Hello again. Carolyn and Mikol here.
This is a real situation, all too common.
Three brothers are engaged in pitched battle over their mother’s care and how to pay for it. Mom is severely demented and can’t care for herself independently. She had long term care insurance, but she has almost exhausted that benefit. Her only remaining asset is her home.
The eldest brother, James, seized power over her finances from the middle brother, Paul. He got mom to appoint him the power of attorney and the agent on the healthcare directive, and displaced Paul, who had always been on both documents . Mom wasn’t competent to sign anything when she did, but James didn’t seem to care. That infuriated Paul. Little brother Joe is somewhat passive, but sides with Paul.
The three never got along very well, even as kids. There was a lot of arguing and their communication did not improve as they grew up. They largely avoided one another. Until now.
James decided, without communicating with either of his brothers, to move mom to an assisted living facility that takes care of people with dementia. She would have her own room. It would be in her neighborhood. Her house would be sold to pay for it. A deposit was paid.
When Paul heard of this, he became enraged, told Joe and they both threatened to sue James. In response, James found a lawyer and began guardianship proceedings. There is no money in mom’s checking account to pay the lawyer, so James promised the attorney that she could get paid when the house was sold.
Mom’s long time estate attorney suggested mediation. She urged the siblings to stop upsetting their mom and each other by using a neutral person to help them try to reach some agreements.
This sounds like a good solution, doesn’t it? They could meet and talk, figure out a way to be more civil to each other around the move for mom. With the help of a mediator, they could work toward a less aggravating future for each other caring for their mom.
James refused to go to mediation. The guardianship proceeds apace. Thousands of dollars will be needlessly wasted on the litigation, which Paul and Joe are fighting. The brothers will become ever more acrimonious and the story will not end well during mom’s final days.
As a mediator for families in conflict, I can only say that this story keeps repeating itself in different forms. It’s frustrating for me, as I know that in most instances, mediation of family conflicts about elders can really help and it is often successful. The hard thing to understand is why wouldn’t the James’s of the world want to give it a try? Is it the power they yield? Is it control over their siblings via legal documents and court cases?
Certainly, the cost of mediation can’t be the reason to refuse it. It is far, far less expensive than just about any court proceeding. If siblings are scattered, as in James, Paul and Joe’s case, mediation can even be done over the phone. You can’t make anyone do it though. It’s voluntary.
A factor at play is James’s attorney’s motive in handling the guardianship proceedings. Lots of money is at stake if the litigation keeps going. She can rake it in. If she agrees to go to mediation with Paul, and the siblings settle their differences, there goes her paycheck. If you don’t think some lawyers want to keep conflict alive and churning for their own selfish sakes, think again.
What’s the takeaway here?
Mediation works. Think about it if your family is in conflict over an aging parent.
It is a dignified way to resolve your differences without a court. No one judges you. You work it out as you choose, not how anyone else tells you to do it.
Some of us call ourselves “elder mediators”. We work in this arena of warring families and parents. It’s not therapy. It’s short term problem solving. I encourage those who are feeling the heartbreak of scenes like the one above to find a mediator and get going. There is hope, even when it seems impossible. You can make it better.
Mediation for family members scattered across different locations can still do it. We use Skype, and telephone conferences to get the job done when no one can travel. If your family is caught up in a dispute you can’t solve on your own, contact us for a free consultation about getting it settled. Click here.
Until next time,
Hello again from Carolyn and Mikol.
After six years, those who followed a Mediterranean diet scored significantly higher on standardized cognitive tests than those who followed the low-fat diet. Those who scored higher were also less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
What we call “the grey zone” is that place between being competent and being incompetent for making decisions that is part of cognitive decline. The crazy-making part of it is that it is so unpredictable. The impairment that begins to affect the brain of a person with dementia very early in the process may be both hidden and subtle. But it’s real. And it can be dangerous.
Research tells us that with Alzheimer’s, the judgment needed for financial decisions is impaired even at the beginning of the disease, though you might not see it. The elder may look and feel fine. Perhaps he or she is completely appropriate socially. The problem is, he can’t see a scam coming. He can’t tell when something smells fishy about a proposal. She doesn’t know a ripoff from a good thing. This difficulty causes two things to happen quite often.
First, the family may argue and disagree that anything is wrong with the parent. He’s always been in charge. She always paid the bills on time. The insidious reach of the disease robs the parent of the necessary ability to handle money safely and the family doesn’t believe it or can’t understand how it works. No one wants to make a change in any way and they get stuck in their positions opposing each other.
Second, the elder with early cognitive impairment is very vulnerable to financial abuse from family, from unscrupulous financial professionals, from scam artists or from caregivers. The problem of financial elder abuse costs elders $2.9B a year and it is growing.
What can we do about this?
One useful thing is to understand that an elder, even in the early stages of cognitive decline needs to be making plans to allow others to take over the handling of financial matters. And then the authority needs to change. It is not smart to wait until some disaster happens or all the money in the bank disappears before transferring power over finances to another responsible person.
Next, one can make use of objective data to measure the extent of impairment. Get some testing done by a qualified psychologist or neuropsychologist. What will show up on psychological testing is often quite different from family’s casual impression of how Mom was at lunch last week. She seemed fine. Testing compares how Mom is doing with how others in Mom’s age group compare in terms of memory, ability to understand concepts, judgment and other functions. The data can help everyone make better decisions about what Mom needs.
Finally, we encourage using family meetings with a neutral person, a mediator, to keep family warfare from interfering with safe decisions about aging parents. The investment of time and resources into this step can save untold aggravation and can prevent the fighting from
escalating all the way to the courthouse.
We continue to offer you our help in raising the bar in family relationships.
Carolyn Rosenblatt, R.N., Elder Law Attorney & Mediator
Dr. Davis here. We hope you are well in reading this. We want to acknowledge each and every one of you who is a caregiver, either near or far from your loved one. If you have to deal with family, it’s not always so rosy. Let’s look at something I see a lot: family disagreements.
Family often means conflict. People don’t want to have the necessary conversations to clear up conflict, so they either avoid it or they clam up and don’t say anything, causing the conflict to stay there under the surface. So, we want to share something with you that is important to know and to keep in mind if you are spending time with your family. It can be for a special occasion, or a visit just to stay in touch. It can be for any reason.
Relationships can be painful. We wish they would be better, different, and that the other person we see as a stubborn or difficult person would change.
Relationships rarely improve when people try to change each other. Rather, we find happiness by focusing on each others’ positive attributes.
Expressing gratitude and appreciation for these qualities creates a loving, accepting atmosphere for everyone. I know this can be hard. If you’ve come to resent the difficult person, it’s not easy to think of anything but how angry they can make you feel, how frustrated.
I’d like you to try something different for the next week, or even over the weekend.
Think about how you might share your gratitude for your loved one (yes, that difficult person) with them. Try your best to think of a few positive things this
person has ever done, involving you or not. Make a mental list. OK, maybe it’s a short list for some folks.
Keep them in mind, and while you’re with your family, tell them. If you’re not with the difficult people, tell them in an email, text or phone call. You can keep it short.
You don’t need to go on and on or explain anything. Just express gratitude.
Pretty simple, right?
I’d like you to share with me how it went and if you felt anything had improved, even temporarily from this effort
you made. It can do a lot, and I hope you’ll give it a try. That’s it for now. Thanks for reading.
Sincerely, Dr. Mikol
We can help you resolve your family conflicts. Schedule your complimentary strategy session now by clicking here to learn how to decrease the chaos and increase the peace.
P.S. Please send us your comments! I’d love to hear from you. Just hit reply.
Carolyn and Mikol here.
Some look to be aging well. Others not. What’s the difference? We are having a little getaway in beautiful Lake Tahoe with perfect weather, blue skies and breathtaking scenery.
I watch some folks apparently having fun and others looking glum while staring out into space. Some of them are smiling as we pass by. I’ve talked to a number of these folks. I’m on a secret research mission to find out more about how to age well. I’ll be an official senior citizen on my next birthday. Gotta find out! I observe. I ask a few questions. I take note.
What the happy folks are doing that others aren’t includes participating in life here. You see them in the water, either a pool or the cold lake. They are walking or exploring. They’re in a hot tub relaxing. They’re going out for a show. They may be reading a book and chatting occasionally with the person next to them.
The unhappy ones are in front of the TV. Can you imagine? Daytime TV watching in a place like this? Missing it all by staying inside doesn’t seem to make them happy. The happy folks are engaging in conversation. This is a small resort and it’s easy to get to know anyone. People are friendly but you have to reach out a little to connect to them. That seems to be another quality of the happier ones: they make an effort to get to know others, even if in a casual way.
We are social animals by nature. Some need social contact more than others. The ones who are having the most fun, it seems, are making more social contacts. The unhappy ones seem to keep entirely to themselves. I’m sure that’s okay, and maybe they just need some quiet. But they don’t look as if they are laughing at any jokes. They don’t seem to be finding some humor in the events of the day. If humor helps us age well, it seems that we have to extend ourselves to find it. Hmm. I’m definitely going to that comedy show down the road tonight.
Aging well, the literature on aging tells us, involves healthy habits, like exercise. I see a lot of people strolling along the beach or walking into town or going along the many walking paths around here. It’s gentle exercise. They look relaxed and I see pleasant expressions. And those unhappy ones say they’re bored. But they rarely leave their condos. Seems pretty obvious that getting out and moving around helps the happier ones enjoy the moment. I was in a short conversation with middle aged guy who said he doesn’t like anything here. His wife, on the other hand is having a great time. (How do they stay married??).
What’s different between them is that she is willing to try new things and he isn’t. He reports staying inside, taking a business call and not finding anything he can enjoy. He is seemingly bent on being miserable. He can’t wait to leave. She wants it to last. She has the positive attitude. He doesn’t. I wonder which one will age better than the other one?
So, based on unscientific research and no particular data besides people watching, here in a nutshell are the top five things the happier people aging well are doing that the others aren’t.
1. Find a positive attitude wherever you are. It is an intentional state of being.
2. Get outside when the weather is good. Banish TV from your daytime.
3. Move around. Walk, stroll, get out and check out the surroundings, even familiar surroundings.
4. Seek humor and laughter in your life. You may have to reach out for it, but make it a plan.
5. Connect with other people. Participate in the life around you and get to know someone new.
New experiences help breathe vitality into your life, and this often leads to feelings of joy. The guy who wasn’t having fun didn’t want to try anything. One of the benefits of doing novel things is that the neural pathways in the brain are reconfigured. New connections are made, which makes you more able to think and act in new ways. I think he was stuck in what he is used to doing and having fun in a resort isn’t one of them. You may wonder what these 5 things have to directly with aging.
All I can say is that people who are smiling and who have a great attitude look a whole lot better than the ones who don’t and I want to look like the happier ones. It seems that if we set out to live in a positive way we age that way too.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt and Mikol Davis,
PS. If the decision-making is making you crazy and you don’t know where to turn, consider getting a free complimentary strategy session at AgingParents.com. It’s a start.
Here’s how it works:
Fake IRS agents call taxpayers, claim they owe taxes, and pressure them with demands for payment using a prepaid debit card or a wire transfer. They threaten their targets with arrest, deportation or loss of a business or driver’s license, said J. Russell George, Treasury inspector general for tax administration.
The fake agents make their caller ID look like the call is coming from the IRS. In some cases, even more frightening, fake agents know the last four digits of Social Security numbers. They go so far as to follow up their targets with official-looking emails.
Imagine your aging parent getting one of these calls. They might be intimidated and want to comply. You, as the adult child with more of a fraud antenna might wonder why a supposed IRS agent would make a phone call, as the IRS always communicates with a taxpayer via mail. Your aging loved one might not think of that. When a second call comes in, once again with caller ID faked to look like the police department or the Department of Motor Vehicles, it looks even more real.
The IRS never demands wire transfers or debit card payments nor do they use license suspension or deportation as a threat. You can call the IRS directly at 1-800-829-1040 if there is any doubt. But not everyone knows this, particularly the 20,000 or so people who have been tricked so far with this scheme.
So, keep your elderly loved ones safe. Tell them about this latest scam and follow up with questions as to whether they have gotten any calls like the ones described here, from anyone posing as an IRS agent. These scams escalate around tax time.
In consulting with families who have elderly loved ones as Mikol and I do here at AgingParents.com, we often find that adult children want to believe that their parents are still competent and that such a thing could never happen to them because their parents are intelligent, or well educated, or they had work experience in finance, etc. But these clever scum with the fake IRS calls can probably fool even a smart, well educated person because the scheme gets past “filters” like caller ID and knowing the last digits of a person’s Social Security number. The situation is even worse if Mom or Dad is elderly and has a few memory issues. This is too scary to ignore.
Not only are Mikol and I going to warn Mikol’s 91 year old mother, Alice, about this, but we’re going to ask her to tell all her friends at the seniors’ community where she lives. We’ll be visiting her this week, so it will be in person. We hope you’ll forward this tip on to your loved ones too.
Until next time,
Hi, Carolyn here. I hope you are doing well and getting through your day.
Today we’re discussing frustrations with the healthcare directive (a document that enables you to act on another person’s behalf for healthcare decisions). Sometimes its also called a healthcare power of attorney, or a living will. Not everyone understands how it should be used, or even what it means. The following is a situation that really took place in an assisted living facility involving a caregiver daughter who is the lawful agent for her mom’s healthcare directive. Mom has dementia. The treating doctor decided to try her on a medication to treat the symptoms of dementia. But, now he’s out of town. The daughter, herself a nurse, noticed that her mom had diarrhea and it started exactly when she began the new medication.
Nothing else in mom’s diet or other medicines had changed. The daughter asked the administrator to stop giving the new medication until the diarrhea problem was discussed with the doctor. The daughter was appointed by Mom to be the agent on the healthcare directive. She has the legal right to stop the medication. The administrator refused to stop the medication.
The administrator is wrong in doing so. The mom is no longer competent to maker her own healthcare decisions. The purpose of a healthcare directive is to appoint a competent person to make healthcare decisions when an elder is no longer able to do this. The administrator insisted that mom had to refuse the medication or it had to be given. Regardless of diarrhea. Of course, this is dangerous. It could lead to dehydration and that could cause other, serious health complications. Mom has no idea what medication she takes and won’t remember if her daughter suggests that she refuse the medication. What should the daughter do? She had contacted us for a consultation before this incident, so we were familiar with the general circumstances of her mom’s health. We know that every assisted living facility in the state has a liaison, called the “ombudsman”, whose job it is to serve as a go-between when there are resident or family complaints about a facility. We advised the daughter to contact the ombudsman immediately. We suggested how she approach the subject and what to say. The ombudsman has the obligation to investigate the problem. It’s possible that a conversation among the administrator, ombudsman and daughter will lead to the desired result. But ombudsmen are volunteers, and are generally not medically trained. There is a chance the ombudsman won’t act or act fast enough. If asking the ombudsman for help did not work, the daughter would have several other alternatives.
She could contact Mom’s doctor’s office and find out who covers his calls when he is out of town. She could contact the substitute doctor, explain the situation, and ask that that M.D. order stopping the medication until the treating doctor gets back in town. Another approach is to stand by mom’s side when the medication is about to be given to her (along with the medications she needs and will take), and direct her mom to refuse the new medicine. Finally, she could put her request in writing for the medication to be stopped on the basis of her right to make this decision as mom’s agent for healthcare. It is amazing how making a written request creates a record and has a way of getting the attention of administration.
If your family is having aging parent problems and you need advice, we are here to help you. You can get a complimentary strategy session by clicking right here.
Until next time,
Carolyn and Dr. Mikol
Do you ever look in the mirror and wonder who that person is with the crow’s feet?
And how about the body? What happened to your muscles, you may wonder. Am I getting “old”?? I wonder about these things all the time.
I did have an uplifting experience, though, with all that, considering what it means to age and how to do this better than our mothers did.
I am part of an all women’s group turning out for an athletic event called a triathlon. You swim, then bike, then run. Yes, I’ve been training for this stuff, along with a team of like-minded gals of all ages. I’m the oldest person in the group, at 64. We do have some strong 50-somethings and then there’s my amazing teammate, Rachel, at 62. Our coach, Michelle Dodd at Flower Power Sports, is 53, still a competitor in 3 sports and our inspiring guide.
It’s like this: you want to do something to get control over that slide they call the aging process. We can’t stop it, but we surely can slow the thing down. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But, I can testify, it’s worth it.
So here we are at the Mermaid Triathlon in Capitola, CA on a gorgeous fall morning, starting at dawn. You check in and strap a timing chip on your ankle. They mark your shoulder with your number and then your calf, believe it or not, with your age! Yes, you get to see how many 20-somethings are passing you up, or how many women and what age you are passing up on the bike or the run. There are two kinds of races here. This is called a sprint, which is the shorter distance. It doesn’t feel short, believe me.
The participants are grouped into age waves. Oh, great, the age wave I’m in is “45 and up”. That means anyone in it could be almost 15 years younger. Hmm. Good thing I’m in this to finish, and not for speed. Most women here seem to be in their 30′s and 40′s. They look it. Every shape and size is heading for the beach, where we start our swim leg by diving into the waves. The full wetsuit helps a lot. It’s ironclad spanx with attitude and it instantly makes all sagging skin and cellulite disappear.
If you can find your rhythm in the water, you don’t feel old doing this. It’s sort of hypnotic swimming in the ocean.
I’m keeping a steady pace, albeit a slow one. I finally make it back to shore and I’m not dead yet. Good. Head uphill a few blocks to the transition area where my bike is waiting. I lose my timing chip in peeling off my wetsuit. I don’t want to waste energy searching for it and I don’t care about time anyway. It’s about finishing. Onto the bike. Now I think I really might die. Steep hills keep looming before me.
An interesting perspective on aging is grinding up a steep hill where lots of younger folks whose age you can plainly read on their calves are dropping like flies and walking bikes up the hill. I’m panting, but still riding. Of course, the racers are passing me, but so what? I’m still on two wheels, dammit. I look for anyone with “64″ displayed on the leg. I see no one.
12 miles later, I’m back in the transition area, changing into my running shoes. Or, more accurately, my run-walk shoes. I do not run up the long incline. I “wogged” it, a combo of a walk/jog. As I passed a 62 year old, she said, “We’re in this for fun, not to win”. I said, “for sure, sister”. I could power walk faster than she could. I’m a competitive wogger all right. Meanwhile, my teammate Rachel is blazing past me running for the finish line. She’s awesome. We are re-defining what our 60′s look like. So is every Boomer aged woman out here. There is a respectable number of 50-somethings, too, doing quite well. It’s inspiring.
As we head back to the beach,
I look for the “hard packed sand” we were supposed to run on to the finish. The tide has come in. What’s left is soft sand. Unless you want to run in the lapping tide. Wet or slow, take your pick. I pick slow. Running in soft sand is a lot of work, trust me if you’ve never tried it. By this time, I am in an altered state of consciousness. Either that or I’ve lost my mind along the course. I am totally exhausted, but it’s a good kind of tired. We all earned it.
The good news is, I’m not last, and by a good measure. I’m ok. I saw a few 62 year olds here, and a lot of other brave women, taking a risk, challenging their bodies and spirits to do what is difficult. Every one of us Boomers felt alive, energized by the accomplishment of defying a stereotype of being middle aged.
If you’re thinking, “so what, I’d never do that”, it’s perfectly fine. Just do something and avoid using your age as an excuse for not trying.
My message is to pick something that challenges you physically, whatever it may be, and set your mind to doing it. If you’re a couch potato, try a 10 minute walk. You’ll feel better about your own aging if you do. If you already walk, ramp it up and do something a little harder. And so on. All I can say is, yielding to age-related loss of mobility is not appealing and we can nearly all do something to prevent it. I once met a paraplegic who worked out from his wheelchair on the hand pedaled machine at my gym. How’s that for no excuses inspiration?
My fellow Mermaid older athletes are smiling, crow’s feet and all. We aren’t wearing makeup. We’re wearing sweat. Lots of folks are carrying a few extra pounds or a lot of them. We’re not models or stars. We’re a bunch of determined ladies. We don’t especially feel young, but we feel inspirited, and proud.
I wish for you the same feeling.
Until next time,
Carolyn L. Rosenblatt
Are you concerned about an aging loved one in the early stages of dementia?
In our consulting practice, we often come across the problem of elders who are losing capacity for decision-making, but are not completely incapacitated. We call this “the grey zone” between perfectly normal and impaired. The frightening thing about having a loved one in “the grey zone” is that no one knows for sure just how impaired the elder actually is, and the elder may be getting into danger, particularly around handling money. This is a regular problem in persons who have dementia, whether it has been formally diagnosed or not. Doctors call it “cognitive decline” or “mild impairment”. It is a tinderbox of problems for families, as loss of capacity gives rise to many of the family conflicts we see. Recent research shows that even those with early Alzheimer’s Disease demonstrate significant problems in handling money, keeping track of bills and doing math. Families argue among one another that Mom or Dad is just fine or that no one should tell the parent what to do, because they have the right to decide everything for themselves. Others may argue that the parent can’t remember anything anymore, and ask how come everyone is in denial. You get the picture. Maybe it’s your picture. How do you know if your aging loved one is too impaired to make money or health decisions? There are objective ways to find out. They will work better than a 5 minute doctor’s visit, and better than a family member’s untrained and unprofessional opinion. They involve psychological testing.
Psychological testing is a special kind of assessment that must be done by a licensed psychologist. Not even an M.D. is trained to do psychological testing, which is very specialized. If you want to get a clearer idea of how impaired your aging parent is or isn’t, try following these 4 steps:
1. If your aging loved one can be persuaded to do so, visit the regular doctor,
and accompany him or her. Mention to the doctor the problems you are noticing
with your parent’s memory or cognitive decline. Be specific. You can
do this with our without your parent present, depending on your relationship and how you feel about discussing this in front of them.
2. Ask for a referral for neuropsychological testing.
You may have to pay out of pocket for the complete kind of testing.
Medicare payment is limited to specific circumstances. However,
as the financial risk of “the grey zone” person handling money is
so high, it is worth paying for testing for those who are able to do so.
3. Ask your aging loved one for permission to have the testing
psychologist share the results with you. This is important, because
without your loved one’s ok, you may not be permitted to learn the
4. Ask your parent’s doctor for advice. Given the test results, are any changes indicated? Is your loved one safe for decision-making? Let the doctor know the specific things that worry you, and seek the doctor’s help to keep your parent out of danger. Loss of capacity for financial decision-making is usually gradual, and can fool people.
Need more help with decision making around your aging parent? Schedule your complimentary strategy session by clicking here.
Until next time,
Carolyn and Dr. Mikol
Hello again. Carolyn here.
Living in Marin County, with a large aging population, I frequently see news reports about accidents and tragedies involving elderly drivers. In recent cases, older drivers have crashed into plate glass storefronts, hit pedestrians, driven into a body of water and even disappeared altogether when driving at night.
The struggle to get an aging parent to give up driving can be very difficult for family members, particularly when the person thinks he or she is perfectly fine. Loss of independence is a very threatening thing for most of us. An aging parent who is determined to keep driving, despite warning signs that it’s time to give up the keys might not be willing to listen to family members. However, the senior might be persuaded to get a driving evaluation by an objective person just to prove that they’re “fine”.
The Burke Institute http://www.burke.org/outpatient/services/occupational-therapy in White Plains, N.Y., offers what looks like an ideal program for drivers who may be marginal. It’s their Driver Evaluation Program, conducted by licensed occupational therapists.
The program is described on their website as evaluating “vision, perception, attention, reaction time, memory, judgment, safety awareness and cognition. Each is thoroughly assessed to determine if the patient can continue to drive safely for themselves and those around them. The in-vehicle evaluation, performed by participating certified driving instructors, allows a third party professional to assess how all areas come together during the actual task of driving. This comprehensive testing enables professionals to make a reliable recommendation based on medical knowledge”.
The cost of the program is $268, including a one-hour evaluation (ability testing), with recommendations and a report that is sent to the driver or physician requesting the evaluation. With a report describing driving impairments in hand, it would be easier for any physician to tell an aging client it’s time to stop driving. If the senior gave permission to the family to receive the information, all involved could plan for alternative transportation arrangements to maintain the elder’s activities. The cost of this testing is far lower than the price a dangerous driver hurting someone or even damaging a car.
As a retired personal injury attorney who represented victims of auto accidents, I have long been an advocate of using licensed occupational therapists to do the job of assessing the multiple skills involved in aging parents’ driving, rather than relying only on family’s opinions when there is a conflict with the elder. That also takes the burden off the doctor, who may be reluctant to say that an aging patient should stop driving when the doctor and patient have had a long relationship and the doctor has never witnessed the elder’s driving. There may be signs of early dementia, but everyone, including the doctor, is hesitant to say that the elder should stop driving now.
I applaud the Burke Institute for its program. I would like to see programs like it all over the country, using their method as a model. Getting this kind of testing is one sure way to tell if your aging parent should give up the car keys for good.
From what I’ve observed with aging individuals, however, the biggest challenge for families may not be finding an occupational therapist to do such an evaluation of driving ability. It will be getting the elder to go for evaluation. Perhaps those who need it most will protest the loudest and refuse to be tested. It may be up to responsible family members to use other means of persuasion. We can help you here at AgingParents.com to plan how to talk to your loved one about this touchy issue. We also offer you my book, How to Handle A Dangerous Older Driver with a step-by-step plan anyone can use. Get yours today!
Until next time,
“To celebrate growing older, I once wrote the 45 lessons life taught me. It is the most requested column I’ve ever written.My odometer rolled over to 90 in August, so here is the column once more:
1. Life isn’t fair, but it’s still good.
2. When in doubt, just take the next small step.
3. Life is too short enjoy it.
4. Your job won’t take care of you when you are sick. Your friends and family will.
5.Don’t buy stuff you don’t need.
6. You don’t have to win every argument. Stay true to yourself.
7. Cry with someone. It’s more healing than crying alone.
8. It’s OK to get angry with God. He can take it.
9. Save for things that matter.
10. When it comes to chocolate, resistance is futile.
11. Make peace with your past so it won’t screw up the present.
12. It’s OK to let your children see you cry.
13. Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.
14. If a relationship has to be a secret, you shouldn’t be in it.
15. Everything can change in the blink of an eye But don’t worry; God never blinks.
16. Take a deep breath. It calms the mind.
17. Get rid of anything that isn’t useful. Clutter weighs you down in many ways.
18. Whatever doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.
19. It’s never too late to be happy. But its all up to you and no one else.
20. When it comes to going after what you love in life, don’t take no for an answer.
21. Burn the candles, use the nice sheets, wear the fancy lingerie. Don’t save it for a special occasion. Today is special.
22. Over prepare, then go with the flow.
23. Be eccentric now. Don’t wait for old age to wear purple.
24. The most important sex organ is the brain.
25. No one is in charge of your happiness but you.
26. Frame every so-called disaster with these words ‘In five years, will this matter?’
27. Always choose life.
28. Forgive but dont forget.
29. What other people think of you is none of your business.
30. Time heals almost everything. Give time time.
31. However good or bad a situation is, it will change.
32. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.
33. Believe in miracles.
34. God loves you because of who God is, not because of anything you did or didn’t do.
35. Don’t audit life. Show up and make the most of it now.
36. Growing old beats the alternative — dying young.
37. Your children get only one childhood.
38. All that truly matters in the end is that you loved.
39. Get outside every day. Miracles are waiting everywhere.
40. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we’d grab ours back.
41. Envy is a waste of time. Accept what you already have not what you need.
42. The best is yet to come…
43. No matter how you feel, get up, dress up and show up.
45. Life isn’t tied with a bow, but it’s still a gift.”
A Letter from “Mom and Dad”…
When I get old, I hope you understand ‘n have patience with me
In case I break the plate, or spill soup on the table because I’m losing my eyesight,
I hope you don’t yell at me.
Older people are sensitive, always having self pity when you yell.
When my hearing gets worse ‘n I can’t
hear what you’re saying, I hope you
don’t call me ‘Deaf!’
Please repeat what you said or write it
I’m sorry, my child.
I’m getting older.
When my knees get weaker, I hope you have the patience to help me get up.
Like how I used to help you while you
were little, learning how to walk. Please bear with me, when I keep
repeating myself like a broken record, I hope you just keep listening to me.
Please don’t make fun of me, or get sick of listening to me.
Do you remember when you were little ‘n you wanted a ballon?
You repeated yourself over ‘n over until you get what you wanted.
Please also pardon my smell. I smell like an old person.
Please don’t force me to shower.
My body is weak.
Old people get sick easily when they’re
cold. I hope I don’t gross you out.
Do you remember when you were little? I
used to chase you around because you
didn’t want to shower.
I hope you can be patient with me when
I’m always cranky. It’s all part of getting
old. You’ll understand when you’re older.
‘n if you have spare time, I hope we can
talk even for a few minutes.
I’m always all by myself all the time, ‘n
have no one to talk to.
I know you’re busy with work. Even if you’re not interested in my
stories, please have time for me. Do you remember when you were little? I
used to listen to your stories about your
When the time comes, ‘n I get ill ‘n
bedridden, I hope you have the patience
to take care of me. I’m sorry if I accidentally wet the bed or
make a mess.
I hope you have the patience to take
care of me during the last few moments
of my life.
I’m not going to last much longer, anyway.
When the time of my death comes, I
hope you hold my hand ‘n give me
strength to face death. ‘n don’t worry..
When I finally meet our creator, I will
whisper in his ear to bless you. Because
you loved your Mom ‘n Dad.
Carolyn here. Just wanted you to hear about this shocking story.
An article in the BBC news, Exporting Grandma to care homes abroad http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-25438325, describes how a middle aged daughter in Switzerland chose to send her 91 year old mother with dementia to a care home in Thailand, where quality care is much more affordable. Her reasons included that her mother has dementia and doesn’t really know where she is and that she is happy and well taken care of there. Her mother became too difficult for the daughter to continue caring for at home. She can get a lot more care for the money in Thailand than she can in Switzerland.
And from the description, the cost of private elder care in Switzerland is as expensive as it is in the U.S. Is exporting our elders the answer?
In my view, it is probably not a good solution for most people. No matter where elder care takes place, it is up to family to ensure that our elders are kept safe. There is no guarantee that just because caregivers are located in Thailand, the Philippines or in any other country that has a tradition of giving good care to its own elders, that one of our family members would always receive appropriate care there. Neglect can happen in the best of assisted living homes and nursing homes here, no matter what you pay for the care. If Mom is 8000 miles away, how would you know if she were being improperly treated, or had bruises or a bedsore?
I spent a fair amount of my ten year nursing career caring for aging people at home and in nursing homes. Some had dementia, some had other illnesses and conditions needing attention. The common ground among all of them was the need for loving vigilance by family over what happened to them as they moved through the last phases of their lives. I would not want to give up that responsibility to caregivers so far away that I would rarely have a chance to see my loved one. With the personal experience I have, I couldn’t trust anyone at such a distance to maintain proper care.
I believe that the biggest drawback to sending a loved one, even with dementia to a care facility in a foreign country is that care needs change over time. Everyone is different and we can’t expect grandma to be the same next year as she is right now. It would make me extremely uncomfortable to lose touch with those changes by being too far away to monitor them. There is no substitute for a face to face meeting.
What about electronic monitoring, you might ask? Can’t you visit on Skype or another means of video imaging? The Swiss daughter talks to her mother nearly every day on Skype. Yes, but you will see your loved one at a time the caregiver chooses and you will never see the whole picture. To me, that’s dangerous.
There is no question that we have a serious and mounting problem around the world with the care needs of aging persons. We are living longer than ever and our aging parents can easily outlive their assets. Longevity is great as long as you’re healthy in mind and body. But the older we get, the more we are at risk for the health issues that accompany aging. Dementia, and the underlying Alzheimer’s Disease of which it is most often a part are forcing millions of families everywhere to grapple with the financial impact of an aging parent or other loved one losing independence. Someone has to care for the vulnerable elders among us. Someone has to bear the cost. We are not prepared for this as a country and our government is not likely to be a source of help for the majority of aging loved ones until they run out of assets.
This scenario does make a case for purchasing long term care insurance for yourself and your aging parents. But, since only about 10% of elders have this coverage, to at least help defray a part of the high costs of care, it is not going to help most people. Exporting an aging parent to a foreign country is not going to appeal to most of us either.
There are no easy solutions. We need to get working on how to create programs to assist those who are not wealthy enough to pay for elder care, nor low income enough to qualify for Medicaid. Does this mean government involvement and taxpayer burden? It just might. Otherwise, more families might find that the best way to manage the problem is to export the ones they love to foreign countries where care is affordable.
As for your own family, what are you doing to address the possible (or likely) costs for an aging loved one’s long term care? I would like to hear from you.
Until next time,
If you are having to make financial decisions for your aging parent, be sure you know what to do and what legal paperwork you need. Get great practical tips in a short book, How to Handle Money For Aging Loved Ones, at AgingParents.com
In the psychedelic ’60′s, it seemed everyone was “turning on”. No one worried about using marijuana or other drugs, as it seemed everyone was doing it.
Now, many those who came of age in that era are facing a real and rising problem of substance abuse. How big of a problem is this?
The National Institutes of Health became so concerned about the increasing numbers of boomer addicts that it issued a consumer alert this year, its first, on prescription and illicit drug abuse signs and dangers on its website NIHSeniorHealth.gov.
Boomers are visiting emergency rooms in record numbers for reactions to cocaine, heroin and marijuana. Some experts blame the pressures of this stage of life. Juan Harris is the clinical director f a boomer treatment unit at the Hanley Center, an addiction recovery center in Palm Beach, Fla. As reported by ABC News, Harris cites “divorce, loss of a job, loss of health, a lot of grief and loss issues” as factors that lead to boomer addiction. According to the news report, Harris finds that older drug users are motivated to break their habit and have a good success rate with treatment.
Besides the illicit drugs, we have another problem with dependency and overuse of legal prescription medications.The average man over 50 takes four prescription drugs. Boomers are frequently using anti-anxiety drugs, anti-depressants,and prescription pain medications all of which can lead to dependency and addiction.
It’s even more problematic for boomers to be addicted to these medications than it is for a younger person. Boomers don’t have the metabolism we did in our 20′s. We can’t get the drug processed out of our systems as fast as we did at a younger age. The same dose a younger person takes can have a much more long-term and potentially dangerous effect on a person in her 50′s.
Even scarier, the necessary prescription medications boomers take to control cholesterol and high blood pressure can be disrupted by the use of marijuana or other illegal substances. Age related chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes are worsened by long term substance abuse. There is a higher likelihood of a fatal outcome for an addicted senior.
What can we do about this?
If the experts tell us that treatment is often successful with older drug users, it makes sense to get treatment. It also makes sense to help a loved one with a substance abuse problem find and get treatment if that loved one is willing. Yes, that’s a big “if”. There are boomer-specific addiction treatment centers. Perhaps the first step is to do some research and find out what treatment is available for someone you care about.
A good support system, a qualified treatment center, and the willingness to work on overcoming chemical dependency can lead to success. If drug dependency is happening to someone you love, speak up. You might be a vital encouragement and help to that person in getting free from the abuse.
Until next time,
A son ripped off his mother’s equity in her home to chase an investment scheme for himself that failed.
Two ruthless swindlers were arrested in New York for tricking an elderly woman out of her multi-millionaire property in Harlem she had owned for over 40 years.
A home care worker bilked a frail elder out of her life’s savings of $350,000.
These shockers keep coming up. Family members do it. Salesmen touting unsuitable annuities do it. Realtors collude with thieves and they do it. Even lawyers do it. They prey on unsuspecting or impaired elders to rip them off.
Financial elder abuse is a problem all across the world and it’s growing. We need to be aware.
My mother in law, Alice, is 91 and still very sharp. She would be hard to fool, but I know the right thief could probably do some harm if we weren’t watching closely all that goes on financially. At least she has the good sense to question something that sounds too good to be true. Here’s an example.
She got a legitimate looking check in the mail for $3800, with a congratulatory letter advising that she was the second place winner of a sweepstakes in Canada. She does play various sweepstakes. All she had to do, of course, was to deposit it and “pay the taxes” on her “winnings”. She was advised to contact her “claims agent”. No doubt, that professional thief would have done a great job convincing someone unsuspecting to deposit the check and send “taxes”. Of course usually the check is rubber and the money is gone before the elder finds out that the check has bounced.
Classic scam. Alice called the number and said, “How do I know you’re legitimate?’ The thief told her if she was suspicious, she should hang up. She did. She then called my husband, Dr. Mikol Davis, who did an internet search for the phony address and told her she had just thwarted a thief. Alice is with it enough to question the check. Millions of seniors with any cognitive impairment are not so able to question things like this.
What we know from research into Alzheimer’s Disease is that one’s judgment about financial transactions may be the first thing to become impaired when the disease is in the earliest stages. “Mild cognitive impairment” as doctors may call it, is not so mild when you think about the financial damage that can result. And the elder with this early warning sign of dementia may be living independently, paying taxes on time and otherwise appearing socially normal. For a time.
Professional thieves have certainly studied what makes elders vulnerable. They buy names of people who have entered contests like sweepstakes, and troll for the isolated and lonely ones who will talk to someone on the phone. The sweepstakes officials get paid for selling the lists and no one cares what the buyer does with them.
Elders are truly sitting ducks, easy prey. Isolation, confusion, forgetfulness, and fears about running out of money can all drive the susceptibility to entering into a “deal” with a clever scammer.
If you have an aging parent or loved one with any form of mild cognitive impairment, early dementia or other disease that affects thinking and judgment, here are seven basic things family can do to reduce the risks of ripoff.
The ripoff artists out there are both clever and relentless, but we can stop many of their opportunities. Please don’t take your aging parents’ financial judgment for granted. It can erode almost without notice, even in the brightest and most accomplished elders.
Until next time,
Carolyn Rosenblatt and Mikol Davis
****P.S. We are always here to help you get through the challenges of aging.
Please let us help you help the ones you love. We are offering a free strategy session to our readers, just click HERE.
We’ve been asking ourselves this question.
Would Mom be better off in a different community?
My mother in law Alice, is now 91. She lives alone in a 2700 square foot home that she enjoys. It’s in a retirement community with lots of amenities. But, you have to drive everywhere.
She is a bit isolated unless she gets in the car.
Fortunately, she is still able to drive. She cares for herself independently. But we’ve noticed some changes in how she handles problems lately. It’s harder for her. When a pipe breaks, she gets very impatient with the repairs. It’s harder to bring in the groceries from the car. Maintenance takes time she doesn’t want to spend . Her knees are a problem at it’s harder to walk any distance.
My husband, Mikol, partner with me at AgingParents.com, is a wonderful son. He calls Mom every day. He talks to me about his concerns. One of them is that Mom living alone in her house is getting to be a problem and he thinks it’s time to introduce the idea of a smaller place with more help available.
He’s a psychologist and very skilled at making suggestions in a tactful way. So, here’s what he did.
First, the research. He looked on the net for all the assisted living facilities in Mom’s area. He knows what she likes and what she doesn’t. He narrowed the search to two places. He told Mom he was coming for a visit to help her with a few things she needed. She was thrilled. He got on a plane and made his visit with the agenda in mind that he wanted to take her to see the places he though could work for her. Meanwhile, he did the minor repairs and computer maintenance she needed done.
When he gently introduced the idea of giving up the house, he did it in a kind and loving way. She didn’t balk. Alice is a very practical woman. She knows it’s hard to live alone in a big house as she ages and that it makes sense to think about alternatives. We’re very lucky that way. Some parents will tell you to take flying leap if you even mention this. Mikol told her about his research and suggested that they go see a couple of places. She said, “Let’s go”.
She took the tours and decided that one of them was better than the other. She weighed the pros and cons. This all has had some time to sink in now, a few weeks later. No one has pressured her or told her she should move. She has arrived at that conclusion all by herself. When I talked to her, she told me all about the spot she picked out and said she had made the decision that she’s going to do this.
There are lots of details to work out. We’ll help her of course. She can take a lot of her things and it will feel familiar with them around her, even in a new setting. Alice has chosen to go to what is called a “continuing care retirement community”. That means they have independent living in apartments (that’s what she’ll do), assisted living in different apartments and skilled nursing beds in another part of the campus.
She will be in a community with many other widows like herself and it is likely that she will benefit from the increased social contacts. In many ways, Alice is an ideal candidate for this setting. She reaches out to others often, likes to socialize and works at making friends. The benefits are numerous. One doesn’t have to dine alone. There are organized card games, outings, entertainment and events. Yet, if she doesn’t feel like doing any of them, she can be in a nice apartment where someone will bring what she needs. If she stops driving, she will have access to transportation without having to work at it.
Her friends, her doctor and her family all think it’s a good idea. This provides the support and encouragement she needs to give up a home full of happy memories that she shared with Dad for many years. It is not going to be easy for her. She is courageous enough to face that, bless her.
Mikol and I realize that this is a marker. She’s aging and will need more help in the future. Having her in a secure place with that help nearby will give us greater peace of mind about her safety and her happiness as well. I think Alice is going to have a gang of new friends soon. There are men there, too, though very outnumbered by the women. But you never know. Maybe a new guy could surface in her life.
Keeping our fingers crossed.
Until next time,
Have You Planned For Increasing Your Healthy Years?
Carolyn and Mikol here.
If you’re like we are, lots of your Boomer friends are retiring, have already retired or are planning it.
Being responsible, supporting a family, running a business, being a terrific employee or whatever you did before you retired, you barely had time for yourself. Now that’s changing. Now you can plan on all those things you never had time to do during those long working years. Maybe you have a financial plan, a leisure time plan and even a projects plan. But, one thing sometimes gets overlooked: we need to have a plan for keeping our retirement years as healthy as possible too.
We may think of ourselves as vital, energetic and looking forward to travel and fun things a work schedule did not allow. But we rarely plan into our retirement strengthening and improving our good health and how it will able us to enjoy those things. How are we going to address the fact that we are older now and we can’t take health for granted? Most people like the idea of living longer and having the opportunity to learn new things and have great experiences. Most people don’t look in the mirror and say, “You’ve got to plan for your health as much as you planned for your finances”.
So, for those contemplating retirement, just getting into it, or enjoying it without a consideration of your healthspan, here are five ways to start the process of giving yourself a great chance of having retirement turn out the way you want.
1. Get a thorough checkup from the doctor, the one you’ve been putting off. Never mind if you feel just fine and don’t think you need it. The biggest killers in this country are still heart disease and stroke. Both can be brewing for quite some time without any symptoms whatsoever. I have a 63 year old brother who was competing in martial arts, earning three black belts and 12 trophies in the last few years. He felt great. Until he was felled like a tree from a major stroke. He hadn’t had a checkup in several years. That particular stroke might have been prevented if he had had his heart checked and the doctor had found the warning signs that were there. Make that appointment.
2. Get a checkup from your dentist too. There is a relationship between the condition of one’s oral health and overall health, research shows. “Periodontal treatment must be recommended on the basis or the value of its benefits for the oral health of patients, recognizing that patients are not healthy without good oral health.” (Journal of The American Dental Association, Oct., 2006.)
3. Change your eating habits. Every one of us can improve something about our food intake. If work had you on the go all the time, eating fast food or heavy restaurant meals too often, now you have the opportunity to change that. Food habits are totally within your control. And they are a major contributor to chronic illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and many others. Your retirement can mean turning over a new leaf in terms of what you eat. Whether you want to give up an unhealthy habit like sugary drinks or try foods that are good for you but take longer to prepare, retirement can give you a great starting point to do better than ever.
4. Start a new exercise plan if you don’t have one already. It doesn’t have to be trying for a tennis championship or running a marathon. It can be as simple as starting a walking program for 15 minutes a day and gradually increasing it. All you need is the will to do it, a good pair of walking shoes designed for that purpose and a place to go when the weather is inclement. Mall walking is popular in places where the weather is not conducive to walking outside. Treadmills and stationary bikes remain the most popular kinds of exercise equipment . Buy yourself one and you’ll have no excuses. In my house, we have both a bike and a treadmill. If it’s rainy or too cold outside, my husband and I turn on the TV and put in some time on the equipment. One nice thing about exercising at home is, it doesn’t matter how you look or what you wear. In case you think you’re too old for such things, imagine this: my 91 year old mother in law with bad knees still walks 20 times back and forth in the community pool almost every day.
5. Find your purpose in retirement. Your mental wellness is just as important as your physical wellness and it doesn’t happen by magic. Having a sense of purpose in what you do with this phase of your life is a cornerstone of your emotional health. It’s something you have to think about and decide upon. It rarely falls in your lap. As you look within, and consider what makes you happy, what you’re drawn to or what you can do to make the world better, you will find it. Forming your intention to find purpose is the first step. If you haven’t retired yet, this is a critical piece of your planning. If you’re already retired and thinking you might have too much time on your hands, you can focus on what will give your life meaning and then go after it. As with what it took to get to retirement in the first place, you need a plan.
If you are thinking about retiring, have a target date or just want to dream, consider how to make your plans a happy reality. Your sense of purpose may not be clear yet. Dr. Davis can help you find it with his personalized 4 hour Successful Retirement Planner package. You get his one-on-one advice by phone or Skype and you’re off to a mentally healthy start! CLICK HERE to request yours.
Until next time,
Carolyn and Dr. Mikol