“Old age has its pleasures, which, though different, are not less than the pleasures of youth.” W. Somerset Maugham.
With maturity comes an ‘ease of being.’ It’s true, we don’t stay up until the wee hours of the morning (often) but we can still have a fabulous time and be in bed by midnight. Recently, I went to Philadelphia for my cousin’s 80th birthday celebration. It was three full days of partying — everyone had a blast! Yes, bed time was earlier but the enjoyment the same.
Most Assisted Living Centers happy hour starts at 3:00pm! Personally, I loved going to Dad’s Happy Hour . . . let the party begin! Dad and his fellow residents also loved Happy Hour and still had time for a nap before 6:00pm supper!
Another pleasure of old age is being able to play 18 holes of golf instead of a “quick 9”. I remember when we were kids, Dad had Saturday golf every week — and he didn’t get home until after lunch. That did not go over well with the Mother of his children. After the children left, it was 9 holes with Mom once a week and 2 rounds of 18 holes weekly . . . ahhh . . the decadence!
Now, it’s the little things that give us much more pleasure; taking a grandchild to their first ballet or play, hearing the newest member of your family call you “Grandma” or “Nona”. The family getting together to celebrate a wedding or birthday . . . all give us a chance to luxuriate in the foundation we have created for the generations to come.
And to those baby boomers reading this — remember, how you treat your loved ones is how you’ll be treated. Paul said it best in his Epistle to the Galatians: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.”
Buzz Aldrin, the second man to walk on the moon, is 88 years old and has met his fourth wife. The bad news, the kids don’t like her.
Here’s what we know from media reports; Dr. Aldrin has sued two of his (3) children and his former manager. Two children, Andy and Jan, had asked a court to name them as guardians citing his loss of cognitive function and dementia. Warrior that he is, Colonel Aldrin (ret) came out fighting! He sued the kids, claimed they had transferred monies from his foundation for their personal use and used his credit cards without his permission and sabotaged his love life. He made an appearance on Good Morning America excoriating his children and accused them of exploiting the elderly.
The ousted manager, Christina Korp, states that “almost a year ago, some people began to exert undue influence on Buzz. These individuals began to actively try to drive a wedge between Buzz, his children and me, for what I fear is their own benefit.” Her argument is that because he has dementia he is vulnerable to manipulation.
My argument is that the kids and manager he is suing are doing exactly the same thing. This ‘fight’ is about who gets to manipulate Colonel Aldrin. His estate is valued at approximately $12 million. The two children are paid by the Aldrin foundation, as was the former manager.
Lisa LaBonte met Buzz Aldrin because of their shared interest in STEM education (Science, Technology, Electronics, Mathematics). She works for Carnegie Ventures and because of Colonel Aldrin’s work has become a part of his business life. They are great friends.
Colonel Aldrin also has a girlfriend (unnamed) and the relationship has blossomed into something more. One can speculate as to her motive but the same can be said for the kids and former manager. Further, If Buzz Aldrin is happy . . . who cares? Doesn’t he deserve it?
All of this will be solved fairly soon as the “mental health’ tests have been administered and the Courts will review the three different opinions. I’m only sad that a man who gave his life to service for our country (his children did not) has to defend his honor. The children did nothing for the $12 million but now feel as though its theirs to protect. I say, Buzz Aldrin’s life speaks for itself. Good for him making a last stand – no matter what the outcome!
Teddy Roosevelt once said, “Old age is like everything else. To make a success of it you’ve got to start young.” That is especially true if you plan to age alone, without the benefit of children or close family. I am most likely going to age alone and I am preplanning for that. You should too.
Today’s 80 is the new 70 and 70 the new 60. Most of us don’t plan on giving up work, volunteering or travel until we’re well into our 70s or 80s. I have friends who were volunteers at the Key Biscayne Tennis Tournament for over 20 years — the only reason they didn’t volunteer this year was because he became sick and couldn’t.
As we grow older those of us aging alone have to make plans while we’re fully functional. We have to discern what resources are available to us in whichever community we choose as our ‘last home’. With today’s service industry and technology there is a huge advantage . . . there are healthy meal services (both for profit and non-profit), ride share and in many neighborhoods free ride services. We also have medical care right here on the Island.
But, as I state over and over again, it’s about preplanning. You need to have a trusted friends or advisors who can be named as your Power of Attorney for Finance and Health. You need to decide now how to disperse your jewelry, money and tangible goods and write it down. You should also plan to stay out of probate court.
You also need to give your passwords for your bank, phone, computer and any other technological device you have, to trusted friends. Sometimes the best thing to do is find a disinterested third party, such as elder care lawyer, and give it all to him or her. Yes, you have to pay them but it’s a simple business transaction devoid of emotion. You should also think of who is going to manage your health care from an insurance point of view so you’re not selling your tangible goods to pay for unwanted or unneeded health care. You will need an advocate and that takes preplanning.
To review: If you live alone now or believe that you will age alone without the benefit of family, now is the time to decide where to live, who to trust, who to choose as your beneficiaries and who to have as your Power of Attorney. I strongly advise you consult with an elder care attorney for all the correct documentation and to have an advocate for you when you can no longer advocate for yourself.
Now that I’m a senior advocate and activist, I find that many things that used to be funny are now insulting. Recently, Julie Andrews did a performance to benefit AARP at Radio City Music Hall. It was her 79th birthday. To be funny she rewrote the words to “My Favorite Things”, here is one of the four verses: “Cadillacs and cataracts, hearing aids and glasses, Polident and Fixodent and false teeth in glasses, Pacemakers, golf carts and porches with swings . . . these are a few of my favorite things”
Is this funny? Not to me. Yet, she received a four minute standing ovation and several encore requests. Apparently, I’m in the minority. However, I think the truth lies in the difference between the Greatest Generation and the Baby Boomers. Ms. Andrews is part of the Greatest Generation and I suspect her audience was, as well.
First, Cadillacs are no longer and “old peoples car”, secondly cataracts now mean that if you have them and remove them — there is a lens placed in your eye so you no longer need glasses! Hearing aids? I’m confident that one day I might need them and with any luck Bose will have them for $500 instead of $5000. I don’t need Polident or Fixodent and neither did my Mother and she was 88 when she died. If you go to my dentist, Dr. Friedman. you won’t need them either!
More importantly, let’s think of how lucky we are! In today’s world of we know how to fix things – falling thighs, exercise! Cataracts — Medicare pays to have them removed and new lens inserted which means no more glasses! (Or at a a minimum, only for reading tiny print.) For our teeth, we have implants! And, if you want to tuck in the chin, eyes, tummy, face —- well, there is my doctor, John Martin and Mike Kelly. Both are Key Biscayne residents and Dr. Kelly has a column in this paper.
Bottom line – yes, growing older takes its toll but in todays world we can fight against it. We’re all aware of exercise and diet. We know if we simply walk 3 or 4 times a week we live longer, And, yes, fried foods are a guilty pleasure . . . which, from time to time we should indulge! But, for the most part, let’s celebrate those lines . . . and, if you don’t like them — get rid of them.
Gabriel García Márquez states it beautifully, “It is not true that people stop pursuing their dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing their dreams.” When Dad turned 90 I realized 60 was young (and I wasn’t quite there yet). Think about it, the first 30 years, you’re finding your way, the next 30 years you’re working your way and I say, use the last 30+ years to do it your way!
The mindset of the Greatest Generation was to work until you’re 65, retire, receive medicare and social security. I remember, Dad did that and within a year he was bored out of his mind and partnered with a good friend in a small exploration business. That kept him busy until he was about 80. Then he started volunteering at a church-run thrift shop weekly — he quit that when Mom got sick and she became his full time job.
As I enter my 60s I’m launching a company, working my consulting job and writing articles. I love the deadlines and the intellectual stimulation. I think we all do. That makes me think it really is up to us to stimulate our minds in ways that make sense for each of us individually. At the age of 77 Donna Shalala is running for Congress, at the age of 81 Madeline Albright is on tour for her latest book and at 93 Jimmy Carter is still relevant! Yes, they’ve chosen a national platform but being relevant in a smaller community is no less satisfying.
With today’s technology and car-ride services there is no excuse to stay at home if you want to get out. And, if you get out, you’re more relevant. I know an octogenarian amateur playwright (soon we’ll be seeing one of his summer shorts!), and several septegenerian Starbucks employees. All are happy and “pursuing their dreams.” Let’s join them!
George, an 85 year old, was surprised when he received a $4000 bill for his pacemaker replacement procedure, after he was told that it would cost him $250. He’d called his Medicare Advantage plan before the procedure and was told that he would be responsible for a $250 inpatient hospital co-pay. Unfortunately, the hospital and the doctor’s office did not tell him that his procedure would be done as an outpatient with an overnight stay. He stayed overnight but since he was never an inpatient, the bill was applied to his $6500 deductible for outpatient services.
It’s a constant refrain! You’re a senior, on medicare, you do everything you’re told but somehow you still owe $4000. Again – these insurance companies DO NOT WATCH OUT FOR SENIORS and make the simplest of “medical procedures” complicated on the non-medical side. A simple medical procedure mixed with insurance is like a game with no rules. It doesn’t matter what plan you choose, there is still many a “slip between cup and lip”. No other industry in the U.S. is allowed to operate this way. It’s illegal!
This is especially true if you have a Medicare Advantage plan. These plans are less expensive than regular Medicare with a supplement for a reason. They may add extra benefits, but they are often more complicated to understand. So what do you need to do to avoid surprises or issues? Plan ahead, ask a lot of questions and advocate for yourself, your partner, your family members or call Parent Your parents. We can do it for you.
Parent Your Parents is pleased and proud to announce the advent of Ann McGuire, R.N. to our growing group of experts. Besides being a RN she is also a certified case manager and knows the pitfalls of senior insurance issues. Please go to our website, ParentYourParents.com to see her photo and biography. She and I will be collaborating on more articles to assist you with getting through the insurance maze . . . little things like what to do if you’re sent to the emergency room.
Bottom line: remember – insurance when going to a clinic or hospital for any procedure can be very tricky. It’s not because the doctor wants to charge you more, it’s because of the intricacies of how Medicare Advantage plans work.
From March 6 to April 8 of this year, I experienced five deaths of people I consider part of my life. Two were wonderful with whom who I had the pleasure of sharing some time and three were dear friends. All were under the age of 75. Only one of these deaths was from cancer — the other four were unexpected and left families and friends reeling.
There is, in my humble opinion, only one way to conquer death — live a good life. Perhaps my previous columns have been too obtuse . . . so let me make it clear — you must preplan to age gracefully and comfortably. We all have different needs and it is YOUR needs that must be met. It seems that as we age we view ourselves as less relevant but are we really?
When people talk about living a good life they discuss “paying it forward”, or being kind to your neighbors, or creating world peace in your environment. I’m pragmatic, therefore I view living a good life as being relevant and keeping my and body healthy. How do we do that? Easily, we plan. Once we begin using medicare I suggest we begin to plan for our last years — which in today’s world is 80 to 100. The longer you live, the longer you will live. But, and its a big but, we want to live it well . . . and that means having to deal with the senior care/elder care bureaucracy.
I have a plethora of columns discussing how ‘institutions’ are obstacles not cheerleaders — why – because “seniors” are not valued and easy targets. The exact opposite is the real truth – we vote, we pay taxes, our children are the current workforce and we have experience.
To that end, how do we stay relevant? It’s easy, preplan! Whether you have parents or a partner who is older you have to discuss how to stay healthy, both mentally and physically. Some of the mental health is dependent on financial health. What insurance policies are available? How many financial accounts are there? Does the home and financial accounts transfer without going through probate? These are DIFFICULT! conversations but once done provide true peace of mind.
So, I urge you to look at the non-medical side of your life and begin to ask yourself, your partner or your parents the tough questions then find the solutions so that we can all “Vive La Vida Loca.”
- Are the financial instruments in order
- Are the legal documents in order
- Is your house “too much”, does it need de-cluttering or should you move
- Are you, your partner/spouse or parents healthy
ARE YOU HAVING FUN?!?
LET’S DO THIS!
As we all now know, after Hurricane Irma fourteen elderly souls died because the nursing home in which they resided did not have a electricity after the storm. As a consequence, they “overheated” and died. Well, there is good news – the Florida Legislature and Governor have placed $37.1 billion dollars in this year’s fiscal budget to be used across six health care and social service agencies.
Florida’s medicaid program is the largest recipient at $29.2 billion and Children & Family Services receive $1.7 billion. Those living in nursing homes will receive a 25% raise, from $105/m to $130/m. Nursing homes are now required to have generators with enough fuel to cool buildings during elongated power outages. The above monies are all coming from Florida taxpayers but my favorite part of the legislation is not tax based.
Starting this fiscal year, nursing homes (that receive medicaid dollars) will be paid on a set formula. These providers must meet certain “direct patient-care” requirements as well as “quality of care” requirements. In other words, if a nursing home only meets a minimum standard, they will be paid a minimum amount and given a set amount of time in which to bring the ‘home’ up to the formulaic standard. As the homes hire more qualified staff and add amenities to its building and programs – they will receive larger payments. As one law maker put it, they have to spend money, to make money.
As a senior’s advocate I’m thrilled that our state government realized how badly these “homes” were treating their patients. Yet, it took senseless deaths to have a focus placed on how our greatest generation and aging or ailing baby boomers are treated when they can no longer treat themselves. That is where we must be more vigilant.
As I write this, I cannot help but remember the 17 people who died very prematurely at Parkland High School. And, yes, because of the deaths and the student’s activism we’ve put in some stricter state gun regulations. Also many large gun sellers are now refusing to sell to anyone under 21. Still, much like our senior citizens, why must it takes death to examine our mores and ethics.
As I’ve discussed in several articles the discussion of money is a must but can also be a monster rearing its ugly head. We’ve discussed having Powers of Attorney in place for our elderly loved ones. Most states require one for finance and one for medical — two different trusted representatives should be chosen. This allows for shared responsibility and shared communication.
Although the trusted loved one is normally fine and nothing happens, it can be a slippery slope which is why I recommend any financial moves to be as transparent as possible and shared among the siblings or trusted loved ones. The vast majority of family members rarely swindle or take advantage of their parents or elderly loved ones but it does happen and the idea of unrestricted funds can be a temptation. This is why we recommend that there be an “informal transparency” to protect your elderly loved one and you.
Following is one system to implement – one trusted representative is a signatory on the elderly loved one’s checking accounts and a second trusted representative has access to it (i.e. – given the user name and ID). When a separate account is created to pay for care, we suggest two trusted representatives on the account.
The other pitfall are the family members, friends and care takers who will try to manipulate your elderly loved one into private gifts, be it through money, credit card purchases, a car for their grandchild (we’ve seen this) or simply write them into the will. Again, this is why financial transparency is a must. If the monitoring is spread among many it is much more difficult for one to have undue influence.
The elderly community is rife with stories of hired “trusted” caretakers who steal little things — trinkets, jewelry, food and petty cash. (See my column on hiring and monitoring Caretakers). Again, anything valuable should be removed from the house and gifted to the different loved ones and/or trusted representatives. If the family doesn’t agree we suggest outside assistance in the form of attorneys and psychiatrists. I always hesitate to use either because . . . they cost money!
It’s not easy to parent your parents — it’s not a pleasant role — it means Mom, Dad or both are getting weaker and none of us want to admit the role reversal has begun.
When I consult with clients I hear time and time again — Mom doesn’t want to leave her home, Dad is not going to allow any one else to pay his bills, There is no need to force anyone — the name of the game is to persuade in an assertive, caring and respectful manner. For their sakes and yours, embrace the role!
After Mother’s decline into Alzhiemers, my brother and I were thrown into the role reversal with little or no direction. Here’s what we learned:
Accept Your Role. No one else can do it with your love so embrace it and consider it an honor. But for them, you wouldn’t’t be here.
Be Assertive. Yes, at times you will have to tell Mom or Dad (or both) what to do. Of course Mom doesn’t’t want to move from her home — you have to tell her (gently and politely) that she must. You explain the reasons, answer her questions and, as she did with you, persuade her that “this’ is the best way.
Pay Attention to the Basics. Are your parents showering regularly? Are they having regular meals? Are they taking their medication on a timely basis? If not, see above — it’s time to be assertive and decide how best to move them forward.
Insist. Or, if you prefer, be firm. When your parents resist keeping on insisting. “Dad, we have to do this, we’ve gone over it a million times – let’s not fight about it.” Again, no yelling or shoving – just gently insist.
Prepare all the financial and legal documents. Taking the helm of your parent’s finances is a daunting but necessary task. Make yourself, or your sibling, a signer on their checking accounts then have them sign a Power of Attorney for both financial and medical decisions. This must be done before they lose their mental capacity. If you don’t do this it will be much more difficult and costly when they lose their ability to make decisions.
At the end of the day, here is what you have to remember – when it comes to parenting your parents you have three choices:
- You care for your parents yourself
- You hire someone to care for your parents
- You allow them to enter a Medicaid facility
These alternatives all have pluses and minuses. Most of the decisions are based on finances and nothing and no-one is perfect so after you’ve been assertive, and insistent forgive yourself – your parents did!