Healthy Aging – Physically, Mentally and Financially

The month of September brings a welcome relief from the hot summer days. Cool breezes and colorful foliage appearing on the trees entice one to walk and bask in healthy fresh air.

September has also been designated as “Healthy Aging Month” with encouragement to seniors to renew their attitudes towards better eating, exercise, and mental stability. With the nation’s senior population growing there is more focus on programs to help seniors remain healthy and active as they age physically, mentally and emotionally. Continue reading

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New Study Reveals Future Housing Shortage for Aging Parents

This year I started receiving invitations to join AARP. As appealing as the hotel and restaurant discounts sound, I just can’t bring myself to be a card-carrying member. This site is primarily directed toward those of us who in one capacity or another are providing care to an aging parent, and yet as my brother reminded me recently, “we’re on deck.” A new study released by the Joint Center for Housing Studies for Harvard University, describes the next housing crisis (or opportunity for the optimistic) as supplying the housing needs for an aging population. The report opens with this sidebar: Continue reading

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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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