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What Happens When You Fail to Plan

For those of us caring for loved ones, we know what happens EVEN WHEN YOU PLAN REALLY WELL!

I have a personal mission to make sure every adult over the age of 18 is in the habit and knows the value of Power’s of Attorney. These are legal powers you should set up that will help you while you are living. Please visit with a local estate lawyer do this — since Consumer Reports found that several of the online tools would fail to work in several cases. It’s a few hundred dollars, but WORTH it.

John Oliver (HBO) recently covered the story of a couple that was impacted by Guardian proceedings and that bleed their retirement plan dry. For some hilarity … and scarity that will make you think more seriously about planning, check out this segment.  Stay to the end for some awesome cameo’s!



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Is keeping Mom at home the right choice?

homesweethomeI know how often I second-guessed the choice of where my Mom lived. My siblings and I often discussed how we could better use the money being spent on their care community that never seemed to be the right fit for them once their dementia really changed their thinking and behavior.

Now that I work with families who are usually not in the metro-DC area and want someone to help their loved one who is still living in their home, I wonder when is it the right time to consider moving them into a community.

In general, the earlier the move for someone with cognitive issues, the better. They can make friends, find activities they enjoy, and benefit from the social activities that can keep the cognitive decline at bay by staying engaged.

However, I understanding viewing the move from their beloved home as a major issue that most older adults decline and often fight against.

I battled with myself the last year of Mom’s life. Should we move her into our home, even though she made it clear over decades that she never wanted to live with one of her children? I knew it would be a major ask of my family to move her into our home. She would have needed someone at the home to help her when we were working. I realized later that she also would not have had the benefit of all of the activities for engagement within the community. I wish I could have played out both options and reported back to you.

Every family needs to make the best choice for your circumstances. Please know that the fact that you are involved and engaged is more than most adults with dementia receive. Many families detach, others fight over the choices, and for dozens of other reasons, their loved ones don’t have the benefits of an advocate who is watching out for them. Weigh your options but be satisfied that you are making the best decision you can with the information you have right now. Considered. 


No good deed goes unpunished

kaywparents2013The first year of my nearly daily involvement to help Mom and Dad was horrible. I wanted to help them, but they could not recognize that they needed help. They could see that their spouse was not doing well, but they did not recognize it in themselves. While my Mom would complain about Dad’s memory, they never betrayed each other.

I would try to offer logic and reason, and inevitably, I would leave frustrated, and often in tears.

One day, my mom called to ask me to come over to help with the checkbook. When I arrived, she looked at me like I had grown a second head and berated me for suggesting she needed help with the checkbook. My Dad sat in his armchair watching the entire heated exchange. I felt like a teenager again getting lectured. To examples I gave, my Mom would deny and suggest that I was making it all up. I was so angry and frustrated. How could I have believed my Mom really wanted my help. I left in tears.

That evening around 9:30 PM, there was a knock on my door. My Mom was there with a gift. She told me they were sorry that I was so upset and had been driving for hours. She told me somehow, they ended up in Baltimore, MD. Their home was in Arlington, VA and I lived 15 minutes away in McLean, VA. We hugged and at that moment, I realized that the advice the Psychiatrist gave me to “be sneaky” was the only way I would truly be able to help them.

I had to work even harder to help them without it being noticed. When I visited, I would pick up the piles of mail and stick them in my bag to review later. At that point I started to copy account numbers and information to get a better handle on their finances and cash flow. That pain and anguish lead me to create the MemoryBanc Register and transition to a career as a Daily Money Manager.

Things got easier and eventually, my Mom would thank me for helping take care of the bills and finances. That would be more than two years later and after my Dad passed away.

I would later recognize how much I missed the Mom that would debate me. The dementia stole away my parents bit by bit, even the parts that drove me crazy. They were unable to change, so I learned how to adapt to meet my parents where they were — even when I was trying to do a good deed that would never be recognized. Recalled. 



That checkbook equals independence

I still remember using my first credit card to buy clothes for myself when I was around 21 years old. I can visualize the pair of novelty socks that were going to look good with my “dressy” shorts. Yeah, I’ve never been that great when it comes to fashion, but I recall those socks as my first adult purchase on a credit card.

Q4HelpingParentsNow that I work with older adults on a daily basis and help them manage their day-to-day finances, I see how much that checkbook represents. I’ve included a video where I was asked about how someone should talk to a loved one about managing the money and when to recommend a Daily Money Manager.

I recall the frustration I felt when I watched my parents giving away money to a zillion charities they never had an interest in before … missing to pay the water bill … or being asked how you put a check into your checking account. Add to that the number of times my Mom lost her wallet just to fuel my concern … and aggravation. Dealing with numbers and following a multi-step process can be one of the first things you see failing in a loved one with cognitive issues. The consequences can be devastating to financial resources.

Every year, the National Council on Aging estimates more than $36 Billion is lost due to exploitation, fraud, and trust abuse. On a weekly basis, I meet with clients who are giving away money they need to pay for their care, paying for products and services they don’t use, and generally a disinterest in the implications of giving that money to people they never intended to assist.

However, before you tell your loved one they need to hand-over the checkbook, consider what that means to them. If you are concerned, you should start by spending the time to walk through the day-to-day finances with them — help them write checks and manage the cash flow. If you can’t do it, you should be able to find a Daily Money Manager in your area that can help on the website for the American Association of Daily Money Managers.

I hope you will consider how much your loved one has already lost, and don’t be to hasty to take away what might represent to them their last vestige of independence. Recommended. 



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When off-label use goes bad

SeroquelI remember when they recommended this drug for my Mom a few years back. She had vascular dementia and was getting very agitated. The staff was having a hard time redirecting my Mom. They thought this medication might help.

A recent story in The Washington Post covers some of the issues as it related to off-label use — One of America’s most popular drugs — first aimed at schizophrenia — reveals the issues of ‘off-label’ use. This is just one of a number of stories I have seen about using varied drugs to “temper” (for lack of a better word) the behavior of residents in care communities.

Before this, when Mom was still with Dad in Independent Living, the doctor suggested and prescribed Ativan. It is at least prescribed for anxiety. However, my Mom would refuse to take it so when I knew events might bring on anxiety for Mom, I would put it into her Coke. I must admit that I’m not sure that was any better maybe than prescribing off-label uses for different drugs.

I do know that the one time my Mom freely took Ativan was before my Dad’s funeral. On that one day, she wanted a pill to help with the anxiety she was feeling.

Over time, I learned to better interact with Mom and could usually redirect any pre-anxiety events. After the first year of adapting, I never even considered the need for any behavior medication.

Did I change?

Did Mom change?

Did moving her to a community focused on caring for individuals with dementia eliminate the circumstances to bring on the anxiety?

I will never truly know. However, I do feel that the first year as you and your loved one is adapting to the changes in your relationship, and they are feeling in their lives is the most challenging stage.

Just know that they need an advocate, and the more you know the better. Confessed. 

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Tinkering with the Gamma Frequency in our Brains

A friend shared with me “Bringing the Gamma Back” which is a podcast from Radiolab. It shares the impact of light frequency treatment in mice. Those mice with with both early cognitive issues and full-blown Alzheimer’s positively responded to the light treatments. The amount of plaques reduced and they seemed to regain prior memories — all from just a one hour exposure to light pulsing at 40 beats per second.

Unfortunately, positive outcomes in mice rarely translates to humans. The reports from MIT seem to still be discussing the mice trials. I would have hoped given the zero risk of the treatment that someone might have started human testing.

Heck, after listening to the story, I am interested in figuring out how to set this up at home. Who’s brain couldn’t use a little cleaning?

It’s encouraging to see the vast array of new research, and I hope soon, something will land on a real way to slay the beast. Hoped. 









Older Adults are More Trustin’

I was surprised to find a report from UCLA that concluded “Older people, more than younger adults, may fail to interpret an untrustworthy face as potentially dishonest, the study shows. The reason for this, the UCLA life scientists found, seems to be that a brain region called the anterior insula, which is linked to disgust and is important for discerning untrustworthy faces, is less active in older adults.”

cost of abutseThe price of this misplaced trust was reported at an annual cost of $36.5 Billion by the National Council on Aging.  I shared a few weeks back that Impostor Scams netted $328 in 2017. In working with older adults as a Daily Money Manager, I see how difficult managing your personal finances has become in today’s digital world. If you are concerned about a loved one, I hope you will offer to help if you are starting to notice the bills stacking up, or hear them lament over getting ready for their taxes. Not only is it harder to manage, but there are lots of people trying to get at our loved ones money.


I was initially surprised to read the results of the UCLA study. Since then, I’ve been watching and talking with my clients a little differently. I actually now feel a little panic when they tell me a plumber is coming, or they just signed a home improvement contract. I ask them to please reach out to me to talk through big ticket items before they sign an agreement if something comes up between appointments.

However, several have gone ahead and paid for the services and then we just work to validate that they got the service they paid for. In several cases, we have been able to cancel agreements that were predatory.

This gets even more problematic when early cognitive impairment or dementia are involved.

I’ve always considered a side benefit of getting older was getting wiser. I never guessed that due to natural aging, changes in our brains would make us more trusting. It feels counter-intuitive. However, it gives me renewed vigor to help as many older adults as I can. Witnessed.  



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