Honoring Veterans

With Veterans Day coming up, you might be wondering how you can show your appreciation to the veterans in your life and community. There are plenty of large and small gestures you can take to make a veteran’s day and to perform an act of kindness. Here are 4 thoughtful ways to honor Veteran’s Day and all those that serve our country.

Donate to a Veterans’ Charity
If you’d like to help out but don’t have the time to volunteer, you can always make a donation to a reputable organization that represents veterans With more than 40,000 U.S. charities dedicated to assisting U.S. veterans, you might not know which one to choose. Consider donating to a charity that helps out veterans in your area, or perhaps offer funding to organizations that provide support on a nationwide level.

Take Part in the National Two Minutes of Silence
Whether you’re at work, at home, or in your car, you might consider taking a few minutes to silently reflect on the impact members of the U.S. armed forces have made in the country. If there are any veterans who mean a lot to you, take your time to reflect on your gratitude for these special individuals. This two-minute period takes place at the same time nationally, but different times depending on individual time zones.

Wear a Poppy
Veterans Day is a significant day for former members of the U.S. armed forces. Many veterans wear hats, pins or uniforms to share their pride in their service. If you are not a veteran but want to support the veterans in your community and around the country, you can wear an American flag pin or red poppy to show your gratitude for these service members. You might be wondering what the significance of the red poppy is. Its connection to Veterans Day comes from the famous World War I poem “In Flanders Fields,” in which the red flowers were the first to bloom in the fields after battles in France and Belgium. Poppies are also considered a symbol of appreciation for veterans in various European countries.

Send a Gift to a Veteran
One way to show your gratitude to a veteran you know is by sending them a thoughtful present. You might decide to bake them a fresh batch of their favorite cookies or get them a gift card to their favorite restaurant. Maybe you’d rather give them something that will brighten up their home? A nice selection of Veteran’s Day flowers bring color and life to any home. When you send someone a bouquet of flowers, you will show your gratitude for their service. When they see their bouquet out of the corner of their eye, they will think of your kindness.

When to Have the Talk About Hospice

Hospice care, as defined by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization is “quality, compassionate care for people facing a life-limiting illness or injury…involves a team-oriented approach to expert medical care, pain management, and emotional and spiritual support expressly tailored to the patient’s needs and wishes”.

The earlier you have the conversation about bringing in hospice care, the better. When given a prognosis that doesn’t clearly indicate a specific survival time (such as Congestive Heart Failure or advanced cancer) but is a life-limiting illness, your loved one may think they have longer to live than they actually do and not be ready to admit that hospice care is an option. Respecting this uneasiness doesn’t mean you shouldn’t discuss it. And one of the benefits is that hospice helps families to deal with the grief and anger and denial through the counsel of social workers and chaplains.

How to actually have the conversation includes the following:

Be understanding of your family members’ feelings. Fear and grief are very personal and each person expresses them differently. Patience is needed by you so that they can become ready to talk about hospice care.

Include family members in the conversation, and respect the wishes of your relative if they say they don’t want specific family members present. Those who have been caring for the relative in the home should be part of the conversation from the beginning.

Don’t expect a decision immediately. There may be questions and a request to think things over. Allow your relative the time to adjust to the idea. As their illness progresses, you can introduce the hospice option again.

Convey to your loved one that you truly want them to have the best care possible. You want to bring in hospice care to help ease their pain and offer additional support and guidance through this last phase of their life.

It’s not an easy conversation to have, but if you approach it with patience and kindness, it can help make the experience of bringing in hospice care more comfortable for you and for your loved one.

-Helen Justice

Have you ever wondered whether you’re eligible to receive public assistance like Medi-Cal, Social Security, or Veteran’s assistance Benefits like the VA Pension Fund? Well I host FREE seminars that cover how to receive many different types of public assistance. 

To Find Out More, Go To: http://www.advancedwellnessgcm.com/seminars/


What happens to your business or work when you get the call Mom or Dad is at the hospital? Are you ready? What are important documents you need before you go racing to the hospital. What happens to your own business and how long will you be absent? Not earning income. 

First, breath when you get the call because you are prepared.  You got this!

Documents you need now:

  • Copy of Health insurance Cards
  • List of Medications and even the new ones
  • Healthcare Proxy – so you can speak on behalf of your parents
  • Advanced Healthcare Directive
  • Power of Attorney

Have a copy of these documents ready in your car or with you. Without these you are not able to speak on behalf of parents. More and more hospitals and health care provider are requiring the right documents. 

You will become the advocate for your parents. You are not at the hospital to make friends; you are there to get your parent the best care for them. The hospital is there to rotate the bed and keep it making money. The sooner one vacates the next person will fill the bed either in the hospital or ER. Don’t assume the discharge planner, social worker or the staff is your guiding light through the doors of hospital or ER. You want to know your options so you can make important decisions. You know best of your love ones not the person trying to do their job rotating the bed. You are not a medical person and it’s fast and confusing the decisions you need to make. Don’t be afraid to ask questions! Ask until you understand because there is a medical language that is foreign to you.  Understand the diagnoses and treatment. Better yet is there surgery needed and you need to know what happens after surgery. 

Listening is the next weapon in your toolbox. Be the extra set of ears for your parents. Take notes when you are talking to the medical staff and doctors. If you don’t understand repeat the questions and ask for them to explain in a different way. 

Who’s at home? Let me explain. Most the time Mom is the caregiver for Dad. Statics show that the caregiver (Mom) will end up in the hospital before the sick person. Who will sit with the Dad that may have Dementia or Alzheimer’s? More and more families don’t have family nearby or they are single child with no siblings. 

How to handle your Job/Business:

This is an emergency call and you need to go fast. You can make calls from the hospital. Or you can have family members call your work. Let you manager/boss know so they can pick up the slack. If you choose to stay at work your focus is gone. Go ahead and work guilt free, we all handle crises differently. Have someone cover your shift, work, or projects. 

  1.  Talk candidly with your boss or manager. 
  2.  Use the Family and Medical Leave Act if you Can
  3.  Ask if your Employer has other Caregiving Benefits
  4.  Change your work hours temporarily
  5.  Consider hiring a Geriatric Care Manager

Having your team of professionals advising you along the way makes it so much easier and less stress. It also helps getting you back to your business or work. Having a working relationship with a Geriatric Care Manager that can be your eyes and ears on the ground. You might not be near your parents and you need someone now. Some pitfalls that happen when not prepared.

  1.  Thinking that my sibling is doing the parent care and I’m off the hook
  2.  Not giving appreciation and emotional support to the main caregiver
  3.  Falling prey to the “killer” misconception that “I shouldn’t have to ask”
  4.  Assuming that our sibling are the same people they were as kids

Think about 8 key areas:

  1.  Family support
  2.  Health safety
  3.  Medial needs
  4.  Cognitive health
  5.  Mobility
  6.  Personal Hygiene
  7.  Meal preparation
  8.  Social interactions

 Finally, think about your own needs and abilities. Does your own health allow you to physically are for someone? Do you live close enough to visit as often as needed? Would you want to live with them, either in their house or yours? Do you have the kind of relationship that allows you to spend a lot of time together without creating a lot of negative feelings on either side? Do you have the personality to provide the type of care they need? Are you willing to learn how to provide that care?

These are just a few of the areas you may not have thought of. Finances on both sides is major concern. You not working and earning income and parents may not have enough assets to handle the emergency. This includes in-home care, board and care, assisted living, home-health, palliative care, hospice, and finally arrangements. A Geriatric Care Manager will be your tool for guidance and recommendations. 

Advanced Wellness GCM, Inc

VIP Concierge Care Management

 VA Accredited Claim Agent (POA #27203)

 Medi-Cal Applications

RCFE Administrator and Instructor USAF Retired

Finding the Right Retirement Community for Your Parents

Your parents have been retired for quite a few years and they say they are now ready to move to a retirement community. They’ve asked for your help because they’re overwhelmed with the choices available and aren’t sure what they can afford or what kind of community they want to live in. Now it’s time for you to go shopping.

Begin in the immediate area where your parents currently live. There may be a city or county agency in your area with a resource directory that will make your research much easier. Your local library is a good place to go for this information, too.

When you’ve created a list of communities that warrant further research, use the following as a guide to insure that you’ve selected the right ones for your parents to choose from:

  1. Research the Community Restrictions. Pets, young children, outdoor grilling, parking vehicles anywhere other than a driveway are all examples of restrictions that can be found within any housing community. Whether the community is apartments, housing, gated or ungated, it is a community and there will be restrictions.
  • Home Care and Maintenance. Who will take care of the home while your parents are out of town or traveling? Some communities have onsite maintenance, repair and security services while others don’t. Caretaker and home-watch services are common in high-end communities and their costs can be added to the overall costs of living in that community.
  • Community Financial Health. Many retirement communities have been affected by the recent recession. You can ask to see the association financial records. You can also search the county clerks’ officer for foreclosures and liens in the community, as well as tax and property assessments.
  • Meet the Neighbors. Visit the community and meet some of the people living there. Social activities occur every day in planned retirement communities, making it easy to stop by and meet new people at any given time.
  • Nearby Medical Care. What is available? What will your parents need now and in the near future and as they age? Does the community have onsite medical services or is there a medical office nearby? If there is a hospital or clinic does your parents’ primary healthcare provider or specialists have privileges there?

Bring the results of your research to the conversation with your parents and choose the communities that interest them. Then do a site visit with your parents before the final decision is made.

A Few Common Myths About Aging in Place

Aging in Place is a phrase used by many industries to describe our desire to stay in our homes as we age, to put off going to a nursing home or assisted living facility as long as possible. There are a few common myths among those who are considered middle-aged that need to be cleared up a bit, and they include the following:

Myth: Aging in Place is a Conversation for Old People

Nobody wants to get older. And most people want to stay in their own home as long as possible. But, because they believe that “aging in place” is a conversation for old people, they hold off having that conversation or making decisions about making basic remodeling changes to their homes until it’s almost too late. Too late? Yes. Unless you have unlimited funds, waiting until you’re 70 years old to declare that you intend to “age in place” is too late. And, the longer you wait the more expensive the remodeling costs will be. Now is as good a time as any to begin making small, affordable changes. Changes such as replacing lower cabinet shelves with easy slide drawers, putting in a bench seat in the bathtub or shower, adding a safety bar in the shower to prevent falling, changing thresholds in doorways to prevent tripping, are all remodel changes that add convenience now to your daily living and will serve you well as you age in your own home.

Myth: Paid Caregivers Don’t Care About Their Client, They’re In It For The Money

This is a myth that stems from the idea that a professional nurse, therapist, or home care aide can’t care because they receive money for the work they do. These trained caregivers chose their profession because they care about the people they get to work with. And, as they work with each individual they establish a relationship so that the client will feel at ease while working with them. This relationship makes the work more enjoyable for the caregiver and removes anxiety and stress from the client – making life a bit easier for the client.

Myth: Paid Caregivers Are Only For The Very Sick or Very Old

Many seniors age without getting ill or experiencing serious injury. What they may experience is difficulty with eyesight so driving is no longer an option, or troubles with their joints so being able to pull themselves up from the bathtub or handle heavy pots and pans is a problem. Non-medical caregivers are available to assist with these daily living needs and are a great option to reduce the stress and anxieties of someone who can live on their own but has a bit of difficulty doing a few things around the house. An additional benefit is that these caregivers also offer companionship to the senior, removing the lonely feeling that can often be felt by someone with limited mobility who is living by themselves.

Myth: Caregiver Services Provided At Home Are Inferior

The skill level of a professional caregiver is the same whether that care is provided in the home of the client or at an institution. In reality, those medical professionals who work in the field and in the homes of the patient are often given a bit more training than those who work in a hospital or nursing home or assisted living facility. Whether the care being given is medical such as regular visits for intravenous medication or physical therapy, or is non-medical such as helping with household chores and shopping, each professional caregiver is trained and certified, and sometimes receive additional certification to be able to work in the field.

Stress and The Senior of Today

Stress is a part of life. Truly, it doesn’t matter what age a person is, they will and do experience stress. Children feel the stress of doing well in school and learning how to navigate social situations. Adults feel the stress of responsibilities to their work, their families, and to their households. Seniors feel the stress from changes they aren’t prepared for like the death of a spouse, loss of contact with friends who have moved into different housing, and the simple tasks of everyday life that used to be easy and are now a bit more difficult due to health and physical limitations.

The effects of stress on seniors can exacerbate mental and physical health issues, adding to the normal stress that is coming from Life and aging. It’s important to understand that this additional stress isn’t good and when identified can and should be relieved quickly.

Here are five of the most common symptoms of seniors experiencing too much stress:

  1. Eating Habits. Changes in eating habits that range from loss of appetite to overeating.
  2. Mood Swings. Irritability, sadness, depression, bursts of anger, bursts of laughter.
  3. Memory Issues. Lack of concentration and inability to recall names, places, or other things that just a short time ago came easily and naturally.
  4. Aches and Pains. Sleeping patterns, increased episodes of illness, the onset of aches and pains for no apparent medical reason.
  5. Isolation. Refusal to socialize, to participate in activities they normally enjoy.

Recognizing these symptoms and having a conversation with the senior about what’s happening in their lives can begin the process of reducing the stress and returning the senior to a more relaxed state.

Some things to address in the conversation include:

  1. Financial Issues. The recent recession reduced most of the retirement investments and savings of the senior population to an alarmingly low level, causing a lot of stress and angst.
  2. Healthcare Costs and Changes. The cost of healthcare services has increased dramatically over the past few years. In addition, how these services are offered has changed so much that many seniors no longer know how to navigate the options and offices, physicians and specialists that are now available (or not available) to them.
  3. Grief. Acknowledge the recent loss of a loved one or friend and offer the senior solace through your own actions or by connecting them with a religious authority such as a priest or rabbi.
  4. Loneliness. Don’t ask – but look to see who they are interacting with and when. Do they talk about the bridge club or the golf outing? Do they talk about other people as if they were friends?

Once it’s been accepted that the senior is experiencing too much stress, some ways to alleviate the effects the stress has caused include yoga, walking, cycling, and other physical activities the senior enjoys. These are great tension relievers while also helping to clear their mind and feel more energized. Socializing is one of the best ways to reduce stress and keep it away. Social groups can be found at the local library, volunteer opportunities at the local senior center. The best way to help the senior is to take an active part in their recovery from being overstressed, and that can be as simple as making a phone call or driving them to an activity.

How to Help a Grieving Parent When They Lose Their Spouse

There are few things in life more devastating to a senior than losing their spouse. Whether the spouse is your natural parent, step-parent, or your parent’s partner, it’s important to understand the level of despair and grief your  parent is experiencing.

Understand that there is no definite mourning period, nor is there an amount of time that needs to pass for things to return to ‘normal’. People don’t get through the pain of the death of a spouse easily, though they do eventually learn how to cope with it as time passes. Some parents will want to talk about the deceased, sharing memories that you both can talk about. Some parents will avoid the subject completely, especially if the death was painful or unexpected. Take your cue from your parent.

While you are adjusting to the level of discussion your parent is willing to have, you can help by attending to their physical needs, making sure they aren’t left alone for too long as depression from isolation can set in easily.

In the meantime, if the deceased is your parent, you must cope with the loss while also helping your grieving parent. Remember, losing a spouse is very different than losing a parent so don’t attempt to assure them that you understand how they feel.  But do share your own feelings of loss and memories – if your parent is ready to share with you.

Something to keep in mind is that your parent may appear to be coping quite well with the loss at the moment and then experience grief months after the fact. Delayed grief does happen and it’s important that you recognize the signs so that you can help your parent through it. Those signs include:

Forgetfulness. Your usually organized parent is missing appointments, locking their keys in the car, or mailing unsigned checks to pay the bills.

Disorganization. Unable to manage their time, taking longer than usual to complete everyday tasks.

Unable to Concentrate. Unable to finish a book or conversation without the mind wandering to a different topic.

Lack of Interest. Loss of interest in things they used to look forward to doing. They may say things like “what’s the use?” or “why bother, who cares?”

While all of these things can be alarming, in most cases by encouraging your parent to talk things out and to express their feelings, these things pass. If at any time you think your parent may do something harmful or be placed in a potentially dangerous situation with driving or around equipment, step in and offer a warning to remind them to be extra careful right now. If you believe your parent requires more than a reminder, talk to the primary care physician or care manager.

The Nutritional Needs of the Elderly

Eating right and staying fit are important no matter what your age. You know that as you get older your appetite has changed, your taste buds have changed and you prefer foods today you may not have cared for when you were younger. The same is true of your elderly parents. And while personal preferences may have changed, more importantly, their nutritional needs have changed.

Some Things to Consider

In addition to changes in appetite and taste buds, some foods can be difficult to chew or digest, and physical changes in the digestive system make it difficult to absorb all the nutrients the aging body really needs.

Another challenge is that because the number of calories your elderly parents need is reduced, every calorie they consume must be packed with nutrition. This makes treats and ‘junk’ food even less appealing in terms of offering what the body needs.

Handling kitchen tools with arthritic hands can be difficult, so many elderly stop cooking for themselves. Which results in eating a lot of canned or boxed foods because they’re easy to prepare.

So what can you do?

First, understand the nutritional needs of your elderly parents, then create a plan that works for them and makes it easy for them to get these nutrients on a regular basis.

Here are top vitamins and nutrients to look for and have on the plan:

B12. It is important for creating red blood cells and for maintaining healthy nerve function. Foods that are rich in B12 include fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk products. Older people don’t absorb it from food as well as they did when they were younger, so talk to their healthcare service provider about possibly adding a B12 supplement to their daily meal plan.

Folate. This is actually vitamin B9 and aids in the development of red blood cells and supports the nervous system function. Remember when you heard “eat your greens”? This vitamin is in many green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, turnip greens, parsley, collard greens, and broccoli as well as cauliflower, beets, and lentils.

Calcium. As you know, calcium is most important for building and maintaining strong bones. Chances are good that your elderly parents have been consuming less calcium as they age. This puts them at risk for brittle bones and fractures. To combat this, add more servings a day of low-fat milk and dairy products, add kale and fortified juices to their diet. Calcium-rich foods are the best choice because the body needs both calcium and protein, both of which can be gotten from dairy and greens. An option for those who dislike milk is smoothies. Made with yogurt, fruit, and some vegetable smoothies are great for those who have lost their appetite, have difficulty with chewing or have dry mouth due to medications. They are easy to make and easy to consume. They also freeze well.

Vitamin D. This vitamin helps the body to absorb calcium, maintain bone density, and prevent osteoporosis.  While few foods naturally contain vitamin D, many are fortified and these include cereals, yogurts, and juices.

Potassium. This mineral is vital for cell function and helps reduce high blood pressure and the risk of kidney stones. The best way to consume this mineral is in fruits and vegetables, especially banana, prunes, plums, and potatoes with their skin.

Magnesium. This nutrient has a role in over 300 physiological processes and getting enough will help the immune system stay in shape while keeping the heart healthy and the bones strong. Many whole foods, including vegetables, contain magnesium, but your elderly parents may not be absorbing enough because of medications they are taking. Unprocessed, whole foods such as fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, beans, and seed, are all great sources of magnesium and can be part of every meal your parents consume.

Fiber. Healthy digestion depends on fiber to move foods through the digestive tract. Fiber-rich foods include whole grains, beans, fruits, and vegetables.

Omega-3 Fats. Found in fish as well as soybeans, walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil. Making sure your parents have two servings of fish each week will ensure that they’re getting enough Omega-3 fats. Canned salmon on a salad with a favorite dressing is an easy meal to fix.

Water. As we age our sense of thirst declines, medications can dehydrate us, and it’s easy to forget that water is a great drink to have with meals.

None of the nutrients listed should come as a surprise. What is important is that you be aware that your elderly parents need these nutrients in every meal they consume. And making sure this happens isn’t nearly as difficult as some might think. Be creative. Use cranberry sauce instead of mayonnaise with a turkey and whole wheat bread sandwich. Prepare snack mixes of pumpkin seeds, nuts, and raisins and put in small storage containers. Pre-chop raw vegetables for salads and store in small bags in the refrigerator, transfer a bag of fresh spinach to a storage bag and place in the refrigerator next to small containers of canned fish – now all your elderly parent (or you) need to do each day is place a handful of spinach on a plate, use a small bag of veggies to cover, add a favorite dressing and you have a salad ready to eat.

Pre-Planning VS Catastrophe

Our aging population is growing at such a rate that our systems will not be able to handle this influx.  We hear from the adult children that “They never saw this coming”, when the disaster strikes their parents. “They are independent and I didn’t think it was our business to get involved.”  Then, when the parent(s) are at the hospital, for what ever reason, the fear of what’s next and how much will this cost them can be overwhelming to say the least. 

With our seniors living longer there are two things that our aging population worry about: (1)  Will I run out of money before I die? (2) Will I be a burden to my children? 

The last three years of their life is the most expensive.  They tried to save and hope they have done everything by pre-planning.  Most the time they do pretty good, however, most don’t plan nor even want to talk about it.  Many adult children are retiring from years of working to find themselves in a new career of CAREGIVING for their parents.  It’s a full-time job and most are ill prepared for the duties and everything that goes along with taking care of Mom or Dad. 

We had disastrous fires in Northern California that hit families like they had never seen.  The majority lost it all.  Most made it out with the shirt on their back and their pets.  Starting over will take years and many of them don’t have the years nor the time to re-build.  Now what?  How will they finish the last chapter of their life? 

We hear that Medicare and Medi-Cal are programs that are being looked closely at by our government.  Both of these programs are the life of our senior population.  Without these benefits many would be homeless, could not afford medications, and families can’t help.  Many of the family members are on state assistance also.  Forward thinking and getting educated is the KEY to your future.  This is peace of mind for our aging parents and adult children.  Having a plan that includes legal, financial, health advisers, and advocates is so crucial.  Protecting the savings and stretching dollars is the key. 

Pre-planning for contingency is always good idea as who knows what tomorrow brings.  Having professional and experienced advisers is so valuable.  Aging parents didn’t come with a manual therefore, throwing darts at a board hoping it hits the Bull’s Eye is not a good plan.  No matter where you are in this aging process, you need your assets protected.  Having a Plan, A, B, and C is a must.  Don’t let disaster dictate your future.  Attend our FREE seminar for the answers to your questions.  Register and get the updated information.  Learn more at: www.advancedwellnessgcm.com

Helen Justice, GCM

VIP Concierge Care Manager

Managing Money

A lot of older Americans wind up needing assistance with their financial assets, according to researchers. The skill needed to manage money is different from most daily functions because it relies on cognitive skills.

“Most older adults want to live independently for as long as possible. The problem is, it’s hard to live independently if you have difficulty managing your medications or finances,” said study coauthor Dr. Alex Smith of the University of California at San Francisco.

Many Seniors Need Help with Money. Smith and his colleagues analyzed data on 9,434 men and women available from the long-term U.S. Health and Retirement Study. Over 10 years, they found that 2,824 people, or 30 percent, developed difficulty managing their finances. Approximately a third of the original group died before demonstrating difficulty.

Among people at the relatively young age of 65 to 69 when the study began, nearly a quarter (23 percent) developed problems over the next decade.

“We don’t help people anticipate the fact that they may lose these abilities,” said Dr. Holly Holmes of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, who wasn’t involved with the study. “We assess them when the abilities are already gone, and people often don’t have a plan in place. We rarely counsel 65-year-olds about their risk and how to plan for it.”

What the study couldn’t measure was loss of function about which the participants were unaware, since the answers were self-reported. “The elephant in the room is that this study covers self-reported losses of function, so the rates are actually much higher for those who don’t realize they’ve lost their abilities,” according to Dr. Mark Lachs, director of Cornell University’s Center for Aging Research in New York City.

What Caregivers Should Know.If you’re the one who steps in to help a loved one manage their money, there are many things you should know. One caveat is that it’s always easier to plan ahead. If your loved one is using the ATM and balancing their checkbook now, it may be possible to add a trusted name to their checking account. In the event of stroke or another emergency, that person can step in. It’s essential to have another name on the account if the loved one has been diagnosed with a progressive disease, such as dementia.

Although a joint account is usually the easiest way to make payments and track expenses, there is risk involved. Most fraud on older adults is committed by a family member (see sidebar). Creditors of either person can try to collect from the account. If either person dies, the money automatically belongs to the other account holder. Some banks will allow you to have a convenience account that allows another person to write checks and make deposits and withdrawals, but will not give them ownership in the event of death of the other account holder.

A caregiver can also help set up automatic, online payments for telephone, cable, utilities, mortgage, credit card and other payments. It’s wise to make a simple budget to monitor income and expenses.

Investments and bank accounts should also be monitored. Mint is one free resource that is both easy to use and capable of aggregating investment and banking information along with having a robust budget platform.

In the event that your loved one is uncomfortable allowing a friend or family member access to financial information, money-management programs can help. Find one at the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging.

Transparency.  Whoever is managing the money should be transparent and above reproach. Decisions should be made in the exclusive best interest of the account holder. Here are some guidelines for caregivers who manage money:

  • Always act in the best interest of your loved one.
  • Use the memo field to record what every check is for.
  • Never, ever borrow from the account.
  • Do not use the account to pay for anything that also benefits someone else. For example, your loved one’s account shouldn’t fund a car purchase that will take her to the doctor but also transport you to work.
  • An open-book policy is the best for establishing trust. Give other family members access to the books, and provide bank statements to assure them you are being a good steward.

Making It Legal. Your loved one should choose someone they trust to be the legal guardian of their assets, or fiduciary, while she is still healthy. This can only be done while the person is still completely competent. There are four ways to become a fiduciary:

Power of Attorney (POA). A durable power of attorney assigns power to another to make financial decisions in the event of incapacitation. POA must be granted when your loved one is of sound mind, and it can only be revoked in sound mind. If no one has a POA or trust, the family may have to spend time and money in court to file for guardianship.

Trustee. In sound mind, your loved one can elect to transfer assets to a revocable living trust and name a trustee. If she becomes unable to make sound decisions in the future, the trustee acts to keep the trust’s property safe. This can include moving items to a safe-deposit box, maintaining insurance policies, making careful investment decisions and paying taxes. Because it is revocable, as long as your loved one is of sound mind and the trust allows, she can elect to change or terminate the trust.

Government fiduciaries. Appointed by a government agency, these fiduciaries manage monthly benefit checks, such as Social Security or military pension payments.

Court-appointed guardians.  A court may step in and appoint a guardian or conservator if it finds that someone cannot manage their money or property alone. The guardian is required to act in the best interest of the protected person, in addition to reporting regularly to the court. Guardians must prepare accountings of income and assets, along with details about how the money is being spent.

What to Do about Conflicts. Money has the amazing ability to create conflict, even among the most civil of families. Siblings are particularly vulnerable to its temptations as they deal with the ongoing loss of a parent to dementia or impending death. Nip this problem in the bud by reaching out to siblings and other interested parties before they voice a complaint. Offer to show them the record books, explain purchases, and answer any questions. If they aren’t satisfied, ask a family counselor, mediator or social worker who consults with families in your situation to step in. A list of mediators is available from The Association for Conflict Resolution.

If there is no one who wants to take over a loved one’s finances, or if the family dynamics don’t favor that solution, your best bet may be to consider a daily money manager/management (DMM) program. These versatile programs can do everything from reminding someone to pay a bill to taking over financial management. Daily money managers pay bills, balance checkbooks, maintain a budget, organize bank statements, track receipts and tax return documents, and even figure out medical bills. Start your search at the American Association of Daily Money Managers, which has an ethical code for members.

Take your time and use caution when hiring a DMM, because they are not regulated by law. Get referrals, and ask the following questions:

  • What is your experience as a daily money manager?
  • What are your credentials?
  • How much do you charge, and what is included in the fee?
  • Is there a minimum charge per visit? a minimum of visits per month?
  • Can you provide references?
  • What will happen if you get sick or go on vacation?
  • Are you bonded and insured?
  • Will you work with your client’s professional advisors, such as her lawyer and accountant?

Remember to monitor accounts, even when you’ve hired a money manager, even though it’s annoying.