Planning Ahead for Those Middle-Aged with Health Issues

Caregiving for all: November 15, 2022     Del Larson, Certified Lay Minister

In my last topic, I shared how important it is for seniors to share their financial plans, with family, for later in life. I have found it to be important to have those conversations with your children, so they aren’t surprised by your decisions or have no clue of what you would like after you pass. This part of Planning Ahead involves talking to a lawyer, not only about a will but also about how you want your estate to be handled. When I cared for my parents, they started the process of rewriting their wills when they both were diagnosed with serious illnesses.  The lawyer helped them rewrite their wills and held a phone conference (no zoom in the late 80s) with our entire family.  My parents decided to create a Life Estate.  Since I was the only sibling living in Moorhead and close to our parents, the Life Estate was put into my name.  I am NOT going to give you details on Facebook, or the Website,  but if you message me, or contact me directly, I will be glad to give some details on what we did.  This is the statement of a Life Estate in Minnesota I searched for: The term “life estate” describes a kind of joint ownership of the real estate, such as a house. You can sell or give your home to your children, but keep the right to live in, or control the home until you die.  Each state has different laws on how to use a Life Estate.  I can give you an example of what my wife did with her family cabin.  Over a decade ago, she wrote a notarized letter to the seven family owners of the cabin (LLC) giving her share to our children.  We did this to make sure the family was aware of the change, and to protect the property if she ever needed medical assistance.  This made it easier for the family if she ended up needing nursing care full-time.  With the way their LLC is written, a share can’t be sold to anyone outside of the families that own the cabin, and their extended heirs. It is too late to create a Life Estate when the ambulance is rushing you to the emergency room.  Life Estates don’t work for every family.  That is why it is important to do this when your parents have reached retirement, or have learned of a health scare.  If your parents decide to sell your childhood home to move somewhere else to rent or buy something smaller, a good estate lawyer can help you protect their investment for the children if they desire.  Learn about it now so you understand later. There is a “look back period”  when your parents start needing special care and they need assistance, the county can look back at their financial records for the previous five years.  Again, each state is different, but your lawyer can help you navigate the laws in your state.  (e.g., your parent is hospitalized and will not be able to return home.  You CAN NOT start giving all the money away, even if it is documented in the will.)

 

There is another option to think about “Long-term Care Insurance.”  This is something you would want to do before you become ill and when younger.  Again, check this option to make sure it is the right fit for you.  Work with a local nationally known company with a good track record.  Out-of-state companies with no local connection could be a problem.  It is always better to be proactive, than reactive.

 

Losing a parent is very difficult.  Don’t make it worse by leaving your estate a big secret and well hidden.  Plan Ahead!

 

I appreciate hearing from you. Feel free to respond, ask questions, or tell me what you think. I hope that you can find one thing that will be helpful to you, positive or negative. My email address is attached, or you can call the church for my phone number.

God bless you and keep you. His face will shine down on you and give you peace.

Del

larsondel@gmail.com

Caregiving for All:   October 4, 2022    Del Larson Certified Lay Minister

It has been a little longer time since my last share. I hope to get to the next topic on Planning Ahead this week. My last post on caregiving was about the strange phone call from an elderly woman looking for a moving company. It was a hectic week last week with my 95-year-old friend. She has no family in the tri-state area. Her boys don’t seem to be involved much in her care. She had to go to the Hospital because of internal bleeding. Doctors were able to get it contained, but she wasn’t happy about not having her clothes, and the chair alarm kept going off every time she stood up to look for her clothes.

The first lesson here is not being able to understand the staff in the ER. The nurse was asking her about the bathroom and was giving her all kinds of options. Finally, I asked her 1 question. Would she like a bedpan to use? Yes, she thought that was best. I didn’t say anything to the nurse but hoped she picked up on what I did. Then the intern came in and was loud and asked numerous questions about DNR Healthcare directives. I whispered to him to be softer and have fewer choices. Again, I asked if she would like someone beating on her chest if she stopped breathing. I then asked if she would like a tube down her throat to help her breathe and again, she said no. She already had directives on file, but they needed to check again. Hospital staff is very busy, but when you are dealing with seniors you need to break it down into smaller pieces so it is easier to understand. I did chat with the ER manager later and made those suggestions. I wasn’t complaining, but rather sharing what I have learned. I told her I appreciated their efforts. You need to know. Always, show praise and appreciation for those who are caring for your loved one. You will find more support and care when you make those efforts. Please remember you are an important part of the care team.

I appreciate hearing from you. Positive or negative. Remember what I said above. Positive is always better. I think we need more positives in this angry world. My email is attached, or you can call the church and they will give you my number. God bless you and keep you. His face will shine down on you.

Feel free to respond, ask questions, or tell me what you think.
I hope that you can find one thing that will be helpful to you. Email: larsondel@gmail.com

Caring For All:   Sept 30, 2022    Del Larson, Certified Lay Minister

In my last post, I strongly suggested that you as a family communicate with family early regarding the end-of-life journey.  Healthcare Directives, Power of Attorney, and update your will.   Over the last couple of weeks, I have had to deal with two unique situations that correlate to this topic:

God is always working in our lives and God included me in a phone call that I received a week ago.

The woman on the phone was looking for a moving company. I tried explaining that I was not involved with any moving company.  She kept saying it was my number.  I looked up a couple of moving companies and gave her the numbers. I then gave her my name and number. I found out that she had my information. I was becoming concerned about her. She was in a nursing care center and was moving to an assisted living facility.  The connection is that she had contacted our church looking for assistance to get to church.  When I realized it was her that I sent an email, I was amazed at how God made this possible.

I went and visited with her and also the head nurse from the care facility.  She is moving from a large multiple-bedroom house to a one-bedroom assisted apartment.

Her husband died this spring, and she has no children.  The more I learned the more concerned I got.  She says she can handle everything and didn’t need any help from anyone. I had strong doubts about that.

This is what I talked about in my last post.  We all need to plan for our end-of-life journey, including couples without children. Who can help if you are the last survivor of the marriage?  As we age our memories and cognitive skills diminish.  That is why it is vital to have a plan in place. Planning should start early, so it is your plan and not someone else.

I appreciate hearing from you.  Positive or negative.  Remember what I said above.  Positive is always better.  I think we need more positives in this angry world.   My email is attached, or you can call the church and they will give you my number.

Feel free to respond, ask questions, or tell me what you think.

I hope that you can find one thing that will be helpful to you.  Email: larsondel@gmail.com

 

Talk with the Family

Topic 2—Talk With The Family

Around 1990, my siblings and I received a letter from our mother.   Why send a letter when I see them at least a couple of times a week?  Surprise!  She writes to tell us that she has Parkinson’s’ Disease.  At first, you wonder why she didn’t call each of us.  As you reflect, it was apparent that this was a difficult moment in her life.  Her beautiful letter told us that she didn’t want to call each of us because she wasn’t sure if she could maintain her composer, and say everything without breaking down.  For many of us, it is too easy to just take over, and tell our parents what they should do. In this letter, mom shared her strong faith in God and her closeness to her children.  There is a lesson here.  Adult children must work on their listening skills again as parents age.  Less talk, more listening.  Fewer questions, and more listening. I have seen in my ministry where adult children want to take control of everything.  When that happens, their parents lose their value, confidence, and self-confidence.  This is the time to start a conversation, if not before, with the family to see how we as children can be supportive of our parents.

You DO NOT want to tell them you will help and are going to every appointment with them so that you can make sure they are getting the information correctly. That starts the process of them feeling the loss of control of their lives.  Ask them how you can help.  Treat them with respect.  I imagine most of us will be in that situation someday. How do we want our kids to help us?  Guide them into including you on decisions, like giving up their driving, and eventually their home.  Be supportive and encouraging.  You may need to take control right away, but do it in a supportive way rather than just becoming the parent of your parents.  Transition is different for everyone.

I got frustrated once with my mother and her driving.  She had agreed that she would only drive to church, which would take her on very wide streets and not much traffic.  Before this, she had a couple of accidents that were her fault while driving. Then one day she decided to go downtown to get her hair fixed.  “It was just for an hour, and I drove very slow,” was her response.  I think you can see the problem with driving slowly.  At that moment, I told her if she was going to go downtown, she could drive herself to all appointments.   That hurt her, and I knew I was wrong.  We are human, and our emotions can get away from us occasionally. I’m hoping these topics help you avoid my mistakes.  My wife was working part-time and usually took them to their appointments.  I was very fortunate to have a supportive wife, who was always willing to help.  In emergencies, the staff helped me if I had to leave suddenly.

Your involvement will continue to increase, until the point when they enter a nursing home.  You will still be involved in their care, but there is a sense of relief knowing they are safe.  It was 1992 when I started journaling. Not only was it helpful in keeping track of the deterioration of my parents, but it also helped me to be able to look back to see what worked and what didn’t.  It was reassuring and comforting.

Focus:  Start talking to your parents while they are still able to care for themselves, and find out what they want if their health deteriorates.  If you are the elder, talk to your children. Tell them where your documents are located.  Do a healthcare directive and share it with your children.  I have seen a few times in my ministry, where parents do not share information, or have a healthcare directive. Update your will. This is a mess you don’t want to put on your children.  If you are alone or don’t have children to take care of you later, then find a close friend or relative.  You are going to need that support.

The next topic is Planning Ahead.  Feel free to respond, ask questions, or say what you think.

I hope that you can find one thing that will be helpful to you.  Email: larsondel@gmail.com

Del

You Are Not Alone

Caregiving For All:   Del Larson, Certified Lay Minister

Topic 1:  First, you are not alone.  I admit that many times I have felt alone, and like I was drowning.  I was first responsible for my parents.  Oh, I had help in their care, but I was the captain of the ship.  There were times I had images of the Titanic sinking, and I was trying to hang on.  However, when I looked around there are many lifeboats that held my supportive wife, our children, friends, relatives, and colleagues standing and waving to me. They were there for me, reaching out to grab me and help pull me out.

Worry and fear, are very strong emotions that many of us have.  I admit I might have been in the top 10 for worriers when I first started.  Yes, I still worry today about my wife, but it is so much better than my reactions 30 years ago.

 

  1. Journaling— Every time that issues, appointments, or calls came I put them in my journal. Eventually, when I became stressed out, I went back and read my journal. I saw all that was accomplished, and although my parents were getting worse, I was seeing that what we were doing was the best we could.  There is no doubt that God also worked with us. You will see how God has been there for us through this journey.  When I turned to God, fear and anxiety decreased.  Over time, as my faith grew, I realized how important it was to ask God for help.  My brother had an expression, “If God brings you to it, God will bring you through it!”

 

  1. Take care of yourself— Stop thinking you can take care of everything. You can’t!  You will only make things worse by harming your health.  Then who will care for your loved one?  You have a home, a family, a job, and other things to take care of.  My wife was excellent about picking up some of my tasks and taking my parents to appointments.  My teenage children occasionally stayed with their grandparents when needed, including my son driving them at times.  My colleagues reminded me when I looked tired or got grouchy.   Friends and relatives called, or visited to see how we were doing. Taking care of my wife for the last few years has made me more aware of taking care of myself.  When I had back major surgery in March of 2021, I was in the hospital and rehabbed for two weeks.  My wife was home by herself, much of the time alone.  With the help of Lutheran Social Service of Minnesota, the caregiver group I belong to, our family developed a care plan that covered every situation. One time my daughter called, and felt that my wife was choking.  She immediately called our neighbor to check on her.  She was fine. Remember those who fail to plan, plan to fail.  With this plan in place, I was able to go ice fishing with my son and his two daughters this winter for 3 days.  Recently, I drove to Aberdeen, SD to visit my last remaining aunt. Nine hours I was gone, and my wife was covered for half of that time.  I have come to realize more and more that my health has deteriorated.  That is why I am taking the time for me to do the things that help me stay strong and sharp.  Driving for 6 hours was a soothing time.

 

  1. My wife, who is in a wheelchair, but can transfer to other chairs and beds, calls me a helicopter caregiver. I am always checking on her and even installed a security camera.  I have cut back on its use because it beeped every time she moved, and started to follow her. It wasn’t healthy for me.  I had to have faith. The reduced time was better for me, as I am not interrupted every time she moves.  Luann also has a Life Alert, which detects falls, or if she pushes the button, help will be summoned.  It has happened one time.  She tipped over in her wheelchair on the balcony.  I had walked our daughter out but forgot my keys.  I tried to call Luann to let me in, but no answer.  I immediately called one of our neighbors, who is on our emergency list, to let me in.  911 was on the way, and my son called me because he got a call from Life Alert.  I was able to lift the chair off of her.  She only had a bruised ankle.  I tried to lift it again later, but there was no way I could budge it.  Thank God for creating adrenaline.

Del

 

Your feedback is always welcome. Feel free to send personal messages.  You can reach me at: larsondel@gmail.com