“Does mom want to live in a nursing home?”
“What does dad feel contributes to, or takes away from his idea of ‘quality of life’?”
“Do mom and dad have legal documentation in place that ensures someone can act financially on their behalf if they are unable to?”
These are just three of many questions local residents are encouraged to ask their parents and aging loved ones during Sandwich Generation Month, a month-long observance in July of each year that focuses on the legal and financial burdens facing adults who are caring for young kids and their older parents at the same time.
Without knowing the answers to such questions, families could be left battling over long-term care, struggling financially, and not truly honoring their parents’ wishes in the event of a future healthcare crisis.
Far too many families avoid talking about aging and long-term care until it’s too late. Especially from a legal standpoint, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes or the documentation they have in place (or don’t), you could be left with a huge mess on your hands if they become sick or disabled.
This month, it’s advisable for adult children to have 5 specific conversations with their parents as soon as the opportunity presents itself:
- Long-term care preferences – Do mom and dad want to live in a nursing home or would they prefer in-home care if the need presented itself? If they prefer a facility, what amenities and activities are important to them at this point in their life? If they want to live alone in their home, will that suit their personality or will loneliness and depression result? These are questions that if discussed in advance can make the transition into an assisted living facility or a home-health care program much easier on everyone when the time comes.
- Current Legal Documentation – It’s imperative that adult children find out what legal documentation their parents have in place before incapacity occurs. This includes making sure their parents have a financial durable power of attorney, health care directive, and HIPAA documents so someone can easily step in to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf. Otherwise, the family will be forced to petition the court for control over their parents’ affairs if they passed the point of legal capacity.
- Medical Preferences and Wishes – Adult children should find out what type and how much medical care their parents want as they age, or following a debilitating diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Do they have specific wishes about life support or other end-of-life medical treatments? Who do they want to make such decisions on their behalf? The answers to these questions will help your parents to feel secure knowing their wishes will be carried out during an otherwise emotionally-charged time.
- Current state of financial affairs – To ensure finances are properly managed, adult children should start asking tough questions about their parents’ financial affairs. This includes finding out the location of any safety deposit boxes, bank accounts, investment or brokerage accounts, long-term care insurance, outstanding debts, or other assets unknown to the family. Otherwise, necessary assets needed to cover long-term care or other expenses could go overlooked and unaccounted for. You should also ask your parents how they plan to pay for long-term care. Most expenses are not covered by Medicare or private insurance. Medicaid may be able to help, but you will likely need an attorney to help you create the right kind of trust or utilize other planning strategies in order to meet the income and asset thresholds and protect your assets from being “spent down” while qualifying for benefits.
- Important contacts and information – While their memory is still sharp, adult children should work with aging parents to compile a list of important contacts and information that will be useful to the family. This includes documenting key doctors, professional advisors (e.g. accountant, attorney, financial advisor), and important passwords for online accounts.
While these conversations are certainly not easy to have, families can make the transition into a parent’s senior years easier by planning ahead. Not to mention, mom or dad will appreciate your willingness to make sure their wishes are honored if and when incapacity, sickness or disability occurs.
For more information and help, please download our FREE guide, “Surviving The ‘Sandwiched’ Years: How To Protect Your Parent’s Assets, Honor Their Wishes & Provide Long-Term Care….Without Losing Your Money—Or Your Mind!” by clicking here.
As an elder law attorney in Marietta, Georgia, I find news like this encouraging as many of my clients or their families have been affected by Alzheimer’s.
Researchers in Australia have been experimenting with a non-invasive ultrasound technology that is showing great promise in the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.
It has been estimated that Alzheimer’s affects 50 million people worldwide, and those numbers are expected to rise dramatically in the near future. With no vaccine or preventative treatment, researchers have been trying to find ways to treat it, starting with how to remove plaques from the brain.
If a person has Alzheimer’s disease, it’s usually because of a build up of two types of lesions in the brain—amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.
- Amyloid plaques sit between the neurons in the brain. Eventually, they become dense clusters of beta-amyloid molecules, a sticky type of protein that clumps together.
- Neurofibrillary tangles are found inside the neurons of the brain and are caused by defective tau proteins that clump into a thick, insoluble mass. This causes tiny filaments called microtubules to become twisted, which disrupts the transportation of nutrient, organelles and other essential materials.
Enter a team of researchers at the Queensland Brain Institute in Australia who may have just figured out how to remove the amyloid plaques. Using a focused therapeutic ultrasound, they beam non-invasive sound waves into the brain tissue at a super fast speed. The sound waves gently open the blood-brain barrier (a layer that protects the brain against bacteria) and stimulate cells in the brain that remove waste. These microglial cells are then able to clear out the toxic beta-amyloid clumps that are responsible for the worst symptoms of Alzheimer’s.
The team reports that 75% of the mice that were treated had their memory function fully restored, with zero damage to surrounding brain tissue. The mice had improved performance in three memory tasks—a maze, a test to get them to recognize new objects, and one to get them to remember the places they should avoid.
Trials are planned on animals with larger brains, such as sheep, and the team is hoping to start human trials in 2017. Watch for more information on this promising treatment.
The results were published in Science Translational Medicine. An ABC radio interview with the team can be heard here.
How to Take Care of Yourself as You Take Care of Others
Raising your kids, working, trying to take care of yourself, and now caring for an aging parent? That makes you part of the Sandwich Generation. You are not alone—almost half of America’s 40- and 50-year olds are in the same boat.
Most of us have adjusted to balancing children, work and finding some time for ourselves. But when we add caring for an aging parent, it often becomes too much. And usually it’s the “me” part that is sacrificed…until you hit burn out.
Here are some ways to leverage your time and resources so you can also take care of yourself.
Enlist Your Kids
Even the smallest child can spend charming one-on-one time with a grandparent. If your parent lives with or near you, they can spend time together in person. If your parent is not near you, they can Skype on the computer, use FaceTime or play multi-player online games. Your children, no matter what their ages, will benefit from spending time with Grandma or Grandpa, they will see how you value and care for aging family members—and you will get some extra time to return phone calls, make dinner, or even catch a quick nap!
Ask About Options at Work
Check with your employer’s human resources department about resources that might be available to you. Depending on how long you expect to be caring for your parent, there may be a multitude of options available to you, including elder care research and referral services, flex time, even working from home options. The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) calls for eligible employees to receive 12 weeks of unpaid job-protected leave. (Private employers with less than 50 employees are exempt.)
There are legal and community resources that can help you make the best care and financial decisions for your parent. A local Marietta Elder Care attorney can prepare the necessary legal documents and help you maximize your parent’s income, long-term care insurance and retirement savings, and qualify for VA or Medicaid benefits, if applicable. He/she will also be familiar with various living communities in the area and in-home care agencies. You can also hire someone to review and verify/dispute insurance claims and medical billing.
Find Your “Me” Time
Stress is your biggest enemy and you have to find ways to reduce it. Joining a caregiver group, in person or online, will let you share your questions and frustrations, and learn how other caregivers are coping. Don’t be afraid to ask favors of friends and other relatives, such as picking up your kids while you go to the doctor with your parent. You could also learn to order in dinner every now and then without feeling guilty. Learn what you need to maintain your stamina, energy and positive outlook. That may include regular exercise (a yoga class, walk or run), a weekly outing with friends, or time to read or simply watch TV.
Our office would be happy to review your parents legal and financial situation, giving you and your parents peace of mind to allow you to concentrate on what is important in life, spending stress-free quality time together. Call us, your local Marietta Elder Care Attorneys, at 770-425-6060. Or for more information on the Sandwich Generation, check out our NO COST GUIDE HERE.
The holidays are a traditional time for multiple generations to gather together, and are also a perfect opportunity for adult children to perform a reality check on how their aging parents are doing health-wise as well as assess financial and medical planning issues.
The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance provides these tips:
Check your elderly relatives’ home for potential fall hazards. If there is unopened mail and unpaid bills laying around, it may be a sign they are having difficulty coping with everyday living.
Check the pantry and refrigerator to ensure it is well stocked. If a parent has lost weight or there is spoiled food around, this is a sign that they may need some additional help around the house.
Make a list of all your parents’ medications and get the phone numbers of their primary care physicians.
Be sure you have the license numbers of all vehicles in case one is stolen or your parent goes missing.
Talk to your parents about advance health care directives. If they don’t have one, help them find a personal family lawyer (our Marietta family estate planning law firm can help you there) to talk to about creating these and other important estate planning documents.
If you’d like to learn more about wills, living wills, advance health care directives, power of attorney for health care designations or any other aspects of estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.