillingness to share or curb their life based on limitations that came from the aging process, I totally understand it now. I crave to give my mom activities that would fill her with meaning and purpose. Now that I am managing everything, I sure wish I could share some of the duties with her. It would make both of us happy.

After the critical incident, you do what you can, as best you can. Take a moment to consider how many people are aging without the help and support of a loved one. I am proud of how I’ve worked to help my parents. As difficult as my job has been, it’s infinitely easier because my parents were quite clear about their thoughts on life and living. We watched two grandmother’s fade with dementia, and we discussed it. My siblings are also supportive and we used this to bring us closer together.

My hope is that you don’t repeat the mistake that put you in this position. Your job is to:

  1. Get your stuff organized
  2. Define your wishes using The Conversation Project to get talking or Five Wishes to create a plan that is legally binding in 42 states.
  3. Work with an estate lawyer to get at least  a durable power of attorney and medical directives in place (if you don’t use Five Wishes)
  4. Discuss your wishes and plans with those people who would be the ones to step in and help you.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 7 out of 10 people turning 65 need long-term care services averaging 3 years. To me, that confirms that most American’s will have to accept that another person will be making choices about their healthcare, finances and living arrangements. Have you made sure those who will fill this role know what you want?

My siblings and I have made many decisions for my parent’s. The most difficult was having to opt not to start cancer treatments for my dad who was in a moderate stage of Alzheimer’s. Just the thought of this decision still brings tears to my eyes. However, I know we made the right choice for him because we had conversations about quality of life for years leading up to this event.

Four products to help you navigate these choices include:

Five Wishes lets your family and doctors know:

  • Who you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t make them.
  • The kind of medical treatment you want or don’t want.
  • How comfortable you want to be.
  • How you want people to treat you.
  • What you want your loved ones to know.

The Conversation Project is dedicated to helping people talk about their wishes for end-of-life care

The Roadmap to the Rest of Your Life by Bart Astor will help you hone in on the options and the choices that you need to consider.

MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life is a practical system to help couples share account numbers, usernames, and medical and household details so that they can stay on the same page; it also provides individuals a solution to easily share this information should they ever need a loved one to step in and help them.


Others step in when you need it most on the caregiving journey

amymessageI was recently asked about my caregiving journey. It’s been long, strenuous, challenging, rewarding, heart-breaking, fulfilling, and relentless. We recently moved mom to a new community focused on caring for those with dementia. I immediately lost one of our long-term caregivers, and then a second regular within the first two weeks. My mom’s not integrating into the scheduled activities. I got enough calls about it that I met with the Executive Director who suggested we consider new caregivers. This week we are trying out two new assistants to help get mom in synch with her new community. I know the change isn’t good for her, but for the short-term, I know if we get her to participate in the scheduled activities, we can get the extra-assistance out of her room.

She is now in a smaller room and the caregivers are with her from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. She doesn’t like that others are with her. In her old community, they could sit in a connecting room and she didn’t know they were there. Now they are within a few feet of her during the day and she’s choosing to sleep more.

My golden rule with mom: If it doesn’t make her happy, don’t do it. I am trying to figure out how to get her more independent so we can eliminate the personal daily assistants (pdas). To do that, we need her to engage in the community. This challenge is weighing on me. Thankfully, I have very engaged siblings and my brother and his wife are coming to town to visit with mom this weekend.

Yesterday, a volunteer with the hospice company called me to ask if she could stop by and visit my mom? YES! I call her back to share more information about my mom and she tells me she will stop by to visit mom at dinner. I know my mom with enjoy company for dinner. She sends me a nice text after her visit and tells me she will visit her again on Friday.

This woman is a ray of sunshine to me. She has no idea that for decade leading up to the early signs of dementia, I ate dinner with my mom every Tuesday night, and then my parents came to my house for dinner every Friday night. The reconnection to this memory brings a smile to my face and the idea that someone else will stop by to visit mom in her new community and have dinner with her every Tuesday and Friday night brings joy to my heart.

The journey is long, but there have been and will continue to be so many people who have walked with me it makes it easy to continue on. Appreciated. 

Making Good Decisions When Managing Someone Else’s Money

Many of us who are caregivers, are also managing finances and bill payments. I was the child who lived the closest to Mommanagingsomeoneelsesmoney and Dad when their health started to fail, and although my siblings wanted to help, they were separated by too many miles to realistically play an active role in paying our parents’ bills, acting as their medical advocates or managing their household. Those responsibilities naturally fell to me, and the amount of information I needed to manage quickly became overwhelming when it was added to all that I was already doing for my family.

Desperation is the mother of invention, and I decided to create an organizational binder that would help me collect and catalog my parents’ information. I created a one-stop-shop reference resource that helped me save time finding information. Perhaps most important, it allowed me to easily hand over all of our parents’ information—in the form of one, easily transportable book—when a sibling came to town to provide some much-needed caregiving relief. The system launched MemoryBanc.

In addition to managing a lot of new information, I ran into several unexpected roadblocks along the way: During my parents estate planning process, I was given and held their Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA). However,  despite the validity of the DPOA,  it took many phone calls and in some cases several months for the DPOA to be acknowledged and processed.  When some financial services firms refused to accept it, my father and I set up online access to the accounts so I could help them by directly acting on my parents behalf online.

In talking with friends about my experiences, I also realized that planning for future, life-changing events is something all of us seem to recognize as being important, but it’s one of the first things we put on the back burner. There are a million excuses, and I’ve lived many of them. But we need to change our attitude that doing it “later” is okay:  According to the 2011 Disability Insurance Statistics Bank: JHA Disability Fact Book, “43 percent of all people age 40 will have a long-term disability event prior to age 65.”

For these reasons, I strongly urge every adult to work with a lawyer to create a Durable Power of Attorney. It should only cost a few hundred dollars.

If you are named as the fiduciary in a DPOA, you should download the free publication called “Managing Someone Else’s Money“. It includes great recommendations as well as good information on steps to take if your run into a roadblock using a valid DPOA. Recommended.  


Helping Mom Accept the Help She Doesn’t Want

hold handThe Assisted Living community asked that we provide additional support to help my Mom while they work on finding the right medications for her. She has perceived the assistants at different times as a new resident and even a roommate. We asked them to hang back and give her space. When she leaves the Assisted Living community and walks into the Independent Living community, the fact that someone is following her is frightening to her.

Last week, a family friend called who lives in the Independent Living community, and confirmed my Mom’s fears. She was surprised when I shared what was happening and that the community asked us to put the extra assistance into place between 1 and 9 PM daily. The extra assistance isn’t really a choice, but a requirement. My Mom is having episodes of unbecoming behavior and we need to try this or start looking for a new community for my Mom.  Almost two years ago, I blogged about it “taking a village to age them as well as raise them” and realize that this process is a marathon, not a sprint.

We have switched out one of the two women helping my Mom. I initially increased my daily phone calls so I could gauge my Mom’s anxiety. I have also left my Mom’s laundry with the aides in hopes of having my Mom experience that people other than me can help her. I hope it will build some trust, if that is possible anymore.

I initially told my Mom the truth. The Assisted Living community is requiring that we add the personal assistants as well as was working to find medicines that helped her memory and minimize her paranoia. This was a difficult conversation and my Mom argued with me and was very angry that I would “believe” what other people were saying. I let her know I have also experienced her behavior and that was even more unpopular to share than the reports from others.

Now, I tell my Mom the doctor is working to help her memory with some new medications and that the personal assistants are assigned to help ensure she doesn’t faint or collapse with the new medications.

Then, the staff shared my Mom was refusing to take the medication. I reinforced that the pills are brain food and put a note on her kitchen cabinet encouraging her to take the pills.

I know many of us struggle with truth, but as the dementia progresses, constant pursuit to tell the truth and only the truth, in my Mom’s case, is harmful to her well-being.

I’m frustrated that we are paying for Assisted Living, and required to hire personal aides from 1 to 9 PM every day of the week. However, I’m learning from many others that this is common during some of the stages of dementia. My Mom’s not quite ready for the secure memory care unit, but also needs more help than the staff can provide.

I visit on days where I can met up with her personal aides to ask how Mom is doing. They are telling me how they are creating bridge games and share that she inviting them in or allowing them to sit with her at meal time. I’m hoping that my Mom is benefiting from the companionship. Resigned.

Where is my gold necklace?

gold necklaceFor almost two months my mom has perseverated on the absence of her gold necklace. My mom hides her valuables and then forgets where she puts them. She jokes about it and acknowledges she needs to stop doing this, but she cannot help herself.

Almost 30 years ago, my mom bought a 2 foot long 22k gold chain. It’s beautiful. Around Thanksgiving she mentioned it was lost. We looked all over their apartment at the retirement community and then made more than 3 trips to the town house to specifically look for the gold chain. When my sister visited, she had helped my mom search in both places.

Right before the Christmas holidays, I introduced them to the graduate student who has been helping me shuttle my children as well as help me with my business.  My parents adored her and allowed her to drive them to the town house. That only lasted two days before they rejected the idea of “outside” help.

After the holidays, my mom would call daily asking me to take her to the town house to look for the gold chain. She had no recollection of visiting to look for it any of the numbered visits. I started to leave notes on doors after we had looked through a room but she would angrily tear them off and begin the hunt anew.

I am sympathetic to my mom’s angst, but she was wearing me out. On many of the trips, my mom would share her own frustration in having two places. She lost her wallet, purse, calendar and now her gold chain, and having two places to look was exasperating.

We are approaching the one-year anniversary when the psychologist recommended they move into the retirement community full-time. How much easier their life would if they had accepted that recommendation. Exhausted.

Please give me some time to prepare

begWhen the Executive Director (ED) called to discuss the timing of the transition of my parents from Independent Living to Assisted Living they wanted to move my parents immediately. The ED suggested giving my parents two-days notice and asked me to pick which day of the week we wanted to move them. I asked if I could have some time to prepare. She has known my parents for several years and knew they had a town house that kept them from accepting full-time residency at the retirement community.

Just retelling this has forced my breathing to quicken. I’d been working to get my parents to stay in the retirement community and now they needed to move into Assisted Living. For the past year, I’ve felt like my parents were was always one step behind where they needed to be.

Their promise to “not be a burden” shifted into a part-time job for me as I tried to allow for their independence but also manage safety, which they have been unconcerned about.

The ED agreed to give me a day to talk with my siblings. As soon as I hung up, I called my sister. I believed this is the right move for my parents but knew my mom’s first reaction would be to move back into their town house full-time.

I also knew that on the day this happened and following the move, all of my siblings needed to be here. My parents needed to see and hear from us that we agree with the recommendation to move them into Assisted Living. We also needed to be here to make the move happen in two days.

My sister and I talked through the need to:

  1. Sell or Rent the town house
  2. Get everyone in town

We set up a sibling call and then put together a time line so I could propose a notification date with the retirement community. Planned.