Having Difficult Conversations about Finances with your Aging Loved Ones

November 2, 2020

Religion, politics, finances. These are three things you never, ever discuss in polite company. Or at least that’s what our mamas taught us. But what happens when your mother, brother, or uncle starts to show signs of aging and an inability to effectively manage their personal finances? How do you know they have enough left in their retirement funds to pay for assisted living? How can you ensure they aren’t taken advantage of by those who might prey on the more vulnerable? These difficult conversations need to happen to ensure everyone is on the same page about the reality of your loved one’s financial situation.

We have some tips to navigate what has the potential to be an uncomfortable conversation, as well as red flags to watch out for in financial records.

The Conversation

  • Treat your loved one with dignity. Remember that they once had a successful career, managed their household, and planned for retirement — all without your help. Be gentle when bringing this up. Let them maintain their independence. Come at it from a place of care and desire to help rather than a place of superiority.
  • Be proactive instead of reactive. Plan to have a conversation about finances before it’s needed. If an event like forgetting to pay the mortgage or making an unusually large donation to a charitable organization occurs, the conversation will likely happen under duress. Instead, set aside time with your loved one now to have a calm, strategic conversation where everyone has their wits about them.
  • Make a list of documents you might need. Getting a well-rounded look at your loved one’s finances will likely involve looking at bank accounts, 401ks, investments, properties, inheritance documents, and more. For many seniors (and for many people, in general!), out of sight means out of mind, so create a list of needed documents and accounts to collect before your sit-down, otherwise they might not think to include things like investment properties or stocks.
  • Make Assisted Living part of your conversation. Assisted living is an investment in seniors’ physical, social, and mental health, but it is something that many need to plan for financially. If your loved one has a long-term care insurance plan, it’s possible they’ll have coverage for assisted living through their plan. If not, you’ll want to have an open, honest dialogue about the costs associated with assisted living and if they’re prepared financially for that.

Red Flags to Watch Out For

  • Letters from collections agencies. This serves as a sign that your loved one may be forgetting to make payments or may not have the funds available to make those payments.
  • Hard to find bank statements. If bank statements can’t be easily found, it’s likely that the accounts aren’t being regularly monitored.
  • Large payments to charitable organizations, political groups, churches, or individuals. While it’s not always the case, seniors who make large payments like this could possibly be the victims of subtle persuasion, or worse, a scam.

While they do have the potential to be uncomfortable, conversations about your aging loved ones’ finances can also be an exciting look into their future and their next life adventure.

For more information and resources about supporting your loved one as they age, including topics on dementia and assisted living, visit our website at legacysl.net.

Decorating for Safety with Aging Loved Ones

October 25, 2020

Home is where the heart is. We know that to be true, so it’s no surprise that we want our homes to be a reflection of us.

Many of our aging loved ones can walk us through every corner of their homes, carefully explaining the trinkets purchased while traveling, the achievements framed on the walls, and the tokens of love gifted by friends and family. We adore hearing these stories, and these items give our loved ones physical reminders of a life well lived.

As our loved ones age, it’s imperative that we’re mindful of the potential danger an item can create in a home. Whether something is a tripping hazard or could easily tip over, we have some tips and tricks for stabilizing furniture, reducing clutter, and keeping aging people safe in their homes.

Anchor Furniture to Walls

As we age, we start to lose our balance. When walking through a home, it’s not uncommon to grab hold of a piece of furniture for support or stability. To ensure a piece of furniture that once provided stability doesn’t come tumbling down, anchor things like bookshelves, dressers, or console tables to the walls. The good news about this task is that you’re doing double-duty safety prep for when grandbabies come to visit!

Secure Cords

A long cord from the lamp to the outlet across the room is the epitome of a tripping hazard. Securing cords to the wall will decrease the likelihood of a foot getting caught beneath them. There are many products on the market — from tape to clips — that will help you in this process.

Swap Fire-Burning Candles with Battery-Powered Candles or Diffusers

Who doesn’t love a good candle? They offer warmth and delightful smells to a room. However, live flames? Not the safest option. Reduce fire hazards by swapping out fire-burning candles with battery-powered candles. If your loved one lights candles for the scents, consider investing in an oil diffuser to fill the room with fragrances like lavender or eucalyptus. Bonus: Essential oils are touted to have health benefits, too!

Go from High to Low

Many of the accidents we hear about were caused because something was placed out of reach. One quick solution? Go low. Move kitchen items to lower cabinets, move cosmetics to countertops, and move favorite books to lower bookshelves. If it’s a regularly-used item, make sure it’s well within reach.

Remove Clutter

Maybe the biggest thing we can do to help our loved ones move around their homes with ease? Reduce clutter.

Famed organizer Marie Kondo lives by the motto, “Does it bring you joy?” Move around your loved one’s home with them room by room and minimize clutter by asking them the million-dollar question. If it doesn’t bring them joy, it may be time to find a new home for that item. _______________________________________________________________________

Keeping your aging loved one safe and happy in their home is a balance. It may require tough conversations and a little elbow grease. At the end of the day, if they’re safe, the work will have been worth it.

Celebrating a Socially-Distant Halloween

October 12, 2020

As children, Halloween is one of our favorite nights of the year. As adults, the joy on a child’s face when they’re dressed up as their favorite superhero, Ninja Turtle, or princess, pumped full of sugar from the candy they just can’t wait to eat until they get home, is truly unforgettable. And the best part? Grandparents get to enjoy the costumes and candy and then send the kids home with their parents before they hit their sugar high.

As we’ve already experienced with so many holidays and special occasions in 2020, Halloween will look a little different this year. Especially for grandparents who make their home in a senior living community, visitor restrictions are tight, which means they likely won’t be able to celebrate the holiday in person.

To help amp up the fun and make the most of this festive occasion, we’ve put together a list of socially-distant activities to help you include your elderly loved ones in the holiday hoopla.

Have a Zoom Costume Parade

Hop on a Zoom call with all the grandkids, cousins, and friends of the family for a costume parade! Give each trick-or-treater one minute to explain their costume and why they chose it. The little ones will love having another opportunity to show off their costumes, and their grandparents will get to join in on the smiles — and maybe even learn about the cool new superheroes on the block!

Drop off your loved one’s favorite candy

Who doesn’t love a sweet treat? Drop off a bag of Grandma or Grandpa’s favorite candy with a note letting them know you’re thinking about them.

Plan a time to watch your favorite spooky movie at the same time

There’s nothing quite like watching a spooky movie right as the weather starts to cool down and fall makes its big entrance. Since you can’t have an in-person movie night, schedule a night to watch the same movie from afar. You can snuggle up on the couch and feel like your loved one is right there with you — because they’ll be doing the same thing!

Here are some spooky movies we love to watch year after year:

  • Hocus Pocus
  • Dracula (the 1931 original!)
  • Beetlejuice

Send them some festive Halloween gear

You’re never too old to play dress-up! Our residents love to dress up in festive holiday wear, and you can help us make sure they’re dressed to impress. We love these Halloween headbands and light-up Jack-O-Lantern necklaces from Amazon.

Have the grandkids decorate a pumpkin to display in their room 

This one gives you a fun activity to do with your kiddos AND a way to brighten your loved one’s day. Carve or paint a pumpkin together to display in Grandma/Grandpa’s room. This article from Good Housekeeping lists 65 cute pumpkin decorating ideas. Which one is your favorite? ___________________________________________________________________

Choose one, choose all, or choose something that isn’t even listed here. The most important thing is including your aging loved ones in the holiday cheer!

Celebrating Milestones During COVID

September 15, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed our way of life. From wearing a mask in the grocery store to distancing ourselves from the public, we’ve picked up new habits that will likely continue for the foreseeable future. For the elderly population, life has changed even more. Many seniors already struggle with isolation, and the pandemic has exacerbated that struggle. In fact, a recent study done by The Lancet found that social disconnection puts older adults at greater risk of depression and anxiety. (Source)

We want to keep our elderly loved ones safe, but also want them to know that we are still with them — even when we can’t be physically present. In today’s blog, we’re going to talk about celebrating milestones in a COVID-friendly way. Whether a birthday or a clean bill of health from the doctor, how can we let our loved ones know we’re thinking of them?

Here’s a list of ways to show your socially-distant love.

Give Them a Call on FaceTime

Seeing a familiar face in a time of social distancing can do so much good for the soul — both for our senior loved ones AND for us. For more information about our visitation access and virtual visits, please click here to learn more!

Commission a Piece of Art from a Grandchild

We don’t need to tell you how much grandparents love their grandchildren, and this gift does double-duty because it lets them know the whole family is thinking about them. Plus, it’s free! Ask your little artist to imagine what Grandma or Grandpa looked like as a child and draw it. What’s their favorite activity to do together? What’s Grandma or Grandpa’s favorite musician or type of music? Giving them a prompt that’s about time spent together will make the gift even more special.

Drop Off Some Flowers

Does your loved one have a favorite flower? Are you growing a flower or herb in your garden that you think they would love? Whatever your plant of choice, our residents love getting a little dose of nature in their rooms. Write out what you’re dropping off and why it made you think of them. Did your mom carry Peonies in her wedding bouquet? Does your dad love to eat fresh basil with his tomatoes? Letting them know that you were thinking of them is the most important part of this gift.

While visitors are still restricted for safety reasons, we’ll happily accept packages at the door.

Cook Them Their Favorite Meal

Even better — cook a serving for yourself too, then enjoy it together over FaceTime! While visitors are still not allowed in unless medically necessary, you can still enjoy a meal with your loved one through the beauty of technology. Cook up a meal, put a portion in a to-go container, drop it at our door, and schedule a FaceTime call with our office so that you can enjoy it together. Oh, and don’t forget the candles if it’s a birthday you’re celebrating!

Meal ideas:

  • Their favorite childhood meal
  • A dish from an exotic destination they’ve always dreamed of
  • A dish from your favorite vacation together
  • A sweet treat from their favorite bakery in their hometown

Start Working on a Virtual Scrapbook

If there are things you’ve always wondered about your loved ones, now is the time to ask! Record their responses so that you can archive them for future generations.

A few places to start:

  • Did they serve in the military? Which branch? Where were they stationed?
  • What was their first job? First car? First concert?
  • How did they meet their spouse?

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We know these ideas won’t substitute for the power of a good hug, but they will hopefully serve as simple ways to let your senior loved ones know you’re thinking about them. Small gestures can make a big impact!

If you’d like to know more about creative ways we’re safely connecting our residents with their loved ones, you can reach out to our individual communities. Their information can be found here.

 

4 Ways to Have Quality Conversations During COVID-19

August 25, 2020

Communication is one of the cornerstones for the care of the elderly, especially for a loved one who may not fully understand what’s happening in our world at the moment. With additional restrictions on in-person visits, finding ways to connect and converse regularly with older folks is more critical now than ever. Fortunately, technology is making this easier. But technology isn’t limited to simply calling and hearing a familiar voice, and it’s not the only way to stay in touch.

Here are some ways you can have quality connections as a family while being away from loved ones during COVID-19.

1. Host a group conversation through video chat

A phone call from a family member is great. A video call from the whole family? Even better. Services like Zoom and Google Hangout have made it easy to “get together.” These and similar platforms also make it easy for multiple people to share time together.  Staff can help residents get set up with computers and tablets, and scheduling reminders is easy through shared calendars and alerts.

2. Make hands-free communication easy for the elderly with Facebook Portal and Amazon Echo Show

There’s nothing more frustrating to older folks than technology that is hard to work. Take all the hassle out with great products like Facebook Portal and Amazon Echo Show. You can help them set reminders and get video calls from friends and family. Voice commands are simple and will help residents look forward to and enjoy the conversations.

3. Let them experience a tour or journey

While there’s no substitute for “actually being there,” they can still see the world through your eyes. Facetime while on a hike to give a glimpse of the views. Strap a GoPro to the grandkids’ bike for a virtual ride along. Record family gatherings, create trip slideshows, or even recorded personal messages celebrating milestones will help your loved ones feel included in special events and occasions. If you’re really tech savvy, adding in recorded commentary allows more family members to help tell about the experience.

4. Snail mail, personal notes, and artwork

Getting mail is still a thrilling and personal experience, no matter what your age. Cards, letters, and personal notes are always appreciated. Let their friends know how to get in touch with your loved ones and how much a note would make their day. Want to get younger children involved? Have your kids draw pictures or create a painting of what they’ve done recently or what they’re looking forward to doing with their grandparent when you can be together again.

These uncertain times make in-person visits hard or impossible, but finding alternative ways to communicate makes staying close to loved ones a little more bearable. Check with facility workers on additional ways they are helping residents stay in contact with families. Reaching out regularly can boost their spirits and help them stay connected to family and friends.

Social Distancing and Older Relatives

July 23, 2020

Social distancing has dramatically changed how we interact with others, especially older relatives. While taking care of ourselves is important, looking out for aging parents and loved ones is more critical than ever. The risk of social isolation is higher without regular visitors and normal activities happening. This can lead to a lower immunity, decreased mental health, and a significant deterioration in the quality of life of older generations. Keeping older adults active is no doubt more challenging, but not impossible. Here are some keys to consider as you care for your loved ones either in your home or from a distance.

Cover the basics

Staying active begins with making sure all of their basic needs have been met. Keeping in touch with older loved ones about any changes in instructions on social distancing and any other COVID-19 updates from the Centers for Disease Control will help you make better decisions and help everyone avoid misinformation.

Ask directly about things like hydration and nutrition. Check that they have all of their medications and prescriptions up to date. If your relative has been undergoing any kind of physical or occupational therapy, ask the therapist how they are progressing and if they need to pause or delay other things until they’re ready. It’s also a good idea to ask the therapist about their health and the health of the people they work with. Knowing the general condition as well as the limits of your loved ones will help you and the care providers make the best calls together.

General Exercise

Senior living facilities, local gyms, or senior centers offer regular group exercise classes that may be unavailable during this time. Talk to the staff about other options to get them up and moving. Regular walks outside are still permitted. If able to do so, yoga and tai chi can help your loved ones relax and stay active. Even simple stretching is great to get them up and moving, with the side effect of mood boosting!

Gardening and Crafting

Simply getting outside daily does wonders for all of us. Make sure there are safe and open areas for older adults to sit and walk around. Gardening and other activities can work both the body and the mind. Some hobbies normally done indoors can be moved outside. While inside, crafting, painting, knitting, and crocheting can keep the brain active and the hands moving.

Utilize Technology

Most local health departments are limiting the number of people in groups and encouraging only critical face-to-face interactions. Fortunately, technology helps lift some of these limits and allows us to connect in new and beneficial ways. Regular phone and video calls from family and friends can do wonders to lift their spirits, especially in these confusing times. Having grandkids write letters is great for both young and old. Sharing stories and showing old pictures and videos is another great way to connect and care for the elderly. You might even consider a family workout over a video conference!

There are many other ways that care providers may have already implemented to keep older adults active. This generation has lived through some hard and difficult times, and it’s important to remind them frequently that even though there are many unknowns, this will pass. It’s important to be cautious, but even more important is to remember that care isn’t limited during this time, just a little different.