Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Financial Help For The Elderly

     Many Elderly are living on a very fixed income and can’t afford much in the way of extras.  They must budget their income very carefully and some struggle to the point that they give up many things they really need.  If your parent is in a similar situation and you or another family member aren’t in a position to help much, all is not lost.  There are many programs available that could be of some help. 
       Arrangements should be made early on for those times down the road where you parent will most likely need some sort of services to help them get by.  These types of services will most likely be that of some type of in home care such as health care, or some other type of service.  These types of services usually can run upwards of 19 dollars an hour.  For many elderly, this can add up to draining their nest egg pretty quickly.  Plan far enough ahead that this situation will not come as a major shock to both their finances and there emotional well being. 
       The local Social Services organization is a wonderful resource that should be tapped into.  This organization has government funded grants and monies to help.  If you contact them and explain your situation with them, very often they will be able to help in some way.  Another fine organization is the Area on Aging services and the Community Action group that also can be of great help.  They to have monies allocated from the government for helping the elderly.  Local branches of the American Red Cross provide Americans with help paying electric and heating bills.
       Often these particular organizations are given a certain budget that they have to make last for a certain quarter or even on a yearly basis, therefore, it is important to contact them as soon as possible to be able to receive such funds. 
       These two organizations would definitely be a good place to start when looking for some assistance.
       Many utility companies across the country offer support and assistance to Americans to help them pay their electric bills. Sometimes the utility companies will out source the administration of the program to the United Way. By contacting the local United Way office, you can see if they are aware of any assistance or support provided by any of the utility providers. 
        The Cancer Care Co-Payment Assistance Foundation is a non-profit organization that provides financial assistance and cash grants to people who need assistance with paying hospital and medical bills that result from a cancer diagnosis.
       There are several programs that offer discounted and free prescription medications. They include Dispensary of Hope, Together RX Access, NeedyMeds, and the Patient Advocate Foundation.

The Elderly And Their Assets

      It’s important to make sure the family knows just what the assets are.  I know before my mother passed away, she was very worried that there wouldn’t be enough money to take care of everything.  We were concerned that we wouldn’t have enough money to pay off her bills and pay for her arrangements.  This was something my mother should never have spent anytime worrying over, but she did. After her death, my sister was going through some of her documents and found that she actually had much more money than she herself was even aware of.  My father had investments in stocks and bonds that she didn’t even know about.  My brother and sister and I ended up with much more inheritance than she ever knew.  It saddened us all to think our mother worried so over this and didn’t have the peace of mind of knowing everything was going to be ok.  If there had been some way that she could have known this before, if we would have just taken the time to find out before hand.  Worry is hard on the elderly and knowing that she did so was upsetting.  Find out what there is and what will be needed.  Plan ahead for that time when you will need to know. 

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Business Affairs And The Elderly

     There are many things to think about when it comes to taking care of business concerns.  Taking charge of making sure the parent’s bills are taken care of is a huge worry off their minds.  It’s important to know where all the legal documents are and just what there is to take care of.  Make a list of all bills that need to be taken care of and the addresses to where the payments need to be sent.  Check to see if there’s any balance on any of the accounts.  Find out if there is any extra bills that are not utility type bills such as, monthly donations or Christmas club dues, or maybe they are sponsoring an over seas child each month.  Evaluate at this time, (with the parent) if the budget can continue to fund these things. 
       In today’s world the task of taking care of the monthly bills is getting easier everyday, with the use of the internet.  By going online, most bills can be paid on a monthly basis now with very little effort.  This will most likely have to be set up for them being as though most elderly people are not internet savvy.   I would also recommend if possible in your area, to have your parent’s utilities put on a budget with utility companies.  This will allow them to make easier payments and free up some of their capitol for other uses. 
     Bills that are not reoccurring, like groceries, getting their hair cut or that weekly massage, will have to be taken care of the old fashion way, just do it for them.  When it’s time to get groceries, go for them or have someone go, or if they feel they want to go, go with them.  This is another example of allowing them to hold onto their dignity longer.  Tell them, you love going to the store with them and ask them not to take that pleasure away from you.  This gives them another example of your love for them and also allows them to get the help they need with getting the groceries. 
       It may be a smart business move to put any large assets such as vehicles or the family home place and property into the names of all the children.  It would probably be a smart move to talk to a lawyer that deals with estate planning who also offers Medicaid planning services in case you parent might need government assistance with in the next three years.  Often, if a parent has to go to a rest home facility and they have much in the way of assets, they might find themselves in a bad financial spot, which could effect their forfeiting their property.  Transferring assets may also put those that are receiving such property, eligible for being taxed on it.  These are important things to think about and should be discussed with a qualified lawyer.
     Someone will have to agree to take on the position of power of attorney.  If there’s only one child involved the decision is easy, but if there are more it can become a little bit troublesome.  If your parent has already decided which child this duty will fall to, do them a favor and respect those wishes.  This is something that is probably going to be worrisome to them anyway. They will most likely worry that they may be hurting some ones feelings.  Do all that you can do to let them know that you support what they have decided.  It can be a lot of work being the person with power of attorney or the executor of the will.  This person has to be willing to do the paper work and the research of assets if it is unknown.  This person also bears the burden of making the final decision on most all the legal decisions to be made.  If you’re not the one chosen in the family to do this job, please be patient with the one that is and show them your support.  Usually, it is customary that the person doing this job is compensated by at least $5000.00 for taking it on.  This should not be a source of contention between siblings because the job will require much work to do it right.  My sister did it for our family and did it very well.  She is the one that found the extra money that we (and our mother) didn’t know she had.  She spent many hours on the job and did it graciously.  She didn’t take a penny extra for it and that was an honorable thing to do if you’re so inclined to do so.  It is also recommended that once the power of attorney has been decided on, to also have detailed in a document that names a second person who will take a look at all the bank statements on a monthly basis and do an analysis of all the financial records yearly.  This person can be another family member or a professional accountant.
       It’s also important to try to find extra money for a later time.  Using financial tools such as reverse mortgage can improve the cash flow of the elderly. 
       Checking for benefits that your parents might be eligible for such as a reduction in their heating bills or help with their prescription drugs can really make a difference.  There are many avenues to get help out there but actually only about half the people who qualify for such help actually use it.
       When making purchasing or financial decisions on behave of your parent, it is also wise to consult with other siblings if there are any.  Don’t make the mistake of making an important, or even a not so important decision without consulting the family involved.  This will only open your self up to problems down the road.  Someone will always have a different way to have handled it and will tell you about it.  When you are in charge of the bills and the worries that come with it, the last thing you want to hear from a sibling is that you didn’t do it the right way or that your decision wasn’t done fairly.  Look ahead and prepare in advance.  Even the closes families have issues over money.  Don’t be so naive as to think that yours will not.  When you have done all that you can do to make the decision and the family can’t seem to come to an agreement on something, then it is your job as the executor or power of attorney to make that decision and everyone should support that decision, even if they don’t agree to it.  The only other thing that you can do it to agree on (with the parent) another non bias person, sort of a mediator to make any decisions that are in dead lock.  This way no family member can be upset with any other family member.  All these issues need to be understood and worked out well in advance so that there is no questions or misgivings later.  It wouldn’t even be a bad idea for all family members to sign and agreement stating that they understand the way that procedures will go forth and they will abide by them. 
       Of course, if the parent is still healthy and able to make clear decisions, they are the ones that should set for the procedures and how things will be handled and they will be the ones having everyone else do the signing of understanding.

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As Time Begins to Pass, Driving Can Be A Challenge:

     When our parents begin to hit those later years it can be somewhat like walking on eggshells.  You might start seeing some small things that concern you, but try not to blow them out of proportion.  They might be still driving their car and the thought might come to you to ask them to stop driving or you might even be so bold as to take their keys from them.  This is where many children make a big mistake.  Remember, it is very important for the elderly to be able to maintain self worth and dignity in their later years.  Having a son or daughter tell them what to do or what not to do can really hurt their feelings and cause a lot of problems.  It’s easy to understand this concern if the parent has had some accidents or is not able to drive safely where they might be a risk to themselves or others on the road, but if this is not the case, respect them enough to allow them to have input into what they are wanting to do. 
       If the case is serious and they should not be behind the wheel then sit down with them and discuss it in a very loving way and try hard not to talk to them in a demeaning way.  Remember, they have lived along time making their own decisions and have done pretty well on their own.  They deserve to have your respect as they always have.  Many times just sitting down with the elderly parent and discussing your concerns and worries and why you feel the way you do, will allow them to look at things in a different way.  Remember, they loved and took care of you for a long time and they cared about how you felt and I’m sure they still do.  If you truly show your love and concern for them as you speak to them, showing them respect and dignity, they might surprise you and see things more your way.  Young or old nobody likes to be told what they are going to do.  Often, if your concerns are put to them as “What do you think about this mom”, or “Dad, don’t you think it would be better if we did this”, they would be more excepting of the suggestion and not be as defensive. 
       If the situation is serious and they will not listen after all you have done, it might require a more drastic approach.  I feel that it is very important to hold the relationship between our parents as most important. Having said that, you may not agree with the following tactic, but it may very well solve the problem.  If I knew that my mother was dangerous on the road and that her well being and the well being of many other innocent people were at risk, I might be so inclined to contact a police officer friend or just talk to one about your concerns.  I might explain to the officer that I feel that my mother could be a danger on the road and would he be willing to keep an eye out for her and see what he thinks.  This is more easily done in smaller towns and communities but if you have that luxury, it might be worth your wild.  I’m not an advocate for telling you to be dishonest to your parent or sneaky, but we are talking about their well being here.  Sometimes the less you say can be the best, if you know what I mean.  If the officer feels that she is unsafe in her ability to continue to drive then he can take the needed steps on his end.  This will accomplish the goal of her safety and also help you save face in her eyes as well.
       I do feel that you must be prepared to take up the slack in the event they voluntarily retire the keys or if they are taken by other means.  If they lose their ability to more around that they have enjoyed for many years, this is going to be a life-changing event.  As their offspring we will need to be sensitive to this and be willing to make arrangements for them or be willing to transport them ourselves.  Depending on the number of siblings we have and the availability of each, we can have a family meeting and work out who could be responsible for what week or what day or what church meeting or what ladies or men’s organization we would be able to drive them to.  I would suggest that the parent not be in attendance at this meeting.  I remember times when my own family meetings were taking place and my mother was sitting there.  Every once in a while there would be a conflict amongst us siblings with who could or couldn’t do what and my mother would just get frustrated and speak up and say, “Just forget it, I don’t need it”, or something like that. 
       These types of situations can really hurt the parent in so many ways. Most of all it makes them feel as though they are burdensome and can start them on a path of depression.  Depression is a whole other issue that we will deal with later, but it is very serious.  We never want our loved ones feeling in anyway that they are a burden.  I always tried my best to let my mother and father know how much I enjoyed being there for them.  I’m not saying that every moment was a vacation, but for the most part, I did enjoy being there for them and seeing the gratitude in their eyes.  The parent doesn’t need to be in the meeting anyway to solve logistical issues of who is going to transport and when or who is going to stay and what night.  The parent doesn’t need to be in on who will be taking care of getting the medicines ready each week.  They just need to know that they don’t have to worry about it.  The less they worry the better off they are.  Bottom line is, work around them and make their lives easier.