Don’t Put Off ‘Til Tommorrow

thomasTom Savino with Savino Veritas sent out a request for a radio guest to discuss humorous topics related to how couples communicate. I immediately replied. There are so many issues I have learned as a wife, mother, and daughter about what we share and don’t share with our spouse. I hadn’t really understood the depth of what seems to be the divide-and-conquer household until I launched MemoryBanc.

When most of my clients turned out to be couples, I learned how important it was for families to share their documents, accounts, and details and how often the information mattered in terms of time and money. We recently saved hundreds of dollars on a replacement cell phone for my son. My husband was traveling and he is the manager of the AT&T account, but because I had his username and passcode, I could order the replacement. We have also helped avoid paying for service calls that were covered under the warranty, but the technician tried to collect a visit fee. For couples that use the online bill payment portal in their joint bank account, I hope you will sit down with you spouse to share the access codes and set-up. What most joint account owners do not know is that the bill pay portal is specific to the user, so if you wanted to change, stop, or modify a payment set up by your joint account partner– you could not without their login credentials. For this reason, my husband and I break the rules and share one username and passcode.

If you got some time, listen here, it’s a very different type of show and I had a fun time talking with him.

If you recognize you might not be so organized, here are some links to free downloads that can help you get started:

If you know you want to avoid putting it off ’til tomorrow and benefit from coordinating this information with your spouse, you can order a copy of the workbook from Amazon or get a discounted 5 pack ($11.95 each or 40 percent off) that you can share over Thanksgiving with your family from MemoryBanc. Offered.

Hindsight is a Wonderful Luxury

momsunglassesday2I’m reusing the words Remember Me shared with me because in the cycle of grief and guilt caregivers seem to float through endlessly, hindsight is truly a luxury. We often saw things that should have been a warning sign, but didn’t recognize the significance. We may have been sure something was wrong, but didn’t know how to proceed. We tried to help when we saw things failing, but my parents were not interested in the help and usually appalled at the suggestion it was needed.

I finally started to understand how much the independence meant to them when we had to come in to help because they were unable to manage any longer. Because of the dementia, I wonder if my parents just never recognized, understood, or believed that they were failing to manage in their day-to-day lives. Dementia is torturous in so many ways to both the individual and their loved ones.

I’m a huge advocate of goal-setting and one of the things Remember Me recently posted was a list of aspirations to develop a life alongside being a Care Partner.  As I struggle to direct the ever-changing team in place to help care for mom, I think coming up with a similar list will do me and mom a lot of good. Encouraged. 

What I Learned as a Caregiver Can Help Millions of Families

wbalpicThis weekend I was interviewed by Jennifer Franciotti on WBAL TV. She interviewed me about my best selling book MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life. While the simple answer as to why I wrote the book was that my parents health failed and managing all the information around their lives was overwhelming at times. Most of you know the complications, stress, grief, joy, love, and commitment it takes to be a caregiver. Having to manage all the details became the burden that overwhelmed me so I created a reference system to make their information easier to retrieve.

The silver-lining to my journey has been that the tool I created to help keep my parents information organized, is really a tool that can help millions of families. I’m honored to say I have already had many families share with me what a difference the system made in their household, from an active family of five, to empty nesters, as well as senior couples.

What we learn as caregivers, is that many skills we develop apply to our everyday life. Prepared. 

When You Start to Feel the Losses

dawnIn the past few weeks, I have had a host of good news personally and professionally. My daughter applied and got into the school of her choice starting in 7th grade. My son just found out he got into his first choice for college and is going to be running for a D1 track team. My book hit the best-seller list before we have even started to promote it, and I received an award from the McLean Community Center for Volunteer of the Year.

My sleepless nights began after all this stuff happened. I have always been a good sleeper, and early on found that the more stress I felt, the more my body needed sleep. My mom’s fall has brought on some new complications, but it’s nothing I haven’t had to manage through before.

When my husband comes home he asks what I was doing up at 5:30 a.m. when he left for the gym. “I don’t know.” I know something is bothering me but I haven’t been able to figure it out.

As I’m driving to a meeting it hits me. I can’t share any of the happy news with my parents. My parents were such a part of my children’s lives growing up since they came over weekly for dinner. They knew them well and we could celebrate all the wins — big and small. I’ve told mom about these life events when I visit and she smiles, but it’s not the type of response she would have given had I shared this news with her years ago. I also feel the sting of my dad’s death. He would have been so proud to know that my son went to Nationals for track as well as will be running in college, like he did.

My Pastor recently talked about how children grieve differently. One of the things she mentioned was that often the kids focus on “She won’t be here for graduation” or “He won’t be here to see me walk down the aisle.” It never hit me until today that even adult children feel this way about our losses.

My only joy comes in knowing that at least my dad is smiling down on our good fortune. Sadly, it will be sooner than I probably am ready to have my mom in that same place. Resigned.

The Entrepreneurial Journey

I founded MemoryBanc after working for more than 20 years in small, growing entrepreneurial firms. I considered myself an entrepreneur because I was adept at helping small businesses define their market and grow.  I loved working in small companies where your job lines were blurry and you had to be a jack-of-all-trades.

When my parent’s health was failing and I needed to step in to help, my full-time corporate job required that I be an effective leader and demanded long hours, and I desired to be a good wife and mom; I became overwhelmed by life. I was no longer satisfied and set out to redefine how I was prioritizing family, job, health and my faith.

In caring for my parents, I stumbled onto an unmet market need and started to work on the business plan. It felt onerous. I was using a life coach at the time to help me and she asked me to define “Entrepreneur.” While the dictionary says it’s “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk” what I needed to learn was that I needed to believe 110% in the business idea and should only pursue it if not doing so would cause me greater distress.

I was scared. I was leaving a great job with good benefits and pay and leaping into an unpaid job with incredible risk and that required at least a $60,000 investment to get started.

I realized that I was passionate about the business I was building when I started to see how what I had been through was already helping others.  I saved the money to launch the business and jumped. I’m lucky to have a supportive spouse and the ability to put the money back into MemoryBanc to continue to see it grow.

In 2015, our goal is to make a difference in the lives of a quarter of a million people. That’s right, we want to educate and share our free tools with 250,000 individuals to encourage them to organize the information that surrounds their lives.  Being an entrepreneur is the unquenchable desire to build the business and the ability to be ready to make all the decisions, make mistakes, and dust yourself off and use what you’ve learned to build a stronger, better organization.

I will share more on this topic at the Prince William Chamber of Commerce Women’s Leadership Conference on Thursday, February 12, 11:00 a.m.  I hope to meet you there.

What is an Entrepreneur?

Kay spent 20+years helping small companies grow and considered herself entrepreneurial. When it came time to launch, grow, and run her own business, things felt very different. In this session, you will learn:

  • What it really means to be an entrepreneur
  • How listening and mindfulness matter
  • What it takes to make it happen

The documents you need when a crisis strikes

I was the adult child named on the Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) that needed to step in and use it. It was VERY difficult to use in several cases. For a more detailed look at my history, you can visit the blog I’ve been writing for three years on caring for two parents. One way to ensure that the individual you have named with this power can help you is to create a roadmap of the documents, accounts, and assets they may need to manage until you are back on your feet, or inevitably, to settle your estate.

My parents did everything that was recommended by their estate lawyer, financial planner and life insurance provider. However, they prepared most of the information to be delivered to me after they were gone. When they were too ill to manage on their own, I needed to know about their medical history, banking accounts, online services, household warranties … the list was daunting.

If you are named, or have named someone as your DPOA in your estate planning, you should sit down with them to review the location of important documents and instructions. After 40, nearly half of all American’s are expected to have a disability event lasting 90 days. It doesn’t need to be gloomy–as I reported on how I  shared my plans with the individual who I would expect to help me as well as with my children who are only 12 and 17 years old.

3DcoverFor an easy to use workbook that will guide you through the collection of your documents, accounts, and assets so that you can easily find the information when it’s needed, or could share it in a crisis, you can order MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life from any of these popular retailers at a pre-release discount today.





Life Preparedness 101

mbicons1.jpgWe all know that we should plan for future life-changing events, but it’s one of the first things we put on the back burner. We have a million excuses, and have learned that procrastination does not work, but there are some things we just never make time to complete.

When it comes to organizing your personal information, doing it later is often too late. The statistics are alarming—some 43 percent of all people age 40 now will have a long-term disability event prior to reaching age 65. And seven out of ten people who turn 65 today will need some type of long-term care services and support lasting three or more years. Could a loved one act as your medical advocate and provide your medical history or list of medications if you were unable to? Could someone else access your bill-paying account to cover basic expenses while you recovered?

Having a system that documents your passcodes, inventories your assets and provides a health biography will not only provide you with quick access to information when you need it, but also can provide a roadmap to the individual that would step in and help you—even if only temporarily—should you need it.

In 70 percent of all households, Consumer Reports found that both spouses were unaware of the major details about family finances and where to find account information. If your partner was suddenly incapacitated, would you be able to step in and manage what your partner was doing? And if you live on your own, it’s doubtful that friends or family would know the details of your life and your wishes if they wanted to help you.

For all these reasons, documenting your life details and putting them in a format that makes it easier for you to retrieve and that someone else can access is important. It matters the most to those people around you whom you love and would be negatively impacted by your failure to simply document basic details.

Click here for a checklist of all of the important documents and details you should have organized. 

Managing End-of-Life Wishes and Caregiver Suggestions

carveouttimeWe hired extra assistance (personal daily assistants or PDAs) for my Mom so she has someone with her and working toward her comfort daily from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. even though she is in an Assisted Living community. She has also been moved into “hospice” care so there is a second doctor, social worker and nurse monitoring my Mom. I have found that having more people and organizations involved in her care has created more complexities to my family caregiver role. I spend a lot of time on the phone and meeting with her caregivers.

What’s become both a blessing and a challenge is that I’m getting advice and recommendations from a variety of caregivers. The three women who are with her the most continue to suggest we add vitamins to her diet. She eats very little and I understand their concern, but then feel guilty when I explain to them that my Mom doesn’t like vitamins and we feel like it would be the choice she would make if she could.

My Mom made it clear she would not want to extend a life of low-quality. I shared my angst over the idea of even having her drink Ensure. After speaking with the Social Worker from hospice and the head nurse in her Assisted Living community, I moved past my concern when I watched her enjoy the shakes and they helped sate her hunger. My bench-mark is to know that what we give her brings her pleasure. I know the vitamins would not bring her pleasure.

My siblings and I continue to struggle to know what things keep her comfortable and what things may just extend her life. It’s not such an easy black and white choice. I’m thankful that I have involved siblings that come to help, call to ask how they can help and bring varied perspectives to our journey to care for our Mom in this last phase of her life. I was lucky my parents told me how they wanted to live, as well as how they didn’t want to live. Because they started this conversation so early in their lives, it never felt uncomfortable.

This Thanksgiving, I hope you will carve out some time to start the conversation with your loved ones on how you plan to live the rest of your life. I’ve included two great resources below, and hope you might start by sharing with friends and family your ideas about how you will spend your time in your 60s and 70s; where you plan to be living and how you will be spending your time.

I am lucky my parents shared their thoughts with me. It has made a difficult journey a little easier knowing that we did or are doing what we can to honor their individual wishes. Thankful. 


AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life: Smart Choices About Money, Health, Work, Lifestyle … and Pursuing Your Dreams by Bart Astor
Life after 50 isn’t what it used to be. The rules have changed. No more guaranteed pensions, retiree health plans, or extensive leisure and travel. It’s time to forge new paths and create innovative models. That’s where the AARP Roadmap for the Rest of Your Life comes in. Bart Astor, author of more than a dozen books, offers a comprehensive guide for making lifestyle decisions, growing your nest egg, and realizing your goals. It’s a positive read I highly recommend.

The Conversation Starter Kit
If you want to be the expert on your wishes and those of your loved ones, not the doctors, nurses, or end-of-life experts, check out this free resource (donations accepted) that includes easy discussion starters for the coming holiday. This doesn’t have to be a gloomy conversation. I was lucky my parents shared their wishes with me.

Life Regrets? Seems many are toting some baggage!

50isNiftyUSA TODAY just shared a recent survey that showed life regrets can shape later years. As someone who has been caring for a loved one, I’m focused on not repeating history.

I have been reading the studies and have made several changes in my life in an effort to build a new and improved aging storyline. In 2012, I shared the 5 ways I planned on aging better than my parents which included cultivating meaningful friendships, documenting the little but important things, questioning and understanding my health state, finding work I enjoy and continuing to work as well as exercising and eating right.

I am a very competitive person and once I set my goals, I work to knock them down and make them part of my life. I have accomplished my goals and will add that after I appeared on Dr. Oz, I have incorporated more fish (or fish oil) into my diet.

While watching and caring for two parents with dementia would never be the path I would choose, it has changed me in many positive ways and helped me find work I enjoy and something I will continue to do for as long as I am physically and mentally able.

I was a little saddened that the study revealed that for older Americans:

  • 48 percent have the support of friends and family
  • 32 percent are happy about their living situation
  • 30 percent are well-prepared financially
  • 29 percent are in good health

Those all seem like very low percentages to me since you can easily flip them to say 52% percent don’t have the support of friends and family, 68% are unhappy with their living situation … you get the point.

Of the regrets, in the top 5, Americans included “keeping legal documents organized”. My parents had done the financial and estate planning and I had the legal documents. The legal tools don’t always work, and they don’t include all the information you need to assist someone if they need support.

As I celebrate my 50th birthday today, I’m proud to have launched MemoryBanc in order to help others organize and protect their important papers and documents. The recognition from AARP Foundation as an “older-adult focused innovation” fueled me to pursue my upcoming book with AARP. For any of you looking for a solution to collect and organize your personal papers, please take advantage of a 10 percent discount using coupon code “GRACE” to order the MemoryBanc Register. Celebrated.

My fear is a tornado

tornadoI recently saw a speaker who put together a book called “Put Your Big Girl Panties On and Kick your Fears in the A**!” The speaker discussed a four step process in which you name your fear, describe it, draw it and then face it.

I realized that I have quite a few fears as I face this journey with my parents. I left a steady job so I could launch my business and the needs of my parents are impacting the life of my family.

As I started to think about my fear and closed my eyes, I envisioned a tornado. I am afraid that something will come out of nowhere and devastate our lives.

In following this process, I realized that much of what I fear is unfounded. There are many early warning signs when it comes to dementia as with many other catastrophes. I brought up my mom’s cognitive issues with my siblings nine years ago when we got together for Christmas. At the time, I was the only one that spent enough time around my mom to notice the changes in her thinking and behavior.

There is a lot I can do now to better prepare for, recognize and hopefully avoid following in my parents footsteps. Any sudden health-issues for my parents would only necessitate the support from others they are so resistant to accept.

As the new year approaches, I’m looking forward to moving us all forward. I know it won’t be easy, but I’m learning and ready to face the challenges in front of me. I won’t let any fears hinder my pursuits. Emboldened.