By Marianne Delorey
I’ve been working in elder care for 30 plus years. I write every month about how to prepare for the inevitable. I knew this day would come, and still, I was grossly unprepared. My mother had a major stroke and I needed to step in.
I am fortunate. I have two brothers who were able to fly home quickly and be with us at the hospital. I also have a loving partner who met me there and stayed with me until I sent him home. I also have close friends and other family members who were ready to drop everything and do whatever needed to be done (seriously, anything! I even had one friend go pick up the cremains of our pet rabbit). I have to say, giving orders made me feel more in control of the situation; God love my friends and family for putting up with me.
I am also fortunate because my mother had done her diligence. She had signed a health care proxy, will, and power of attorney. She had even purchased long term care insurance! I had copies of the most important docs already handy.
I had also done some thinking ahead. I had just started going to the doctor with her and asking for copies of her diagnoses and med list. I stored this info plus her health care proxy in the cloud where I could access it from my cell phone. And access it I did! About 5 people needed copies of both when we were at the hospital.
But that is where preparation stopped and reality hit. My mom’s medical crisis is over. But I learned a few things from this experience that are worth passing on. Here is what I will now advise anyone who is aging or with an aging parent:
- Put together a list of bank accounts and investments. Put at least one family member on as many accounts as you can. Doing so means that should your family need your money to pay your bills, they do not have to go to court first.
- Write down the names, phone numbers and account numbers of all the regular bills you pay (the oil company, the person who cuts the grass, credit cards, etc.) Make notes about what is paid online (automatic withdrawals like Medicare insurance or through a bill paying system) and what is still done on paper. If still done on paper, show someone how you file your old bills.
- Show someone your calendar, where you keep important documents including your checkbook and the password list (yeah, I know we are not supposed to write them down, but we all do).
- Keep a yearly list of items that need to be done for the house so someone can step right in (when does the oil company service the furnace, when do you change smoke detector batteries, are you having someone come out to fix the roof, etc.) so that plans can be cancelled in your absence or followed up on as appropriate.
- Walk someone through your monthly paper processing (paying bills, filing). A while back, my mom and I had both sat through a presentation about the 43 folders filing system, which she adopted. As a result, I understood how her system was organized. If I did not, I would not have been able to step in and do simple things like cancel the power washing of the house or send the birthday cards she had already set aside for the next month.
Having my mom go through such an ordeal was so hard. Because she was so organized, I could spend more precious time at her bedside and less trying to keep up with bills and chores around the house. I’m grateful to have had that extra time with my mom and truly hope families will take these extra steps because it is inevitable we will need someone to pick up where we leave off.
Marianne Delorey, Ph.D. is the Executive Director of Colony Retirement Homes. She can be reached at 508-755-0444 or email@example.com and www.colonyretirementhomes.com. Archives of articles from previous issues can be read at www.fiftyplusadvocate.com.