by Lisa Marie Carter, Anderson Magazine
It’s something we don’t want to think about, becoming the “parent” to our parents, taking care of them, their finances and their future. Yet this scenario comes to fruition more often than not. Though it’s not easy, it is necessary to not only think about, but also plan for. Lindsay Dohmen of Anderson knows all too well how necessary this is. In 2015, her 82-year-old father suddenly passed away from a massive brain hemorrhage.
Her mother was struggling before he passed, but she had no idea until later that her mother was suffering from undiagnosed Alzheimer’s disease. Her parents greatly depended on each other in their daily lives, and since her mom was now alone, something had to be done immediately.
Luckily, Dohmen was given information about Caroline Bell, an elder advocate who owns Preparing for Care. Dohmen quickly realized her mom could not stay by herself and needed assistance.
“I knew that my dad, being the brilliant man he was, had taken out long-term assisted living insurance on the both of them,” said Dohmen. “However, I was not prepared for the amount of time it takes to get the ball rolling.”
With Dohmen and her husband working full time and her siblings living in Maryland and California and unable to assist with the situation, Preparing for Care stepped in to help. Bell handled getting the insurance Role Reversal started, setting up caregivers to come out to the family home, and recommended an assisted living option, the Garden House. She even helped find a place to auction the contents of the home.
“I had no idea there was so much to do,” said Dohmen. “I am extremely fortunate that my father had the insurance policy and am thankful every day for his knowledge and foresight. Even though he has passed, he is still taking care of my mother. She can’t remember how she got to the Garden House, but believes my father took care of it all for her. This makes me happy. “I wish I would have personally been more prepared for the situation, but with Caroline’s help, my mom is a success story. I am thankful that mom has a wonderful apartment with all her things around her to make her feel at home.
Garden House provides her physical therapy, and they have an in-house doctor, so I no longer have to take her to them. Medication is taken care of, so I no longer have to go to the pharmacy.” Bell said one of the biggest mistakes people make is not having a pro-active aging plan for a parent. Don’t assume your parents have saved for their retirement or that they have the legal documents in place just because they are your parents and have always taken care of everything, she says. Assuming this can lead to a crisis.
After experiencing a crisis with her own parents, Bell started her business to assist aging adults and adult children who needed to know where to begin to help Iwith their parents. Preparing for Care is modeled to assist the family with the start of the aging conversation,and to put together the pro-active plan. This will help avoid the surprises and “sticker shock” of care. There are five areas Bell recommends adult children consider, and she suggests that when someone is looking at Medicare at around age 63 to 65 is actually the perfect time to discuss an aging plan.
- Safety in the house and driving. Falls are the number one reason that a senior ends up in a skilled nursing home, which typically costs nearly $9,000 per month.
- Legal issues. Make sure parents have the legal documents needed, that they are in a known place in the house, and that there is a copy with all adult children. (She suggests keeping them in the glove box of all the cars so that the papers are always with you.)
- Financial planning. Sufficient money for aging, long-term care policies, and VA benefits for veterans and their spouses are among the financial issues to consider.
- Placement. Tour independent, assisted living and memory care communities prior to the person needing to move so they are picking their place to live and it’s not their adult children picking it in a crisis.
- Legacy. Ensure their legacy is discussed and end-of-life wishes are made with pre-planning of funerals/burials.
There are two other areas seldom thought of. First, consider what will be done with a pet. Many elders will not leave the home for fear that something will happen to their pet. Not all adult children do what they say when it comes to caring for a senior’s pet. The pet may end up in the shelter, which is devastating to both the pet and owner. Part of the conversation and planning is having power of attorney documents for pets that seniors can sign and give to their adult child, veterinarian or another individual that they trust stipulating who will be caring for the pet. They can leave money for the care of the pet as well.
The second, sometimes overlooked consideration is an “elder orphan,” an older person who is socially or physically isolated, without an available family member or caregiver to help them manage aging.
Based on the number of people older than 65 who are either unmarried, widowed, childless or who have no nearby family, experts estimate as many as 22.6 percent of the older population nationwide is at risk of aging alone, or already is.
Preparing now, even if you aren’t near the age of needing help, ensures you get the care that you want. If you are a caregiver to an elder already, there is assistance for you out there. One service is Rhodes Respite Care, which is offered at First Presbyterian Church in Anderson. It is open to persons from Anderson County and nearby counties who meet the criteria, including being able to walk and do other things on their own as they participate in a small group setting for several hours during the day.
All participants are experiencing cognitive and physical decline to a varying degree. The mission is to meet the social, spiritual, physical and emotional needs of adults with early stage Alzheimer’s or other memory loss.
This ministry provides a much-needed break to family caregivers as they are allowed to leave their loved ones at the church under the watchful eyes of trained staff and volunteers. Respite (a break from care giving) allows caregivers to run errands, shop, make personal appointments, or just relax while being assured that their family member is cared for in a loving atmosphere.
Now is as good a time as ever to have that talk or make those preparations. As the saying goes, “Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”