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It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.

twain quoteA Financial Adviser shared this saying with me after I reached out to him to help some clients who have dozens of banking and retirement accounts. As a Daily Money Manager, I work to simplify their lives, minimize the money they are spending on things they don’t use, shield them from fraud and predatory vendors, and help connect them with the right resources to best serve their interests. Sometimes it’s an Elder Care Attorney, sometimes a Home Care Aide, sometimes an Aging Life Care Manager, and sometimes it’s a Financial Adviser. In a few cases, it’s been one of each.

The Adviser used this expression in response to a conversation about some beliefs we have about managing money and I think it really applies to the world of caregiving in many ways.

First off, Mark Twain is credited with the complete quote: “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

I recently had a discussion with a family that was struggling to help their Dad. They wondered when it was time to consider moving him into a memory care community. I have seen over-and-over again what happens to individuals when you wait too long. They have a hard time adapting to their new community.

“But Dad doesn’t like people, he’s always been a loner.”

Everyone needs to do what feels right to them, and to serve the best interests of their loved ones. In many cases, what our loved ones like changes over the course of their dementia. My mother who was a Life Master at Bridge, didn’t enjoy cards once she could no longer keep track of bids. The woman who hated TV would choose to sit and watch it some days over doing a painting activity — and she had been painting since the 70’s.

In the same way it pained me to lose my mom bit by bit, seeing her no longer find enjoyment doing the things she loved to do was a double-whammy.  What I did see was that my mom started to enjoy activities I would have never guessed at her memory care community.

What I thought I knew when it came to advocating for my Mom, wasn’t always so. Give your self the time and space to consider the options. Your loved ones are lucky to have you. Remembered. 

 

 

 

 

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DealingwithDementia Named a Top Alzheimer’s Blog for 2018

I’m honored to be named a Best Alzheimer Blog for the 3rd year in a row by Healthline.

For those of you that have been reading for a while, you know I kinda have a beef with the use of Alzheimer’s. It is confusing to the millions of families who have loved ones with one of the other forms of dementia … of which Alzheimer’s is one type. I found this diagram a few years ago because I was totally confused when I was told Dad had Alzheimer’s, but Mom had Vascular Dementia.

What is Dementia

Understanding Dementia

I plan to continue writing and hoping I can help make this journey for others a little easier. Encouraged.

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Don’t Dread the Move to Assisted Living

I was physically ill the days leading up to my parent’s move from Independent Living into Assisted Living. They fought the move, and would not allow personal care assistants into their apartment in Independent Living which could have allowed them to stay there longer.

The community they lived in forced the issue. They were a danger to themselves and others in the community. They gave them the choice to move out, or move into Assisted Living. Navigating that with my Mom was an incredible challenge, she was ready to hire a lawyer and move out. Thankfully, my siblings all came to town to help manage the move.

My parent’s living space went from 2,000 to around 600 square feet.

We all knew that my parent’s were not happy about the move. However, they also were both in a moderate stage of different dementias. We tried to make the time more of a family reunion and distract them from the reality of the move.

Thank goodness there are 4 of us. It tapped out all of us emotionally.

The big surprise? How happy my parent’s were in the smaller apartment with a view of the front entrance. My parent’s were the happiest I had seen them in a year.

After my dad had his celestial departure, we found that mom needed to be in a memory care community. That move was a little easier. I had someone help move Mom’s things while I took her out to lunch and we drove to her new community. She really liked her new room with all of her things and her habit of wondering when Dad would return to her apartment disappeared. She was now in a community that wouldn’t make her choose a meal off a menu (all the choices overwhelmed her); she always had table mates (the other residents in Assisted Living didn’t want to sit with the woman who couldn’t remember their names); and she always had an activity that would meet her where she was.

dancingMy mom was never a joiner. But her personality and interests changed through her dementia. What I have seen over and over is that the longer you wait for the move, the harder it is for your loved ones to adapt to the new community. I was shocked to arrive one afternoon to see my Mom dancing. She always shooed my Dad away when he asked for a dance.

I know how hard it is to face the decision and be the one to make it happen. You are making the best decision you can with the information you have. They are lucky to have you in their life to be their advocate. Believed. 

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Turn on your Long Term Care Insurance Now

LTCinsuranceIn talking with several families recently, there seems to be a reticence to start benefiting from the Long Term Care insurance they own. Whether it’s the idea to save it ’til later when things get really expensive or that they won’t qualify … I’ve seen it too often recently that I want to encourage you to apply for the benefits now.

A few reasons to take it now include:

  1. Once you turn it on, you don’t have to make anymore payments.
  2. Should the individual with the benefits predecease the use of the insurance, or before they have claimed all of the benefits,  you won’t get any of that money back. Exhaust the plan before you exhaust personal savings.

Many of the plans have limits and caps, but there are still a few really good ones that don’t. Do you know what your plan limits are?

Most plans have an exception for individuals diagnosed with dementia versus having to qualify with two or more activities of daily living. First read through the plan to find the qualifications and then call the provider and ask about the policy. Key questions to ask include:

  • Is there an exclusionary period?  Many plans have 90 and 100-day exclusion periods once the individual qualifies for the benefits.
  • How much per day is covered for Home Care Assistance? Most plans have a dollar amount per day for personal care assistants in your home. You can actually set up the billing so they bill the insurance provider directly and you only have to cover any overages. Many cover up to 10 and 12 hours per day.
  • How much does it pay toward Assisted Living; Skilled Nursing; Memory Care? It’s good to know how much will be covered when you are making a decision about a care community.

This truly is a use it or lose it scenario and from what I have seen, there is no benefit to NOT taking it as soon as you qualify … and that could simply be a diagnosis of dementia. Experienced. 

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How much money is needed to care for a loved one with dementia?

DMMHouseI wish I could tell you there was an easy answer to this question. But there isn’t. Just like every dementia is different, every support network is different as is every metropolitan area in terms of costs and options.

The Alzheimer’s Association just posted a campaign stating it is the most expensive disease in the United States. They do state that 1 hour of Alzheimer’s costs taxpayers $21 million, but most of the costs are in terms of Medicare and Medicaid expenses. How might your family look at the cost and impact to your family?

Some things to consider include:

  • How much time are you spending each week providing unpaid care? From rides to the doctor to meal preparation and financial management?
  • Is the time you are spending helping a loved one impacting your job in terms of lost wages? Diminished opportunity for promotions?
  • What will be needed to spend in terms of personal care assistance? Is it all out of pocket or is there long-term care insurance that can cover some of the expense?
  • How much does a memory care or assisted living community cost?

The numbers add up quickly. For an example, the year after my dad died, we spent around $40,000 (of her money) in personal care assistance for my mom. She was living in a life-care community, wasn’t progressed enough to live in the Memory Care neighborhood, but needed more assistance navigating her day. Her community costs were $96,000. So in 2014, we spent around $136,000 on her community and care costs. Had she just moved in with us, having a personal care assistant around the clock would have been around $120,000. Had that been an option, we could have probably decreased that costs when we knew we would be at home to help with her care.

The last year of Mom’s life, after we moved her into a community designed for an active woman with dementia, the cost was close to $200,000. While her community cost was a little less expensive then the life care community they chose a decade earlier, her personal care costs were $96,000. After she fell and wasn’t steady on her feet, we needed to pay for a personal care assistant to be with her 12 hours a day so she wouldn’t try to get up and walk on her own.

Frightening numbers! Thankfully, my parents had saved and had the money to cover their expenses.

One thing to consider is that allowing an individual to maintain their independence and purpose as long as they can is something they will treasure. It can also minimize expenses, but shouldn’t be at the risk of other factors. If they are living alone, find a good solution to detect falls since that is the greatest risk for most older adults.

Dementia stinks. It robs us emotionally, and financially. As a Daily Money Manager, I help families develop plans to assess the costs and consider the options. To learn more about how I help families, visit here. I’m always happy to help families navigate these issues. Offered. 

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There is no bottled miracle for memory

vialofpillsBeauty products have been referred to for decades as “Hope in a Jar.” I feel that same desire for memory loss cures and prevention. However, the scientific studies continue to find time and time again that none of the promises made by the supplements are working.

What a recent story from Consumer Reports suggested to do instead:

  • Brain Workouts.  Do something that will “enhance reasoning and memory-abilities” like learning a new language. They report that training can help processing speed and reasoning, but made sure to exclude “computerized brain games” from this recommendation.
  • Exercise Your Body. Physical activity can delay or slow cognitive decline, but not prevent it. I noticed for my Dad with Alzheimer’s how much better he did day-to-day when we got him to the racquetball court.  I think most of us recognize the feeling of well-being we get from exercise, even though we may curse it while we are in it.
  • Manage Blood Pressure. Reducing your risk of heart disease and stroke help since they are major risk factors for memory loss.

However, I do see reports and hear from my colleagues how some new treatments are showing some promise with their clients. As I interpret it, the idea is to basically clean your body of toxins that might be impacting your memory. After seeing the number of kids with nut-allergies mushroom in the past two decades, I have been wondering how the ways in which we package and store food and the products we use on our skin might be impacting our health.

I’d love to hear from caregivers if you have seen good success with one of these newer treatments for your loved one. Curious. 

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Impostor Scams Net $328 Million

scamalertA girlfriend just shared how her mom, who is in good health and of sound mind, received a call that she (my girlfriend) had been kidnapped. They wanted her mom to immediately drive to a check cashing place and wire money for her release. Her mom tried to text and call on a second phone, by her daughter was in an appointment with her phone off.  Thankfully, her mom navigated it well but it was a quite a traumatic event. Her mom lives in a condo and kept the people on the phone while she went down to the concierge who called the police and helped. However, she was wondering if her mom was really of sound mind if she fell for this.

I confirmed to her that really smart people can be victims of this scam because the fraudsters are so good. In fact the FTC reported that the kidnapping scam is the top “Imposter Scam” for 2017 and cost Americans at least $328 million.

For those of us caring or concerned about loved ones that live alone, I hope you will consider how you can implement a call screening service or device to help eliminate these callers. I implemented this system in my own home and never answer an unidentified call at home or on my mobile phone.

As a Daily Money Manager, I work with older adults in their homes and one of the first things I do is implement a call screening solution. In metro-DC, I can implement Nomorobo which is free service from Verizon. The Nomorobo website can help you find out if you can get their free service in your area.

If you can’t get a service like Nomorobo, you can purchase a call blocking device like Sentry 2 that lets you blacklist numbers. It does require that you tag calls to the “blacklist” to block, and you can also add numbers and only get calls from those on your “whitelist”. It can fill the need but does require assistance to be effective.

Two other simple options include:

  1. Sign up for “Anonymous Call Rejection” with your local carrier. This service rejects calls from anyone that has blocked their caller ID information. It is usually something you can enable using *77 but varies by provider.
  2. Suggesting they never answer the phone if they don’t recognize the number.  A doctor, or friend will leave a message and they can easily call back

For many, the comfort of home and the costs can make aging in place the best choice. However, there are many things to consider to make sure our loved ones are safe. Advised. 

For more on this topic, check out this story:

How to Avoid Becoming a Victim of a Virtual Kidnapping Scam The Washington Post

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