Handling Alzheimer’s During the Holidays

Having a parent or loved one with any form of dementia in never easy.  It comes with a continual sadness over the loss of the person you once new.  The holidays can be a particularly difficult time to deal with this reality, but that is nothing compared to the difficulty you may fear by having your loved one visit during this season.  With that in mind, I’m posting the following quick guide to make these experiences easier on the both of you.

1. The General Rules Still Apply

There are some best-practices employed by elder care providers, and these should be continued while your loved one is in your care.  This is particularly important when visiting you because the environment may seem foreign to your loved one, increasing anxiety as well as the risk of disorientation.  These practices include:

  • Sticking to your loved one’s regular routine as much as possible
  • Being mindful of hygiene, but also respect your loved one’s privacy
  • Allowing your loved one do the activities that they can ordinarily do with safety
  • Avoiding being domineering or expressing frustration, where possible

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AARP’s TaxAide – A Great Cause and a Great Help

AARP TaxAide Volunteer

AARP volunteers help millions across the U.S. file their taxes each year.

Tax season is coming into full swing shortly, and this will be my third tax season volunteering with AARP’s TaxAide program.  For me, it’s an opportunity to do some good and keep abreast of how all the different tax tweaks congress makes each year find their way into the IRS forms and filing requirements we actually deal with back here on Earth.  For you – or for an elderly friend or loved one – it’s can be an opportunity to get your taxes done for free with friendly, convenient service.  For the benefit of those who might be interested, I’ve reposted this FAQ article with a summary of the services we provide.
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Home Renovation Choices That Will Help Later in Life

The Life Alert Lady - she's fallen and she can't get up.

Life Alert is good, but a few tweaks to your home renovation plan can actually prevent falls later in life.

A little over a year into The Estate Planning Ticker, I’ve come to find that articles can be inspired by just about anything. Some are obvious – a new law, a sage or misleading news story, a cautionary tale manifested in a recent client; some less so. In this case, I was inspired by two consecutive life experiences.  First, watching my mother put her insight as a geriatric nurse into practice as she renovated the family home, and second, helping to move her mother out of her home of 40 years because it had become unsafe.

Falls are among the most prominent health risks facing elderly Americans. They can cause serious injury, make you feel defeated and embarrassed, and terrify your adult children.  That last bit explains why it’s one of the most frequently cited reasons for children to pressure their parents out of the home and into some form of managed care facility.  What makes it that much worse is the simple fact that most falls, as well as other physical difficulties around the home, are completely preventable.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a home where you intend to spend your later years, and are planning renovations big or small, there are some simple considerations which, for an extra few hundred dollars, may save you from aggravation, injury, or additional contractors later in life. After the jump, a checklist of the more important considerations of elder-living architecture.

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Why Estate Planning is as Much Art as Science

I recently had a colleague contact me for some advice about a client. He didn’t need help with the legal aspects – redoing a trust – but he called because my parents grew up with the client and I know the whole family.

The situation was as unfortunate as it was typical. Client Cathy’s mom had retired to Florida, and though very self sufficient and active for a woman in her eighties, her mind was starting to slip, in particular when it came to sending gobs of money to the various cons and fake contests that prey on the elderly population of Ft. Lauderdale, and she was bouncing checks and overcharging her credit cards to do it. The family agreed that a conservatorship (called a limited guardianship in Florida) was not the best move, but that’s where the agreement ended. Cathy was willing to play a role in reviewing her mother’s finances, but thought her brother Joe in Florida would be better. Joe had the access and acuity, but didn’t want the responsibility. Sister Susan already had a power of attorney and was eager to take point as trustee of everything, but was a notorious meddler and bickerer and was liable to fight her mother tooth and nail over every indulgent expense. Rounding out the family tree was older brother Bert, who wanted to “put her in a home up North” to be safe.

Ultimately, the mom’s living trust, which contained the condo and her long-term investments, were put in a Medicaid planning trust with Susan as trustee, which was the bulk of the mother’s estate, but had minimal day-to-day responsibilities. Joe was given a power of attorney so he could open a new checking account for his mom’s pension and social security deposits, funnel a small allowance into the account she used, and buy her supermarket gift cards, while Cathy and her husband got the passwords so they could monitor her purchases and pay her bills online.

Cathy’s situation illustrates the realities of the impact that family dynamics can have on the crafting of estate plans. Planning for infirmity or drafting wills and trusts to maximize tax saving can be tricky, but they usually follow common, well-defined schemes. At the same time, the very meaning of “trust” can be a bit antithetical, as it is often a lack of trust that precipitates it. When deciding how to organize your estate, it is something you must consider carefully:

  • “Do I trust my daughter to give my diamond earrings to my granddaughter, or do I need to put that in my will?”
  • “Do I trust Bobby to use his college money wisely, or should I have his father hold it for him?”
    “Am I ready to give up control of my money, and can I trust my daughter to let me to still do what I want with it until I’m really unable?”

  • “If I die and my wife remarries, do I know that she’ll leave what I’ve earned for our children?”

Along with that, it’s important to consider the hurt feelings, anxiety, and jealousy that can occur when you make the decision to trust, not trust, or trust one person over another, and to decide whether it’s worth the risk to keep the peace. These are things I reccomend anyone consider when weighing the options as they document out their future, and it is something any competent estate planning attorney ought to ask you about.

While the law can be a science, blending it with a financial picture and family situation requires a bit of artistry. It’s also why my retainer agreement says that well-rounded estate planning does not necessarily guarantee a minimum tax burden…in bold, capital letters.