How to live with your parents’ decisions about their retirement years and not lose your mind:
Locate important “stuff” and label it:
I’m writing this from experience and would like to teach you how to live with your parents’ decisions or non-decisions and how you can actually help yourself NOW before the doo doo hits the fan.
I don’t care how much your mom and dad tell you everything is under control and it APPEARS that way when you visit.
If someone is super smart they can essentially hide dementia from everyone.
When do you start to do everything I’m telling you to do?
Well, if one parent gets seriously ill the other one will just not function AND the non-ill one may not be used to handling “anything” so that is one obvious “do it” point.
If your parents are healthy I’d suggest it’s just prudent to do it at age 65-70 and reassure your parents that you are looking out for the health and welfare of them both but especially in the case of one becoming ill-you will want to help and will need to be prepared.
First things first:
Just locate important things such as the bank accounts, investment information, insurance information, a list of doctors and medications, and if they do not have things like advanced directives and a will in place, help them find an attorney to get this done.
If their house is not paid off, locate that information so if bills are being missed, your parents won’t get thrown out on the street.
What I’m going to tell you is not a negative reflection on your parents. It is merely for you to learn how to live with your parents’ decisons and “deal” from there.
Sit down with whomever is the parent who pays the bills and review their monthly budget.
If they are “too private to share this with you” that is a warning sign that they are mis-handling their finances. AND missing payments.
How to live with your parents’ decisions to stay independent must be honored but “gotten around.”
You then must enlist the help of the other parent and/or siblings.
If you suspect funds mis-management you need to contact a parent’s doctor and have a talk.
Here is a sample list:
All utilities, credit cards, cellphones, cable, and things YOU pay for in your own budget. If bills are being paid online make sure you log on with mom or dad and identify what is what.
If you don’t do this, when you DO “take over” you will be scrambling to identify recurrent charges. Trust me-I’ve been there.
I would really suggest that you log on with them and see what your parents are buying online and I’ll get more into this later, but just let me put it out there because this is about how to live with your parents’ decisions and those decisions are maybe not going to be so great, just trust me.
Once you have your list, just check in with doctors, lawyers, investment advisors, accountants and any professionals your parents “use.”
You want to make sure bills are paid and taxes have been filed. You may get a shock when dad says “Of course taxes are up to date”-but-
Mr. Accountant tells you no taxes have been filed for three years. Shock #1 and lesson #1 on how to live with your parents’ decisions about being transparent. HINT: They don’t want to appear fallible to you, their beloved child.
You may be amazed when you call a doctor’s office and are told mom and dad’s Medicare is rejected. Why? See below.
This is the point where I will advise you to sit down with your parents and get a POA (power of attorney), and other end of life documents done.
Yes you can do them with Legal Zoom but honestly doing stuff like this is not expensive and if you get a real, live lawyer the document you get won’t be contested or at least has less of a chance of being contested.
So why am I advising you to do a POA (which will be a “contingent” POA at first) now?
It’s because Medicare, Social Security and others with fiduciary relationships will not give you any information or help without one. So if you are told that your dad has cancelled Medicare and subscribed to 5 different Humana and similar plans which are not accepted by their doctors, Medicare won’t talk to you.
Neither will Social Security which is where the Medicare payments are coming from (meaning both Social security payments and Medicare debits should be on auto-transfer). If your parents are getting checks in the mail fro Social Security you want to change that to direct transfer as checks get lost and not deposited.
And a note about social security-if taxes need to be done and you need to take over that task, you need annual Social Security Statements.
Note: Most if not likely all government agencies they will tell you that you will need to have your parent get on the phone to verify that they are giving you permission.
I am here to tell you that if you say, hold on and I’ll get dad on the phone, and your husband (if you’re a woman) gets on the phone, “olds up his voice” that our U.S. government employees will ask them questions YOU will know such as SS#, date of birth and perhaps a maiden name if it’s mom we’re talking about.
Armed with this info you can then fool any idiot government agency.
It’s so you can control Medicare and block other enrollments and obtain SS end-of-year statements.
It is obviously NOT so you can take away or divert mom and dad’s SS payments to yourself which I’m sure you will not do.
And you didn’t hear this from me, Dr.Kim…I don’t know who is writing this crazy stuff. Hey, you, stop writing in my blog!
When the time is right, convince them to let you take over:
How to live with your parents’ decisions and not go totally insane is more like what this should be titled.
When you start “monitoring” the situation with your parents financial lives and you find missing tax returns and cancellation of Medicare and things of that nature it’s time to have “THE TALK.”
If your parents have been financially successful and have (for instance) put YOU through medical school you need lots of ammo. It is not a matter of how to live with your parents’ decisions- it is about helping them regain control and not lose dignity.
They will not give up control easily:
Here are some lines that might work. “I love you so much and know just how hard you have worked and so appreciate everything you have done for me and want to help you out by being your personal book-keeper/accountant.”
“I will always show you exactly what I’m doing, but want you to enjoy your retirement without having to deal with paying bills.” It will be hard but it sure beats “You are obviously mentally incompetent to manage your finances and I will have you declared such so I can take over.” NOT GOOD. Cajole. You’ll get there.
AT least mom and dad will agree to letting you help with taxes and bills I’ll bet. Again, I fall back on the doctor thing. If their doctor is clueless get a referral to a gerontologist-THEY have lots of resources from home help to legal resources and more.
This is when you need to turn the POA into non-contingent. Have an attorney who is known to your parents and who can, if needed, do an extra document to protect your parents’ interests.
This is one of those times when it’s great to have a smart doctor in the family. I was able to recognize short term memory loss in my dad and put he and mom on “brain integratives” such as curcumin, GPC, acetyl-l-carnitine, resveratrol, magnesium threonate and even vitamin B12.
He’s still pretty sharp at 93. I was able to improve memory on dad and get a tad more “function” with mom. (Had I know then-15 years ago-what I know now-things would be so different with mom. Very sad but I can help so many others now.)
If you are not a doctor and don’t have one in the family, you’re a bit lost in terms of whether or not your parents have good medical care, whether they are on too many medications, and I feel sorry for you there.
See if you can track down a good gerontologist who is used to handling “social situations.”
You are welcome to email me “parents” questions. I am in the thick of it and due to the total incompetence of my parents doctors I am now their doctor which is not ideal but is the reason they are still alive.
If you see that your parents are on more than 4-5 (TOPS!!!) medications then they are a victim of the referral/primary care/no one in charge syndrome.
This is NOT a part of how to live with your parents’ decisions, rather- they are part of this crappy medical system we have.
They then really really need a gerontologist and YOU need to speak to that doctor and tell them you are concerned at the number of medications mom and dad are on and to please whittle it down and email you an explanation as to what is for what.
I ALWAYS email my patients a 3 page “why what” email telling them what we’re fixing and why and with what so all doctors SHOULD be willing to do this. And again, part of their legal docs should be the end of life directive.
A good elder-care attorney will let you know what is needed.
And if you have siblings and there is no WILL, one needs to be done, pronto.
Living with parents with no WILL is NOT how to live with your parents’ decisions- it is just plain asking for litigation in case “anything happens.”
What about if they need home care?
Well, what kind of care are we talking about? If you mean they need help with groceries, laundry, home maintenance that is out of pocket.
I don’t use Facebook for much but I’m in touch with high school friends who still live in the town where my parents lived in New Jersey prior to me moving them to Florida.
I got names of house-cleaners and a home helper which augmented my monthly trips to the Jersey shore for a couple of years. So hopefully you can do the same.
When you visit them you can stock them up with canned goods and plan their meals for them-put the menu ON the refrigerator. At some point dinners turn into Amy’s frozen meals because it is better than PB and J, OK-that’s why. And the best whey protein can be an invaluable food if you teach them how to make healthy smoothies.
But I will now share with you that during this time, my mom (who has Alzheimer’s which is likely I’m a well known brain health expert now) went into the super-paranoid phase of Alzheimer’s. So, that was IT for strangers in the home. That was the beginning of ALF conversations with dad. I will get to that in a bit.
If you are thinking that Medicare will help with any of this, I’m sorry to report that this is a very restricted Medicare item and your parents will not qualify unless they need post-op wound care or things like that.
Why should you monitor their on-line activity?
Well, here’s the reality of aging. People either become super frugal and don’t spend or they spend recklessly-rarely is there a happy medium.
This isn’t something parents plan but is part of the how to live with your parents’ decisions situation.
Parents might be doing tons of online shopping and getting tons of junk they don’t need.
Mom may look in the mirror, think she looks OLD, ask dad “How old do I look” and get the wrong answer. Then she might go online and order 1000 anti-aging skin care products so she can “increase her skin appeal and youth!” (OY!)
Yes, this is a symptom of hoarding. It’s common, actually and if you don’t visit you don’t know what’s going on.
This is why you need to VISIT during this time…you MUST take the time and visit. Parents may BOTH turn into hoarders-in fact this is common and you can spot it when you visit. You want to know if they are hoarding, what they are hoarding, where are they getting it, who is spending, etc. These are possibly signs of early dementia of some kind and again I ask you to turn to their doctor for help.
Here’s what else you need to monitor….is mom or dad clicking on “suspicious links”? You’d be amazed and horrified at how many hucksters target our beloved parents.
They get their cell phone number. They send taxis to take them to Wal-Mart where they convince them to purchase 20K of scratch off cards and NO ONE AT WAL-MART THINKS THIS IS FISHY?????????? (Yes this happened).
This is not a case of how to live with your parents’ decisions-this is a case of how to DEAL with them which I’m getting further and further into here.
They convince smart seniors with promises of a new Mercedes plus a lottery win. AND your parents just might think they DO have Nigerian relatives! Be prepared to take over the cell phone account, get new numbers, change passwords, be able to look at who is emailing them and awful “stuff like that.” I do not take “invasion of privacy” lightly. Discuss all of this with them. Let them know you are putting safeguards in place and the reason why.
So when do they need Assisted Living?
O.K. so just shoot me please. Another of how to live with your parents’ decisions. Rarely has a parent shopped and chosen an ALF-rarely. They want to live in their homes ‘forever’ and hey so do we, right?
So when the doo doo hits the fan is usually when we’re moving parents. And their homes are FULL of “stuff.”
In my case, it was Hurricane Sandy and I wasn’t the one doing it- it was an ill- intended sibling who put them into a BAD BAD ALF. (She wanted a bigger and faster inheritance).
My dad promptly got depressed, became inactive and got a huge blood clot in his leg- meaning I couldn’t move them- and the idiot-doctors taking “care” of mom did “the usual.”
Mom got gorked out on anti-psychotic drugs, as is the practice of BAD ALF’s with BAD memory care staffed by HORRIBLE idiot doctors. This is the perfect example of how to live with your parents’ non-decisions and have to really “deal with it.”
Do not let this happen to your parents or to you. When I say “to you” I’m assuming you love your parents deeply as I do mine.
The year they were in this horrible ALF was a horrible year for me. I had no control over my mom’s medications or my dad’s care.
Medical care at ALF’s is HORRIBLE so find a (doctor) family member who can monitor this or find a good doctor that will do this, but find SOMEONE! Seriously-all doctors know this:the doctors who staff nursing homes, ALF’s and similar facilities are the worst of the worst because no one can really monitor them. Be fore-warned here!
What about ALF’s?
So, I’m not going to go into MUCH of a rant about ALF’s but here are my observations. They are all in it for profit and they do not care about your parents at all. There is an occasional employee who cares but it’s not the norm. To management, your mom and dad are a source of revenue and when they are “high maintenance” they can boot them right out.
I’m not kidding-in Florida, for instance, where I moved my parents, they just need written notice to the POA and then, BOOM, the boot. FOR NO REASON. (The whole state!)
A bunch of real butt-wads run these things from my experience. The ownership and management of ALF’s turns over like hotcakes so don’t expect continuity of care and get to know WHO is actually responsible for taking care of your parents.
Most ALF’s have a “Wellness Director” which seems to be a more stable job position and you should totally suck up to as this person is she/he is your go-to for monitoring your parents’ supplies and whereabouts and happiness. These people are (unfortunately) usually emotionless robots but get “the job done.” Some are even pretty darned competent.
Know the Activities director too so they can make sure a parent gets a door knock and a hello when there are movies, etc. I have found that the Executive Directors of ALF’s as well as the upper management of chains are utter sociopaths so don’t expect anything from them. Note-you will be over-promised by sales people so try to get personal references if you can. All of these places have Facebook pages so see what is being said if nothing else.
Another dirty little secret that totally ticks me off (you have no idea) is that even in the most expensive, exclusive ALF’s your parents will have “everything” stolen and management will pretend you’re the only one who notices this.
So replace the diamonds with CZ’s and so on.
Side note to the scumbag who stole mom’s diamond ring : You have to be the scum of the earth to steal the jewelry off of Alzheimer’s patients don’t you think?
But there’s nothing we can do about it unless we get Congress involved and it’s not going to happen. Why? Huge lobbying efforts. Huuuuuuge. ALF chains have a lot of power.
Why do you want your parents moved close to you?
You don’t have to learn how to live with your parents’ decisions at this point because their decisions can be changed.
My mom was a pretty famous artist and loved her access to N.Y.C.
She said (even on the plane to Florida) that she was NOT going to move to Florida.
OK, mom, I love you dearly and you have Alzheimer’s and dad wants to move to Florida so that’s what we’re doing. My dad was in heaven within 2 weeks, wearing the Florida shirts I got him, dipping his foot in the pool, enjoying his visits to our home with our collies and our waterfront view.
My mom DID take a couple of months to adjust but then SHE enjoyed it. The thing about Memory care vs. “being in your own home” is that mom gets company and activities daily and dad is no longer mom’s caretaker which made him lots healthier. The reason it is just plain better for all if ONE KID moves the parents close to them is that THAT kid can visit, monitor supplies, and (even if you’re not a doctor) monitor what goes on medically. This is how to live with your parents’ decisions peacefully.
There is no long-distance hysteria which is the norm if parents are not near you. I have spoken with all of the “visiting kids” who live in different states who have parents where my parents reside. They are anxious, they feel guilty, they are just plain not coping well. If you can see your parents at regular intervals, it just makes you “feel better” and you just don’t care about how to live with your parents’ decisions because, quite frankly, you have re-made their decisions. Again-how to live with your parents’ non-decisions quite peacefully and even happily.
A good ALF will have “muscle and fitness” activities, movies, entertainment, and will be decorated nicely. It’s nice when they have a baby grand in the lobby-that means the Activities director plays the piano (ask!) and has daily “name that tune” contests and “constant music”- a must.
A good ALF will allow “special” things like having a parent served his favorite hot chocolate in his room daily. They will allow you to bring in vitamins and other anti-aging products and will give them when you want them given. In my case new nurses will call and ask “What is this for?” but no one dares tell me that I cannot do “whatever” for either parent.
I’ve actually taught the staff about things that the regular doctors don’t care about even for young let alone elderly patients such as inflammation and oxidative stress. I’ve taught them supplements they can recommend to augment muscle mass such as l-glutamine and bcaa’s. And so on. (Yes I suck up like a hoover vacuum).
Do I feel sad that I had to sell my parents home? Absolutely. Do I like that the house money is in an account to pay for their needs? Absolutely.
Do I wish my mom didn’t have Alzheimer’s? Absolutely-she was my best friend in the world and if I knew THEN what I know now she’d be “normal”. (Because I have an Alzheimer’s patient study group in process and they are GETTING BETTER!)
Is this the best situation for my parents? Yes, it actually is. And as the absolute POA I handle revenue, expenses, taxes, everything.
As their doctor I handle everything. As their care-taker I handle everything. As the “fun-provider” (as one small example) I take my dad to the movies and since he is now 93 “I allow” him to have a weekly donut so I take him to his “favorite restaurant”= Dunkin Donuts.
As their daughter I make sure no holiday is un-observed, and have them over to our house as much as possible.
It just makes me feel as if I’m giving back what they gave me and it’s my responsibility. I hope you feel the same about your parents and will use the information in this article for “good” purposes.
This was a little painful to write so comments would be appreciated. My mom got sensitive to her thyroid medication so was in the hospital with “afib”, discharged 2 weeks ago.
Then last weekend, Sunday morning at 7 AM I got a call that my dad had a massive lower GI bleed. Thankfully he too got discharged and is back at his ALF and I got a lot of quality time with him over the past few days.
I am SO thankful that both parents survived their hospitalizations and are going strong. My dad’s “bleed” was a diverticuli- not serious, just scary!!!!