When Mom (Dad) Wants to Remarry – at 80!

handsOne of the joys I get from lunching with Mom at her retirement community is to hear the latest gossip about the budding romances among the residents, most of whom are well into their 70’s and 80’s. There have been more than a few marriages that result from these new relationships, most occurring after a fairly brief courtship. As one fellow remarked to me one day, “son, at our age, it’s dangerous to buy green bananas.”

If you are the adult child of an aging parent who also happens to be single (either divorced or widowed), you may one day be introduced to a “special friend” in their life. Normally, your reaction may be something like, “how cute” or “way to go Dad” but if the relationship quickly becomes more serious or if you’re suddenly asked to give your blessing to their marriage, this can be a very troubling event. In preparation for writing this article, I googled “aging parent wants to get remarried” and most of the search results were forum posts from adult children seeking advice on how to deal with Mom or Dad’s new romance that has gone from sweet to sour because now they want to get married! All sorts of questions run through your mind and you may find yourself experienceing anger, fear, or resentment at the prospect of this person interrupting Mom or Dad’s perfectly lonely existence. Somewhere in-between the extremes of “I forbid it” (like that’s gonna work) and “It’s your life, do what you want” can be found a position of legitimate care for their happiness and concern that they not be hurt by the experience. Recently a judge intervened in the marriage of a couple in their mid-nineties due to concerns expressed by the bride’s daughter questioning the marriage’s legitimacy. Click here to read the article.

In his article titled “How to Deal With an Elderly Parent’s Remarriage – Resolving Issues” author and financial advisor, Michael Lewis, gives some wise advice when talking to your aging parent about their choice to remarry late in life.

  • Be Respectful. You are speaking with the one remaining person who brought you into this world and who will always love you.
  • Try to Put Yourself In Your Parent’s Position. They are trying to make the best of a very difficult situation. They seek your blessing and understanding, so listen carefully and thoughtfully before making your own point or expressing your doubts.
  • Avoid Accusations, Recriminations, and Ultimatums. Your parent has already experienced and worked through the guilt often associated with remarriage after the death of the spouse.
  • Curb Your Instincts to Attack or Belittle Your Parent’s Choice of Mate. It is never a good idea to potentially offend your mother or father in such a petty manner.

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Don’t Trust Anyone With Parents’ Finances

This week, the headlines of our local newspaper included another sad story of someone taking advantage of older clients and their families because they were in a position of trust. Some of the words that the victims used to describe this individual were “professional” “trustworthy” and  “knowledgeable.” It seems incredulous that someone described by these words would perpetrate the alleged criminal acts. Not only was the individual perceived as an “expert” by the victims but by the facilities who referred their clients to her.

There are a lot of lessons to be learned by this and countless other reports of elder financial fraud. Without commenting on this specific case, here are a few tips that can help you choose a qualified professional advisor to help you manage your aging parents’ financial affairs.

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Caregiving and Family Relations

The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy states that “more than ever before, families are providing long-term care to older adults with limitations in the ability to perform tasks necessary for independent living. Nearly 25% of American households are providing care to people age 50 years and over. Families are the alternative foundation for a stressed healthcare system. Hospital stays are shorter than ever and family caregivers are often expected to do what healthcare professionals once did.”

Family caregivers take over various responsibilities for their elders. It may be just handling finances, running errands, going to doctor appointments or taking on full 24 hour care services. In most cases one sibling in the family will become the main caregiver, but most successful ventures are supported by the entire family.

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The Accidental Caregiver

You’ve heard people say it and maybe you have even said it yourself. “Don’t worry Mom or Dad, I’ll take care of you in your old age.”

This always seems to be a simple loving gesture on your part as you see them beginning to age and settle into retirement. The thought of their actually failing in health or mental capabilities seems absurd or at most, years down the road. Thus it catches most children and spouses unprepared and sometimes surprised when their loved one needs care and help with daily living activities.

A stroke, injury or sudden illness may result in the immediate need for a significant caregiving commitment. On the other hand a slowly progressing infirmity of old age or the slow onset of dementia may require intermittent caregiving. Either way, if you have not made provisions for this, you will accidentally become a “caregiver.”

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How Marriage and Caregiving Look Alike

My friend and colleague, Richard Courtney, a Certified Elder Law Attorney, writes a monthly article he calls “Monthly Musings.” His December post is a poignant and humorous comparison of marriage and caregiving. As we enter a new year, many of my generation will begin and end their caregiving obligations to an aging parent or loved one. Rick’s commentary reminds us that caregiving – like marriage – asks us to not sweat the small stuff and to maintain a sense of humor. I am happy to share this with Rick’s permission.

On the last day of November, I went to a wedding. It was a beautiful day by a lake. White chairs were set up in rows, with a center aisle, facing two pedestal columns topped with cascading white flowers and the lake beyond. The lovely young music/education major met her bright young law school graduate to join hands and hearts before God and these witnesses. This was a coming-together of complementary elements – the analytical and the creative, the thesis and the antithesis – to form a synthesis, a whole greater than its parts. A magical experience indeed. Continue reading

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Financial Advisor Steals from Own Parents

The story below from Financial Advisor Magazine sent chills down my spine. Since I too am a financial advisor to my own parents (now to my widowed 84 year old mother), it is a reminder of how a good thing – trust – can become a powerful temptation to exploit. It would be arrogant of me or anyone who is in a position of trust with a vulnerable human being to presume that we are above falling into the same trap. None of us is above doing bad things. If you are in a position of trust with your parents, create an environment of safety for you and them by including others on your team. These others can be siblings or outside advisors; the important thing is that you operate with transparency and accountability.

August 7, 2013 • FA Staff

A former New Jersey financial advisor has pleaded guilty to defrauding his parents out of more than $1.3 million while serving as their financial advisor, New Jersey Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman announced today.

Hugh R. Hunsinger Jr., 49, of Pine Brook, N.J., pleaded guilty Tuesday to second-degree theft in a plea bargain. As part of the deal, the attorney general will recommend that Hunsinger be sentenced to three to five years in state prison and that his insurance producer license be suspended for five years. In addition, Hunsinger has agreed to pay his parents $1.3 million. “For years, the victims in this case believed that their son was investing money on their behalf,” Hoffman said. “Instead, he was siphoning their money for his own benefit.”

Hunsinger admitted that between 2005 and 2011 he secretly transferred $1.3 million from accounts he was managing for his parents to his personal accounts and used the money for his living expenses. Hunsinger worked as a financial advisor for Lincoln Financial Advisors Corporation at the time.

Hunsinger left his parents with only a nominal amount of money in their accounts, Hoffman said.

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Downsizing, Organizing, Handicap Remodeling or Relocating

When Robert and Anne bought their family home thirty years ago, their plan was to live through retirement in this home. They had furnished their home with refurbished antiques acquired from their many trips together. It was one of their cherished antique coffee tables that Robert tripped over, breaking his hip. Now with his return from the hospital in a wheelchair, the overwhelming task of making their home accessible for Robert’s wheelchair and safe for both of them faced Anne.

Remodeling for wheelchair access, organizing home furnishings and daily living items or downsizing and relocating to a smaller living area are monumental tasks that are many times thrust on senior home owners. Sometimes the need to do this is brought on by injury or age related illness. Home and yard maintenance can become a daunting chore for even the healthiest of seniors, requiring them to make a downsizing decision.

There is a large and growing industry of specialists who understand these challenges of elderly homeowners and are ready and willing to help with remodeling, organizing or the sale of the home and with the move to a new location.

A professional organizer provides skills in making the home safe and manageable. Relocating furniture, removing hazards such as electrical cords, throw rugs, heavy objects on shelves that might fall are some of the ways they make a home more senior friendly. They specialize in helping seniors part with items that clutter or have no valued use, so to make rooms less crowded or to make ready for a move to a smaller living space.

Handicap remodeling services and senior safety services offer help in adding wheelchair ramps and widening doorways. Bathrooms are made more accessible and safe, with hand rails, walk-in bath facilities and easier access to toilets.

If moving to a smaller retirement home or care facility is the best solution there is another senior specialty provider to call on called a Seniors Real Estate Specialist.

The Senior Real Estate Specialist concentrates more on a complete service package for the sale of the property and/or the purchase of a new living arrangement. The specialist also arranges for the services of a relocation specialist or Senior Move Manager to provide a complete, stress-free package for the elderly homeowner.

A move often requires downsizing and getting rid of a tremendous number of acquired possessions. The relocation specialist or Senior Move Manager, as they are often called, will typically provide a turnkey operation that includes assessing and identifying items to keep, arranging for auction or other disposal, cleaning the home, moving the belongings and setting up the new residence. The manager may also work closely with a real estate agent to arrange for the sale of the home and may also be involved in the financial transactions necessary to move into a new living arrangement.

All the help available to seniors may in itself be overwhelming. How do seniors choose the right service provider for their needs? How do they know they will hire someone qualified, responsible and honest? Area Agencies on Aging and State Better Business Bureaus are good resources to check out available service providers.

Family, friends and religious leaders can be valuable resources to seniors in referring service providers and helping to manage the hiring and supervision.

Pinnacle Trust works with several vendors in these specialized areas of senior care that can help relieve much of the overwhelming burden that accompanies these changes in a senior’s life.

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