I could finally let it go.

keywallet2I have a host of small memento’s to my parent’s lives all over my home. Last month I saw that I still had my dad’s key wallet when I was digging through the key drawer. It’s in sad shape and had been when my Dad still carried it with him. What used to hold seven keys was now only managing two — and one of them was to a storage closet in their retirement community that was no longer theirs, but it didn’t matter so on the key wallet it remained.

That key wallet was part of my Dad’s habits. He never misplaced it, and always picked it up and put it in his pocket when we left their apartment … all the way into a moderate stage of Alzheimer’s. When I saw it last month, I thought about dropping it into the trash, but just wasn’t ready to do it. It brought to me a host of great memories.

It ended up in my key drawer because after my Dad passed away and my Mom came across it in her apartment, she asked me to take it to him in the hospital. The months after my Dad passed away were really difficult for us all, but most for my Mom who couldn’t remember he had died, because she was in a moderate stage of Vascular Dementia.

Why would I want to keep it?

I could still imagine it in my Dad’s hand and then him quickly dropping it into his pocket. When I held it, I could imagine he was still here for a moment. So I put it back in the key drawer. I wasn’t ready to toss it quite yet.

When my husband decides to attack the key drawer today, I notice this is sitting in the odd-ball pile. I pick it up, exhale, and let it drop into the trash. I’m ready to let go of this memento.

I don’t need to hold onto this sad key wallet with useless keys. I have a host of rich memories and traditions that allow me to let go and move on. It’s time. Celebrated. 

1 Comment

Another reason to eat our veggies!

leafygreensResearchers at Rush University Medical School in Chicago found that “one serving of leafy greens a day may slow brain aging by 11 years.”  I initially read the story in The Washington Post that reported “eating as little as one and one half cups of lettuce daily — or a bit more than half a cup of dark leafy greens — may delay the decline in memory and thinking skills that occur with age.”

For those of us with family members with any form of dementia, any and all proven methodologies are gladly received.

The report from Rush states that “cognitive abilities naturally decline with age” which is not the same as the wording in the The Washington Post story that gives you the impression that our memory will decline with age. I see and hear people buy into this belief too often.

In general, our processing speed does slow down staring in our 50s, but memory loss is not a normal consequences of aging. To quote Dr. Green of Total Brain Health, most of us have a “getting problem, not a ‘forgetting’ problem.” There are many things we can do to rev up our recall, and lots of reasons why we might not remember something which doesn’t mean we are showing early signs of dementia.

If you are having memory concerns, go see your doctor. If they don’t take your concerns seriously, ask for a referral to a neurologist. There are many mild cognitive issues that are reversible.

I watched as the doctor’s dismissed the overwhelming number of early warning signs for my parents and hope everyone has a better chance to battle and weather the life-stealing  beast of dementia.

Now off to the store to buy me some greens. Hungered. 

For more on the full report, you can visit: Neural and behavioral bases of age differences in perceptions of trust.  In summary:

“Older adults are disproportionately vulnerable to fraud, and federal agencies have speculated that excessive trust explains their greater vulnerability.

Two studies, one behavioral and one using neuroimaging methodology, identified age differences in trust and their neural underpinnings. Older and younger adults rated faces high in trust cues similarly, but older adults perceived faces with cues to
untrustworthiness to be significantly more trustworthy and approachable than younger adults. This age-related pattern was mirrored in neural activation to cues of trustworthiness. Whereas younger adults showed greater anterior insula activation to untrustworthy versus trustworthy faces, older adults showed muted activation of the anterior insula to untrustworthy faces. The insula has been shown to support interoceptive awareness that forms the basis of “gut feelings,” which represent expected risk and predict risk-avoidant behavior. Thus, a diminished “gut” response to cues
of untrustworthiness may partially underlie older adults’ vulnerability to fraud.”

Leave a comment

Why Auto-Debit is a Bad Idea.

autopayI understand how easy it is to “set-it and forget it” so you never miss a payment.  However, in reality, you have set up a system that no one is minding and there are many ways for scams and fraud to sneak into your life.

I have talked with adult children who have either helped mom and dad set this up to avoid missing or late payments, as well as heard from older adults that this is their plan B should they have a crisis.

It seems like a simple solution, but I want you to be forewarned that there are risks associated. Last year I started working with a new client to find that she was still paying for Juno.  Yeah, she was paying $9.95 a month for dial-up service, even through she had wifi in her home and had for years. We also found a monthly “shipping service” billing her $24.95 monthly she didn’t use, and several hundred dollars in ongoing charitable contributions she didn’t realize she was making.  If you want to set up an auto-debit, do it for an amount that will cover the minimum payment and plan to review the statements before you pay the balance.

In an audit of 20 new clients, I had only one that did’t have a variety of charges on their credit account they couldn’t explain. As we investigate those charges, they realize they were paying for things they don’t use, or worse, never recalled subscribing to ongoing payments.

What’s the harm? Over the course of a year, it’s typically over one thousand dollars. In a few cases this year, I had clients who it was costing several thousands dollars a year. Charities, face creams, supplements, a shipping service, iTunes/App subscriptions … it’s easy to get lost in the list of charges. The scammers are crafty.

I understand wanting to simplify and make things easier, but when it comes to money, you need to make sure someone is minding your finances, or you may find there are several sticky fingers in the till.

If you have a loved one that needs some help, Daily Money Managers are insured and guided by professional ethics to represent their clients best interests. I have yet to find a client where I didn’t save them more money than my time cost. Here is a link to a directory of professionals in the United States. Referred.  




Wells Fargo is More Focused on THEIR Process than Serving ME

I have yet to be convinced that the default process being used by banks put into place to protect our accounts is reasonable. Today reminded me of how frustrating it is to deal with Wells Fargo in particular.

My client wanted me to step in as POA to help on her accounts, so we went to the bank and set it up so I could easily act on her behalf. She was with me and we used the Wells Fargo form to set it up and the whole process took an hour–it should have taken 10 minutes. The first banker had no idea how to even do it, so we waited for the “senior banker”.  The “senior banker” had to call the “back office” to be walked through the process.

My client has estate plans and a trust in place, but her son is not in the area. I was stepping in to help while she was transitioning from her home into a life care community.  We are on the other side of the transition and now that Wells Fargo has the Trust and all the beneficiaries is in alignment with her plans, I wanted to step down as POA.

I visited the bank to resign thinking it would be relatively easy. The first appointment took over an hour as I first had to wait for the “senior banker”, and then we sat on the phone as he called the “back office” to get tutored on what to do. I was told I had to bring in a letter formally resigning. They didn’t have a form, or any further instructions.

wells_fargo_realityWhen I returned with my “resignation letter” I was working with a different banker.  While thankfully, I was attended to right away, we then had to wait on hold in the queue for the “back office” for 25 minutes. This time the “back office” tells us there are specific things that had to be included in the resignation. My typed up letter put her name in the header, not in the sentence, so that letter didn’t work. After 45 minutes, I am really annoyed since the “letter requirements” were not provided to me on my first visit.

This banker understands my frustration and grabs a piece of paper and asks me to hand write the resignation.

Ummmm, you mean I could have done that on the first visit?

Yes, I could have. He is now talking with a contact at “document review” to finish the process to complete what Wells Fargo needs to complete the resignation.

Prompts to the banker who helped me on this last visit. He is the kind of banker you want, but the Wells Fargo systems are a hindrance to building a positive relationship with CUSTOMERS.

I am frustrated. Wells Fargo is doing this for THEM, not for my CLIENT, or for ME. We are both customers. For the millions of caregivers who are going to have to go through this laborious process, be forewarned and do it before you need it. It only gets harder.

I miss the smaller bank I used to work with. I came first. I’ve also seen this with my clients and colleagues. The big name banks prioritize their interests and procedure before customer service.  Totally Annoyed. 

** I left my smaller bank because their online banking was very difficult to use and unreliable. Open to recommendations for banks in the NoVA!

Leave a comment

Joy is the Decisive Test

joykidThe path for every individual and family is unique in caring for a loved one. Some families have unlimited resources while others have finite resources and must choose from within the options they can afford.

I’m often asked “When is it time to move into a community?” For some, never, and for others the earlier the better. I have seen with my family and with clients that when there is cognitive decline, it can be hard to adapt to a memory care community. Sometimes waiting longer can make it harder.

I am still surprised when I tell others how happy my parent’s were AFTER they were required to move from Independent Living to Assisted Living. I was physically ill days leading up to the move and my mom was incredibly angry. Thankfully, all three of my siblings came to town to help them move from their very large double apartment in Independent Living to a one bedroom in Assisted Living.

The change in my mom was immediate. The smaller world to manage and the view of front entrance to the community gave her something to watch. I was surprised at how quickly they forgot their old apartment.

I do know that sometimes it cannot be the decision of the individual whether or not to move. Sometimes a spouse isn’t ready for the change, or they feel like it is their responsibility to maintain the prior life.

Whatever the circumstances of your decision, I hope that you can consider how much meaning and purpose factors in to the joy your loved one can still experience. Is trying to maintain the former life overwhelming? Might their be other options to fill their day that will bring them joy where they are?

Just remember that you will make the best decision you can with the information you have at the time in which you need to make a choice. Caregiving is hard. Reminded. 

Leave a comment

Is someone taking advantage of a loved one?

familyfraudmemeI see reports about fraud in the family and am never sure who has the right stats. The National Council of Aging reports one set of metrics, and a recent report from AARP says that 75 percent of the abuse is committed by family, friend, or neighbor.

Regardless of the figures, I hope that everyone considers having two set’s of independent eyes on the money. In my family, I did the day-to-day finances, but my siblings had access too, and I reported on the cash flow and expenses. We thankfully, all got along.

For families with siblings that won’t work well together, it might help to look outside the family to set up a way to report on the money. That is one reason I get hired as a Daily Money Manager. I work with the parent, but report to the sibling/financial advisor/estate lawyer. It helps to have two independent individuals with oversight and to provide checks and balances. Hiring a professional can eliminate the conflict that comes with disagreements about money.

I’m troubled as a family caregiver to hear that family is taking advantage of a loved one financially. The story FRAUD in The Family (Feb. 2018) from AARP is a good lesson in the many ways estate plans might fail to serve your best interests.

If you are worried about a loved one, some suggestions include:

  1. Stay in Touch. You will be surprised by what they might share with you or overhear when you are calling. Skype and Facetime are very helpful since they also let you see the individual as well as get a look at their surroundings to know if the home is being maintained.
  2. Understand Cognitive Decline. In general, the processing in our brains slows and most notice changes starting in our 50s. If you are noticing cognitive issues or trouble with bills and managing the checkbook, you can suggest getting some help with the day-to-day finances. Beware of setting up auto-payments since once this is done, most people stop looking at their checking and credit card statements. That is very problematic due to the number of fraudsters and scammers. I have only had 1 client this year that wasn’t being charged for things they didn’t order or want.
  3. Who is in the House? From caregivers that aren’t properly vetted, to renters who are stealing — Understanding who is in the home is important. It helps to take a photo inventory, as well as make frequent and unannounced visits should you find someone is stealing from a loved one.

It stinks that we have to layer onto the loss by bringing in additional oversight and protection. However, it is one way you can ensure your loved one is well-served. Suggested. 


Leave a comment

When is caring for your spouse at home the wrong choice?

oldehandsholdigI am invited to provide “Caregiver Academy” workshops around the metro-DC area and get to meet a lot of spouses, as well as adult children who are caring for a loved one. At a recent talk, a gentleman came up to me after everyone left and wanted to talk about how he might be able to better care for his wife at home.

“What kinds of things can I do beside sit her in front of the TV?”; “Why does she insist that she’s showered when she hasn’t for days?”; “When should I start thinking about finding a memory care community?”

I could hear the pain in his voice as he was battling with frustration, fatigue, and the marriage vows he made. I shared with him that I had recently heard and also seen statistics that show how often the caregiver predeceases the person they are caring for. He needs to put the oxygen mask on himself so he can be a good advocate for his wife.

He also started talking about how they are continuing to lead the life they have always lived. They are going out to dinner with friends but she won’t talk and is now eating with her hands. As much as it pained me to lose my parents bit-by-bit, I truly can’t imagine going through this with a spouse. That promise of a retirement together unravels as you try to maintain a sense of normal.

I don’t think there is a right answer that fits everyone. However, what I do know is that you need help be it spouse, partner, sibling, or adult child.

Because it’s easier to see the choices that I made in the rear view mirror, I will always suggest to people that they bring in more help if they can so they can enjoy their original role (spouse, sibling, adult child). The caregiver role can eclipse all others and I regret that a lot of my time was spent as a caregiver, and not her daughter.

  • Are you able to bring in some care for a few hours a day so you can run errands or get to your own doctor visits? There are probably a host of local home care agencies in your area and many have caregivers specifically trained to care for individuals with cognitive impairment and dementia. They typically run from $20 – $28/hour. There are also means-based options for those that can’t afford to privately pay and your local Area Agency for the Aging will be able to tell you more–you can find one near you here.
  • Are there local adult centers that offer classes or activities that your loved one could enjoy? We have senior centers run by the county and day programs run by several non-profits. Don’t dismiss them until you have tried them. They have music programs and run activities that will engage your loved one where they are. I know how much my mom wanted to continue playing bridge, but could no longer.  She quickly engaged in the arts and crafty activities when she joined them.
  • Have you found a caregiver support group to connect with other caregivers? Some even offer respite when you meet. Being able to talk to others who are facing the same issues can provide you with some ideas as well as companionship.

There might be medical factors that make living in a community the right option for you and your spouse, or just your spouse. You just need to find the option that is right for you. They need you to be a good advocate, not necessarily help them with all of their activities of daily living.

What do you think your spouse would want if you had this discussion a decade before it was personal? Wondered. 


%d bloggers like this: