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Archive for October, 2013

The Parent Trap, Part 3: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (and Breakfast)? 10.24.2013

Many people facing the reality of having to relocate their elderly parents encounter myriad dilemmas, both physical and emotional in nature. When your parent becomes unable to live on their own, many questions arise: How do I tell them? Where should they live now? How will we be able to afford the new conditions necessary?

If these questions are of concern to you, here are a few things to consider as you figure out the best solution for your parent’s living arrangement.

Break it to them gently. As discussed in last week’s blog entry, giving up the car keys will be hard for your elderly parent. Facing relocation can be even harder. Relocating means your parent will have to leave their home and all of the things they are comfortable with. That isn’t easy for anyone. So when your parent reaches the point when it becomes necessary to find new living conditions, be very gracious about the way you discuss it with them. Show them that it’s not just a matter of their incapacity – you are concerned for their safety and comfort, and you want to do what’s best for them. Be supportive. As with driving concerns, do your best to plan ahead with your loved one. This will make the transition easier and help them feel like they are still have control of their lives.

Choose a new home that’s best for everyone. When the time comes to move your parent, you may feel a burden to take them into your own home or move yourself into theirs. Many people see putting their parent into a nursing home as the heartless option, especially if they’ve made a previous care pledge to that parent. However, it is important that you do what’s best for everyone involved. If you have a home that’s suitable for your aged relative and a family that is flexible enough to make the transition, then moving your loved one into your own home may be a reasonable option. If, on the other hand, your home is not conducive to having another tenant or if your family will experience unreasonable scheduling or relational strain, other living arrangements may be in order. Choosing an assisted living home for your parent may be a good option. If conflict is likely to arise if you move your parent into your own house, there’s a chance your parents will suffer.

Seek professional help if you need it, especially regarding finances. Often, dealing with your aging parent’s finances can be the most daunting task you face when considering relocation options. Figuring out how to manage their money and/or how they will be able to afford assisted living and medical costs can be overwhelming. When it comes to the basic things – managing their current expenses and paying bills – you may have in all under control. However, if you find yourself in a situation where you are dealing with a financial mess, you may need to take more serious action. Tax professionals, accountants and estate lawyers can help. In most cases, using professionals will save money in the long run and will likely save a lot of stress for everyone. (EXTRA NOTE: Did you know that you may be able to claim an elderly parent as a dependant on tax forms? This benefit might work for you if you are paying  at least 50% of their expenses. Talk with your accountant!)

    Keep everyone in the loop. When helping your elderly parent with changing major aspects of their lives such as living arrangements, it is usually best to have one person that is in charge of making all major decisions. This doesn’t mean neglecting other family members. Hold family meetings with siblings and/or grandchildren so that everyone has a say in Mom or Dad’s future, and keep everyone updated on decisions that are being made. This will likely save you from tension and hurt feelings in the long run.

    Coming Next Week, The Parent Trap, Part 4: It’s Al Gore’s Fault

    The Parent Trap, Part 2: What about the car keys? 10.15.2013

    In the United States, we have laws that require people to be “old enough” to drive a vehicle. But what about being too old? This is an issue that is becoming more prevalent and begs the question: can a person become too old to drive safely?

    This is a question without a simple answer. Most often, the answer is based upon the specific facts of each individual situation. However, if you have an aging parent with whom driving is becoming a concern, there are steps you can take to ease tensions and ultimately work to keep them and others safe on the road.

    The first step is to identify the issue on a broad scale. It will be beneficial for you and your parent to look at the problem as a matter of functionality, not as old age. Simply telling your loved ones that they are not safe drivers anymore because they are “too old” will likely make it more difficult for them to admit there might be a problem and accept the changes that potentially need to be made. Most elderly folks view losing their license as a loss of freedom and independence. Labeling them as “old” may increase this frustration. As a result, it is better to take an objective standpoint. After all, it is not how old people are that really affects their driving skills – it is how well their bodies and minds are functioning.

    Consequently, viewing the issue as one of functionality reminds us that everyone is different. The age at which each person begins to have problems on the road will vary depending on each person’s circumstances. So how do you know if safe driving might be an issue for your loved one? It is important to watch for the signs. They are not hard to see if you’re keeping an eye out. Warnings may include close calls when your parent is on the road. Fender benders, tickets, and near accidents all fall under this category. Another red flag might be receiving calls from your parent about getting lost en route.

    Remember, taking away a person’s driving rights can be a hard thing for them to come to grips with. It is important to consider how you approach them when you decide it’s time to deal with the problem. The best thing you can do is to talk to them about planning ahead. In other words, address the problem before it becomes critical. This allows your parent to maintain control of their own concerns. If you can help them stay aware of their driving condition and encourage them to take care of the little problems as they come up, it enables them to stay on the roads safely for a longer period of time, which in turn, protects their independence.

    Don’t forget – they are not “too old” to drive. They are simply experiencing issues with functioning safely on the road. In many cases, these problems can be solved by attending to them as they arise. Encourage your parent to get more frequent eye exams to ensure that their glasses are up to date and are keeping their vision sharp. Likewise, have them check their hearing often and keep any hearing aids they may need in good condition. If they are experiencing pain or stiffness in their joints that may impair them in turning a steering wheel or hitting a brake pedal, help them take steps to fix these problem areas. Another important area to discuss is altering their driving habits. If they are becoming uncomfortable in certain driving conditions such as darkness or busy traffic, encourage them to avoid these conditions. Changing their driving habits may be a small sacrifice to make if it means keeping the freedom to travel on their own.

    Unfortunately, your loved one may reach a point when it is no longer safe for them to operate a vehicle under any conditions. If this is the case, approach them with respect and support. Letting go of the keys may be incredibly difficult for them. Make sure you let them know that you are there to help them through the transition. Putting safety first is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of courage. When you do decide to talk to them, present them with the facts of the situation. Explain the specific problems that are impairing their driving. Using real examples of their warning signs can be helpful for them to come to grips with the facts.

    Once you’ve explained to them that you are concerned for their safety, present them with tangible options for the future. Feeling like they still have options for transportation may lessen the feeling of helplessness and ease the transition. Alternatives may include taxis, public transportation, private drivers, or local elderly transit. They might have the option of carpooling with other elderly friends that are still fit to drive. Maybe a younger relative could volunteer to assist in day to day travel. Whatever the solution may be, be sure that you have positive alternatives ready for them.

    While removing or limiting driving privileges is not always an easy issue to address, safety is the most important concern. Ensuring the safety of your elderly loved one and of others is worth the effort. If you have a parent or relative who may be facing the possibility of losing their driving ability in the near future, start planning now. Work with them to prepare for the future and make the wise choice.

    Coming October 18, The Parent Trap, Part 3: Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner (and Breakfast)?

    The Parent Trap: Part 1, Having “the Talk” 10.01.2013

    It’s not uncommon for folks (I’m talking to you, men!) to become a little crankier as they age.

    There are few things that make us crankier than loss of control in our lives. However, it’s inevitable that, as we age, we’re going to need more and more help navigating the issues that life brings our way. For most families, this help is going to come from family members – most often our own adult children.

    Whether you are the child or the parent, it can be difficult to talk about growing old. Many adult children avoid talking with their parents about key issues because they don’t know how to broach the subject. Many elderly parents resist help from family members because a role reversal in the parent-child relationship is offensive to them.  The fact is, family members must talk about the issues related to aging, and having this important talk in a proactive manner (rather than waiting to react to a tough situation) will almost always provide the most satisfying results.

    Here are a few tips that can help you have “the talk” with your family members:

    –          Plan to Talk Sooner Rather Than Later: most experts agree that once a parent reaches the age of 65-70 (or a child reaches the age of 40-45), it’s time to aggressively plan for old age. Don’t wait until there’s an emergency! Get together and discuss important issues while everyone is capable and there is limited situational stress. If you’re not sure how to initiate a conversation, listen to each other and take advantage of opportunities for discussion. If a family member talks about a friend’s death, encourage a discussion about planning for your own deaths. If a parent expresses concern about taking care of a big house, be open to communicating about the possibility of down-sizing. Listen to each other, and act on what you hear.

    –          Kids, Be Clear About Your Motives: if your motivation to talk with your parents is to protect your inheritance or to ensure that your parents won’t become an inconvenience to you, you’re setting yourself up for failure. However, if you are legitimately concerned about your parents’ well-being and you demonstrate compassion in the way you communicate, the outcome of your talk with your parents is more likely to be positive.

    –          Parents, Trust that Your Kids Respect Your Independence: when your kids come to you to discuss your care and well-being, they (hopefully!) aren’t trying to bully you. They are simply interested in working with you to protect you from the legal, personal and financial pitfalls that are waiting to entrap you. Remember when your kids were teenagers? You created boundaries for them because you wanted what was best for them. Your kids are now in a position to do the same for you. Extend them the benefit of the doubt when they sincerely express interest in your future. If you think your kids aren’t sincere and don’t have your best interest in mind, call us at Joner Baker PLLC!

    –          Get Others Involved: one way to create a comfortable environment for communication is to involve others. Invite a family friend, your lawyer or financial advisor, or any other trusted folks to your talk. Having multiple perspectives can be helpful. Having the conversation over dinner (or with a glass of wine) can make for a more relaxed atmosphere – one that is conducive to open, frank discussion.

    –          Have a Plan: make an agenda for your talk. Assign certain topics to certain family members. Take good notes and develop a plan for following up on tasks that flow from the discussion. You don’t have to follow Robert’s Rules of Order, but be organized. Here are some potential topics for discussion: (1) Legal Affairs, (2) End-of-Life Desires, (3) Current and Future Housing, (4) Asset Protection and Stretching, (5) Location of Important Files, (6) Medical Care and (7) Driving.

      Remember, having “the talk” doesn’t have to be something you dread. Plan for it. Make it a special occasion. Celebrate it! If you do, it might be easier than you think.

      Coming Oct 8: The Parent Trap, Part 2: What About the Car Keys