Dealing with Dementia in the Family

I was interviewed about how to deal with dementia in the family and how to prepare for the worst on Profit Boss® Radio with Hilary Hendershott. What I failed to mention was that helping your loved one maintain purpose and meaning maybe the most important consideration.

It was posted on the anniversary of my parent’s marriage. I was the primary adult family caregiver to my two parent’s who were nearly simultaneously diagnosed with vascular dementia (mom) and Alzheimer’s (dad).

There are many things to know and consider if you have a parent with dementia. Recent studies continue to promote that:

  1. Be physically active and enjoy regular physical activity. Cardio helps both mind and body.
  2. Consider following a mediterranean diet and eat healthily.
  3. Don’t smoke.
  4. Drink less alcohol.

I believe the MOST IMPORTANT element is to consider your brain a muscle you need to exercise. Meaning and purpose and working toward a task and goals is a great way to exercise your mind.

You can hear the interview and some simple tips on how to navigate this phase of life if you are facing this situation here. Shared.

Create a Roadmap to Your Important Information

The “Save It or Shred It” guide has been updated 2020 and you can download a free copy of this white paper to help understand:

  • Why it is important for every adult to organize their personal information
  • Which papers are important to gather
  • What information you should document/record
  • Which papers to keep and which documents you should shred

The reality is that MOST of us will need someone to have this information so they can help us. Many of you have probably already experienced this. You need to step in and help someone, and the hardest part is getting a handle on the information you need to help them.

When you are done, I promise you the roadmap you create will save you TONS of time and frustration.

Get your free copy here. Offered.

If you want a tool that will walk you through this process, you can order MemoryBanc: Your Workbook for Organizing Life on Amazon or visit my company page to learn about the other format options to include a digital version and binder edition. 

Will the bank accept your Power of Attorney?

As the adult family caregiver named as power of attorney, I had an incredibly difficult time getting my Mom’s banks to recognize her power of attorney so I could officially support her. It was less than 2 years old, I provided the original, but since my Mom was alive, they wanted her to come with me to the bank and to sign their power of attorney documentation.

My Mom was so unsteady on her feet she needed a wheel chair. It was difficult and uncomfortable for her to go out. She never wanted to be in a wheel chair and half our journey’s out were battles over getting her to sit down. She was also incredibly frail and the task of just getting into the car would wear her out.

Wasn’t that the point of the Power of Attorney (POA)? I was very frustrated when the banks just failed to recognize my POA. In Virginia I could have pursued a legal suit … but I was already busy enough as my Mom’s family caregiver.

I am not alone as The New York Times story “Finding Out Your Power of Attorney is Worthless” confirms. Sadly, it is not just an issue of the Power of Attorney, but family members are still reporting difficulty getting banks to release funds after death. Here is a recent NBC News story about how difficult it was for Maggie Mulqueen when working with Citibank.

For years, I just used the online banking access to manage my parent’s finances. When I ran into issues, I would either have my Mom sign checks to move the money or just shut down the accounts. When USAA wouldn’t recognize the POA, I didn’t pay to renew my parent’s insurance and moved the account to a new insurance provider. There are some ways to end-around the roadblocks, but it seems ridiculous to have to out- maneuver the bank.

This past week, I walked into two banks to establish myself as Power of Attorney for a client. I need to get her past banking history since no taxes were filed since 2017, and need to be able to sign checks on the days when she is too weak to help. Remarkably, both banks (SunTrust and Wells Fargo) were extremely accommodating. I even had a note from the doctor stating she was unable to manage her own affairs, but did not have to provide it.

I learned two things:

  • You can’t have an active credit freeze. As Power of Attorney, they will create a new bank profile (requires a credit check) for you that is attached to the individuals bank account(s).
  • They view adult children differently than professionals that act as Powers of Attorney.

My logical brain understands this, but my journey as the adult child who was trying to help my parents DETESTS this varied treatment.

Maybe things are changing? Adult family caregivers … what are you finding? Curious.

THANKS to Ashley — Good food for thought and was a tactic I used when I was caring for my parents. Her lawyer suggested she not disclose the information to the bank. Thankfully, her parents added her to their bank account. After I hit a few roadblocks, I just set up online access to most of my parents accounts and did as much as I could digitally and in the spirit of their Power of Attorney. When I hit roadblocks and went to the bank with my POA was when I learned how difficult it was to get them to honor it.

When to claim Social Security?

A report released estimates that “almost all American retirees claim Social Security at the wrong time … which means they will miss out on a collective $3.4 trillion in benefits before they die.”

Oooaaaaffff. That hurts.

Especially when we are living longer and care costs are escalating. Most American’s don’t realize that many care costs are not covered by their medical insurance. Help in the home (dressing, bathing, eating, toileting) is not covered by medical insurance, but is why long-term care policies are offered.

The last year of my Mom’s life cost over $200,000 in 2015. That included the memory care community she lived in (it wasn’t super fancy, it was just the right community for her) along with the additional costs for a personal care assistant added up quickly. Unfortunately, my Mom was unsteady on her feet so we had to pay for additional care when she was awake so she didn’t keep trying to walk and then fall and end up in the Emergency Room.

Social Security offers a retirement calculator which I recently used with my sister. It made it easy to see when to turn on her benefits.

If you work with a financial advisor, I would contact them to learn how and when turning it on makes the best financial sense for you. Talk to you friends and family to learn how they made their decision. This is a situation in which talking about money and the choices we make can be great learning experience.

Let me know what you decided to do!

Just because I’m having trouble with my short-term memory doesn’t make it OK to exclude me from discussions about me

I’m writing this post recognizing that I’m really kinda angry. I know I can get a little “righteous” but I’m seeing families work around their loved ones instead of with them.

I know often, it’s easier to to just do things for someone. Please imagine how you would feel if you suddenly found yourself on the outside when choices about your health and finances were made for you?

Maybe you had a discussion about the topic, but for someone with short-term memory loss they won’t remember that, so are there other ways to help include and remind them of the discussion and decisions made? A notebook, email or texts?

I’m working with a new client and she told me she went to the bank to get a copy of her last statement and her daughter and POA had changed her statements to paperless. She knows she can’t recall the amount of money in the bank and is having trouble managing the finances, but I could only imagine how awful it would make me feel if my loved ones were doing this around me. To be fair, they may have had the discussion and she didn’t remember. However, she was expressing how frustrating it was to be left out. She can still make good decisions and had managed to care for all these things for more than five decades. She wants her daughter to help her do it, not take it away from her and manage it for her. Short-term memory loss on it’s own doesn’t mean you can’t make good decisions or understand their consequences.

Don’t discount your loved ones ability. It is their life and if you love and respect them, assisting them when they need help navigating difficult choices is how you can show it.

I know I didn’t do this well when I started to help my parents. However, now that I have worked with so many families and individuals with varying stages of mild cognitive impairment and diagnosed dementia’s, I see a how devastating it can be to suddenly lose so much for the individual with a memory issue.

For those individuals just starting out, I always talk about us working in tandem. I will help with them organize and schedule, and they will review the bills and sign the checks. Usually, by the end of our first meeting they are breathing a sigh of relief. They see they are still involved and have control, and now have help to manage the components of paying their bills that was challenging.

You can apply this to the scheduling of medical appointments and follow ups as well.

Walk alongside, support and give your loved ones the opportunity to be involved. You might be surprised how much better things can progress when you do it together instead of “for them”. Advocated.

Simplify your Finances – Healthy Habit 30

keepitsimpleThe final and one of my all-time favorite habits — and what I made a career out of — is simplifying finances. It is easy to get a new credit card, and often even to open up a new bank account. As our priorities change and our income grows, we often forget or fail to get rid of unwanted credit cards and bank accounts, we no longer use.

Your life will be infinitely easier if you are only managing a few accounts. Today, most of us have a wide array of bill pay vendors we use. While I started out my adult life with one phone utility, I now have a home phone and internet provider,  mobile phone provider, radio service for my car, and a DirectTV for home entertainment. The array of new services fostered by technology has made many aspects of our financial lives more complex.

The number of accounts, services, and vendors I work with has quadrupled. What I am trying to minimize is the number of financial institutions I work with to make what is already overwhelming feel more manageable.

I hope you will take a few minutes to inventory your financial service providers and credit card accounts. Can you whittle them down? It will make your financial roadmap simpler and minimize the time needed to manage your assets.

If you don’t really know of all the credit card accounts you have in your name, you could run a credit report. Here is a whole summary of your options and how to get your free credit report.

Streamlining this aspect of your life will save you time, energy, and minimize your stress. It will also make it easy for someone to step in and help you when you need it. And most likely, we will all need that help at some point in our lives. Witnessed. 

Sort your Postal Mail Daily PLUS … Healthy Habit 27

stackofmail

I am the WORST offender of the first part of this habit.

Sorting mail daily for clients has made me akin to the cobblers children with no shoes. I usually let it pile up and go through the pile weekly.

It’s annoying to friends and family that have sent mail because I typically prioritize the bills and statements and leave the “fun” stuff for that period of the day when I have a bunch of free time. That usually means I won’t see it until the weekend.

I keep trying to remind myself to “touch it once” and now I am at least reviewing it daily and culling out all the junk mail when I bring it up from the mailbox.

Do what you can. I am just recommending you sort it daily, at least weekly, and be sure to REVIEW your statements.

I find people decide to set up their credit cards on autopay and they truly set it and forget it. They STOP checking the itemized purchases. When I start working with clients and  we do this together for the first time we find HUNDREDS of dollars that have crept into their monthly charges they either didn’t know about or are not using.

The paperless setting lures you into this habit. I hope you will at least add a monthly reminder to review your charges if you have electronic billing. If you find you are not doing this, maybe you can go back to mailed statements? Suggested. 

Visit Missing Money – Healthy Aging Habit 26

money

I found $100 on Missing Money in my name last year. It was a refund check from a utility that never made it to my mailbox. Some of the unclaimed money could be something you never knew you were entitled to receive.

I recommend visiting this site annually for you and your loved ones since it is constantly being updated. I can take years for accounts to go dormant.

Follow these steps:

  • Visit MissingMoney.com
  • Put in your name (or the name of a loved one) and “Start Your Search”
  • Scroll to find the results and initiate the Claim. See the example below for what you should look for. You will have to scroll down past Ads to find the results. The “Claim” button will take you to the state or province website to initiate your claim.
missingmoneyclaim

Please know that you should NEVER have to pay to get your own money so if you are being asked to give a credit card or agree to a percentage of the money, you have ended up on the wrong site. You should never have to pay anyone to get back your own money.

You should also not find that anything is downloading from this site to your computer. If you are prompted, you have clicked on an Ad instead of finding the Claim button.

If and when you find some money – please tell me!  I love to hear all the stories of those that have done this and found money they never knew they were entitled to receive. Whether it is this your or a future year becuase you have continued this Health Aging Habit. Encouraged.

Talk to your Children about your Healthy Aging Choices and Listen to What They Say – Habit #22

funnyquotesagingparent

As an adult child that lived through caregiving for two parents over 5 years, and as a parent of two children, I have been very open about how I believe families should function in terms of support and care.

My parents planned well thinking that they would never “be a burden” to their children. However, when they both ended up with dementia, a family member needed to be intimately involved in their care and well-being. The hard part for me was that my parents firmly believed they never needed any help and half of my caregiving battle was managing around their inability to see how they were failing.

As my children grow and one now has flown the coop, I plan to be open with them when it comes to discussions about our care and well-being. If and when they are managing their own careers and raising their own children, I will make sure to regularly check in to listen to them on how and if they could help. I want them to have their lives, but I do also hope that I can rely on them to at least have general oversight if my husband and I should we need it. There are options for us if they can’t help.

I know that I can hire specialists to help with the day to day needs. I don’t expect my kids to do it for me. But I also know that family knows best and would prefer if one or both of my children would be a POA or Trustee for us when they are ready to step into that role.

What I find most interesting is how many adults with children over 30 are reporting that their kids won’t listen to them when they try to share their plans or discuss their finances. Maybe for many it feels like a weaponized conversation about inheritance or their adult children just aren’t ready to have it.  What I do know is that you better have had this conversation with the people you are counting on to help you before the help is needed. Experienced.

Organize your Finances and Accounts – Healthy Habit #19

Everyone who has had to step in and help a loved one knows how difficult it is to make sense of someone else’s finances.

Most couples can remember a time when they needed to access an account but were unable to because it was in the other person’s name. The phone and utility companies don’t care if you are married or on the home title or mortgage.

It will take some time and organization to make it easy for someone to access, but the reality is that for every adult I have worked with, all of your important information can fit into a 2” ring binder. Filing cabinets become organized dumping grounds for our personal papers and most people will admit they often have trouble finding their own information in the system they set up for themselves.

You can download a free guide to walk you through how to organize your binder here. If you want a workbook that will walk you through this process you can find it on Amazon (it’s less than $17).

Having it organized will save you time, and once it’s done, it’s easy to stay on top of the organization. One of the most important things you can do, is to create a simple roadmap of your finances. Many households have multiple bank accounts and often those people who would step in to help don’t know which account the income drops into and which account is step up to pay the mortgage, long-term care insurance, or even auto-pay utilities or other services on which you rely. Here is a simple example:

financialMap

It’s very basic, but can easily provide you with an easy way to understand your account set up and the interconnections between your financial assets.

Getting this done will benefit you now by saving you time in the long-run, and benefit you later if someone does need to step in and help you.

I started doing this organization when I was caring for my parents. It took me over a year to get a handle on all of the accounts and finances. I wanted to make sure that when my siblings visited, they could easily step in to help me. It was the origin of my business MemoryBanc. I  hope you will access the free resources to set up a system that will benefit you and your family. Shared.

Get Powers of Attorney and Share Them – Healthy Habit 17

poa

If I could make one thing happen, my wish would be for all Americans to have a ritual of putting into place powers of attorney when they legally become an adult. If we had the understanding that should something happen to us whether we are 18 or 80, these documents will allow someone to help.

My son received these for his 18th birthday. Initially, I was most worried about being able to talk to a doctor if he got hurt. As an athlete I knew he would be traveling with his team and wanted to make sure I could get answers from the doctor if he got injured on his travels.

However, what scared me more was how could we help if something happened to him after college and he was living on his own. I’ve come across families that had to step in to help their adult children and were totally unprepared and unable to help.

If this was just a standard rite of entering adulthood, I think we would all have better habits of managing our lives and information so that someone could help us if we needed it. We also wouldn’t make getting these things in place something you do when you get older since every adult should have these.

I’m frustrated that most American’s equate creating an Estate Plan with end of life wishes. A good Estate Plan includes both financial and medical powers of attorney, beneficiary designations, end of life wishes, a Will and maybe a Trust. When I work with families most of them believe they are all set because they have done their estate plans. When I ask them who is the power of attorney and if they have a copy of the document, I’m never surprised when “no” is the answer. These also aren’t once and done tools. You will need to update them over your lifetime.

For those of you caring for a loved one already, you know how precious, valuable, and necessary the power of attorney is. If you don’t have these documents, please know that someone diagnosed with dementia may still have decisional capacity. Ask their doctor to validate this and get these documents into place.

Your plans won’t help you if the people that would step in to help don’t know about them or where they are.  So I hope you will make it a habit to confirm and check in with those you have named as power of attorney annually. Hoped.