If You Only Knew

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Planning for the care of your senior parent
You get THE call. “Sorry to tell you, but your parent had a fall.” Another call could sound like this; “Hi, this is Linda from the Emergency Room at All County Hospital and your parent was brought here because they were having problems breathing.” A life altering incident can occur so quickly and unexpectedly. For other families, a change can occur in the form of a decrease in a parent’s cognizance, and because it happens so slowly the telling signs are overlooked.
Families should learn to become proactive, not reactive. Waiting to deal with emergencies when they happen can cause confusion, sibling frustration and has the potential for poor decision making. IT IS NEVER TOO EARLY TO SIT AS A FAMILY TO WORK ON CONTINGENCY PLANS FOR LIFE’S SURPRISES.
One of the hot conversations today is discussing the financial prudence of purchasing a long-term care (LTC) insurance policy. Ideally this discussion should begin when your parents reach their 50’s in good health so they can qualify for lower premium rates and pass the medical exam. The theory use to be that people who wanted to protect their substantial assets would benefit from buying LTC policies. Currently, with Medicare and Medicaid on the chopping block, it might be a good idea for more families to have a conversation with an experienced, recommended LTC agent to determine whether they should buy a policy. Putting monies away now while income is being produced may prove to be a financially sound move vs. waiting until there is no income to lay out substantial sums for private care.
The age-old habit of not discussing important ‘Adult’ issues with your children; to prolong your child’s innocent years or from a strong desire to keep your privacy even from your children, is no longer considered an acceptable action. Your children are your lifeline and should be fully engaged in planning discussions when they are mature enough to do so, which starts at the age of 17.
A family should create a family meeting as an event on the calendar. Spouses and appropriate aged children should be given ample notice about the time, date and location of the meeting. As each of your children turn 17 invite them to partake in your conversation. By holding family meetings over the years, the family can plan for potential events that may require the assistance of each member in the family.
For some families, it’s not just the planning for a parent as they age, but how to provide lifetime care for a special needs member of the family. Often parents relinquish their role before they die due to changes in their ability to handle the care. This can throw the entire responsibility onto the siblings. Should a special needs trust fund be discussed to make sure that there are financial resources set aside for this child? Discuss options of what is expected from a family member who chooses to opt out of their responsibility. Create rules and exceptions now during peaceful times. One suggestion is that financial compensation be made by the family member to help defray the cost of hiring someone in their stead. Discuss what should happen if no one chooses to take on the responsibility of caring for a parent or the special needs sibling. There are companies who will act as your trusted liaison and take care of all aspects of your parents or siblings needs for you. Making decisions in advance can serve you well over time and create less resentment when a crisis arises.
To help maintain a healthy family meeting you can contact the Small Business Administration of Nassau County and ask for a mediator to attend your meeting. The SBA can advise you on how to make the most of these meetings. They will moderate in an unbiased way and guide the conversation to remain fair and reduce the chance of outbursts from individuals. This is a free service.
We can’t know in advance what to expect, but consider some of the following for discussion. The responsibility to record these meetings should be on a rotation basis so that each family member shares in this task. Notes should be typed and distributed to the others.
  1. What should happen when a parent can no longer drive safely? What does the family agree upon as the steps they should take to handle this difficult stage?
  2. At what point in a parent’s life will they permit their child(ren) to decide that they are no longer safe at home and need to move?
  3. If a parent is expected to move, which criteria should the family use to choose an appropriate place? Will there be enough money to care for the senior parent when they need extra help?
  4. In the event a parent needs to take several medications, at what point do they want their children to supervise the meds or remind them to take the meds? Please keep in mind that misunderstood ailments can simply be the result of a senior taking the wrong doses, the wrong meds or not taking them on time.
  5. Discuss the financial needs of a senior as they age. Ask an accountant for their help with this discussion. Differentiate between the potential medical costs vs living costs. Be prepared both mentally and financially as best you can. Remember that as of now the government may not have enough funding and the slack is being picked up by private companies who require payment out of pocket for their services, potentially without government reimbursement.
Today’s families can hold their family meetings with the comforting knowledge that there is a wider and deeper level of support available to them. The plethora of ‘At Home’ services include health care agencies, Doctors who perform house calls, social workers, age-in-place specialists and many more.
NASMM, the National Association of Senior Move Managers created ‘At Home’ services as featured in the New York Times. Although the fundamental services of a NASMM member was to plan and coordinate all aspects of a move for a senior, their service now includes assisting a senior while they choose to age-in-place. Creating a safe home and a safe life, the At Home specialist is there to provide support for a senior and their family.
The NASMM At Home specialist begins to help as soon as a senior needs an extra pair of hands, but not yet ready for an aide or companion. In their safety evaluation, a specialist will look for potential fall risks. Is the carpet in need of repair? Are the throw rugs slippery? Is the furniture the correct height so that the senior can sit down or rise without assistance. Are grab bars needed? If so, the specialist knows that only a CAPS certified company is permitted to install these bars.
Organizing a senior’s home by managing documents and bills, and when necessary coordinating all the ancillary services are just a sample of the services provided by an ‘At Home’ specialist. It’s common for a specialist to customize their services for the individual senior. An ‘At Home’ specialist becomes the trusted liaison between the busy Adult children and their parents.
Adult children report their relief with the extra pair of hands and the Senior speaks about the comfort of having another Adult whom they feel comfortable to call as needed. These services don’t preclude the Adult Child from handling affairs for their parents. This program was designed to provide extra supportive care and streamline the many tasks required to keep the senior active.
Plan young, plan early and get familiar with the senior resources offered today.
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Debbie Ginsberg is a Professional Organizer, Senior Move Manager and an At Home Specialist in her Uncluttered Domain Inc. company, established in 2010. She is a member of both NAPO and NASMM. Debbie has been featured in Newsday and the New York Times and has an Internet TV show called, “Debbie Says”. For questions or comments, contact   This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 855-2B-ORGANIZED or visit www.UnclutteredDomain.com

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