The Conversation to Start with Your Family

Take the first step and begin the dialogue with your family and friends.

A call after 10:00 PM never brings good news. My mom found my dad on the floor and asked me what she should do. I told her to call 911 and I’d meet her at the hospital. During intake we were asked for medical history, medications, and details about my dad’s health that neither my mom nor I could confidently provide. Sadly, my dad just had one drink too many and had passed out. My parents were both in generally good health, but this first event was a wake-up call and I realized I wasn’t prepared to be the advocate my parents might need one day.

When I got a call from the Emergency Room (ER) about my dad the second time, I was well prepared. After his first visit, I realized that even though the hospital had electronic medical records for him, the medical team will turn to family to understand medical history, medications, and complaints. They don’t have (or take) the time to read the records they already have. This time my dad had broken his hip playing racquetball and was going to need surgery.

After the first visit to the ER, I made notes on my dad’s medical history and medications and I started to carry copies of both my parents’ durable and medical powers of attorney on my smartphone. The medical power of attorney gives me permission to represent my parents for medical needs and the durable power of attorney gives me the ability to access and make decisions on my parents’ financial assets. Thankfully, my parents had done their estate planning and told me where I could find these papers should they be needed. Having this completed before it was needed made a huge difference for me as their adult child when I needed to step in and help.

Before these medical events happened to my parents, my husband and I viewed retirement planning as a financial plan. While the finances are important, I now know that the likelihood of having a health crisis gets greater and greater as we age. According to the Department of Health & Human Services, 7 out of 10 Americans turning 65 today will need three or more years of long-term-care services before they die. That is three years that someone will need to help with care as well as manage some portion of your personal assets.

Apparently many Americans aren’t prepared or planning for an early retirement or ready when a crisis strikes. A 2014 survey by the Employee Benefit Research Institute found that 49 percent of retirees surveyed had retired earlier than they had planned. The survey found that many Americans find themselves retiring unexpectedly, with 61 percent citing health problems or disability and another 18 percent citing care for a spouse or another family member.

Information is a very powerful tool

Most families are not prepared when they need to step in and help mom or dad in the face of a crisis or medical issue, and the consequences of being unprepared can be severe among families—causing chaos, confusion, and loss of money. Parents may tell you the plans are in the file cabinet or safe, but vague directions can make it stressful to try and locate the documents. More often, you need access to information like medical history and medications as well as information on how to manage the household and pay bills until a parent can get back on their feet. Finding that information can be overwhelming.

Today, more than $56 billion is sitting with state and federal treasurers because family members didn’t know about bank, retirement, and insurance accounts. If mom or dad doesn’t get back on their feet, the accounts sit dormant and eventually get turned over to the proper authorities to hold until claimed.

For all these reasons, starting the conversation with mom and dad is important to begin well before it’s needed. Some ways to begin the dialogue include:

  • Ask them how they plan on spending their 60s, 70s, and 80s. Where do they want to live and how do they want to spend their time?
  • Request recommendations on how to approach estate planning. When did they do theirs and how did they decide who should be their advocate if one of them is unable to speak for the other?
  • Share a story of a friend or colleague who faced a difficult family health issue and talk about how your family might have handled the situation differently.

As you have these discussions, hopefully you will begin to see how your parents view and expect to spend their retirement. With almost half of adults having to retire earlier than expected, and 70 percent of those over 65 years of age needing some form of long-term care, one of the easiest ways to help mom and dad realize they need a plan if they don’t have one in place could mean that you lead by example and share your plans with them first.

What matters?

The two most important documents for anyone over the age of 18 years are a durable power of attorney and a medical power of attorney. They are the tools a loved one will have to use to help you while you are living and can be invaluable in the crunch of a medical emergency. Before my son leaves for college we are getting these documents in place. Without a medical power of attorney, even as the parent and one that pays the medical insurance, a doctor is unable to discuss my son’s health with me.

Information is the greatest asset you can provide to those that would step in and help you. I hope you will have a chance to begin the conversation with your parents to understand how they plan to spend the rest of their lives.

For a free guide that lists the key documents, accounts, and details you should have organized for your loved ones from the best-selling book MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life, visit:

A Disorganized Home, Stress, and Family Life

Would you believe that a disorganized home is creating stress for American families today?

Many of us minimize the impact of stress on our health and well-being. Home organization, it turns out is a major source of stress for American familiesThe Huffington Post reports that “home organization was as much of a stress trigger for recently-stressed Americans as:

  • unexpected expenses (also 47 percent),
  • not having enough time for loved ones (46 percent), and
  • not having enough time to yourself (45 percent). “

When it comes to managing the household and finances,  having a shared roadmap can reduce anxiety and that includes every member of your household.

Home disorganization is also costing American families more than $58 billion dollars — at least that was what CCNMoney reported is the amount of unclaimed money sitting with state and federal treasurers. Loved ones are just unaware of both physical and financial assets during a crisis or upon death and they eventually end up in the very large “unclaimed money” coffers.

To start your roadmap, you can download a free list that includes all of the documents, accounts, and details you should have organized. Not only will it benefit you when you need to find information, but it will assist a loved one that may need to step in and help you.

To learn about the benefits of getting organized, find out how it helped an active family of five,  and a couple that wants to stay on the same page.

Consider doing just one thing to get better organized today.

Related Stories:

Three Simple Ways to Bring Organization to the Next Level

“Next Level” Organization for Seniors

3 Products and Services to Help You Get It Together in 2015

This story originally appeared on SpareFoot, but I’m re-sharing and paring down the list to 3 key products that will help you mind the important stuff (documents, accounts, and assets) better. Visit this link to read the complete list.

Getting organized can be a bore and a chore, but various innovations are helping take some of the drudgery out of getting the important things organized.

1. MemoryBanc


MemoryBanc, a system that comes in written or electronic formats, lets someone collect and manage usernames; passcodes; and financial, medical, household and personal documents.

“Adults are creating written roadmaps to their documents, accounts and assets. Many are concerned about sharing key personal information in the cloud or a cloud-based solution and are using traditional pen and paper instead,” said Kay Bransford, president and chief curator of MemoryBanc.

2. Doorstep Digital


As the name implies, Doorstep Digital brings digital archiving to your door. In nine U.S. cities, digital archivists will come to your home to preserve photos, slides, negatives, documents and artwork. Company executives say this does away with the risk of priceless items being damaged or lost when they’re archived outside your home.

So far, the service is available in Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio, TX; Baton Rouge and New Orleans, LA; Chicago, IL; Denver, CO; and Seattle, WA.

After my father passed away, I used a photo scanning service to digitize selected photographs of his life that we used at his memorial service and that I could share with my siblings. I now have a digital archive of our most treasured family photographs.

3. Fujitsu Scansnap


Fujitsu Scansnap scanners reduce paper clutter by allowing you to scan and store an array of documents. Turner said such scanners are becoming more affordable.

“I’m not sure I would say that 2015 will be a breakthrough year, but I definitely see desktop scanners being fairly typical by 2020,” she said.

I have been managing my parent’s financial, personal and medical lives for over 3 years. This is the one tool that has helped me stay organized while not being overloaded with paper. Be careful – it’s addictive!

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.





Documenting basic personal details for your family

Create one place to collect and store your important documents

Yesterday I did an interview with radio host Kevin Price.  While I started on this journey as an adult child dealing with two parents who have dementia — I’ve learned the larger issue I face has no relationship to dementia at all.

My parents had a will, medical directives and even gave me a durable power of attorney, those things did not help when I needed to manage their medical appointments, bills and cash flow.

I know that every second in the U.S. someone is disabled. If you were even temporarily disabled, would your loved ones have what they need to be able to step in and help you?

My parents were sure they were covered and they would not put us in the same situation they faced with their parents. However, I don’t think they imagined that they would both lose their short-term memory and be unable to even fill in or answer basic questions about their finances, medical history or household.

This could have been any of a myriad of issues. A few months ago a former colleague’s wife (age 43) had a stroke and was unresponsive the first month in the hospital. On top of the stress of his concern for his wife, he also faced the reality that he didn’t have all online banking details that would have made it very easy for him to fill in as she recovered.

Check out the short list of the basic personal details I shared with Kevin that you should document for your family — it’s the kindest thing you could do. Prepared.