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Unexpected Events (Part 2)

February 14, 2013

Yesterday I told you short stories about three individuals, at different stages in life, who experienced an unexpected event. You may be wondering why I am focusing on this topic and what it has to do with your every day life.

My response to that is very simple.  Daily we face the possibility of experiencing our own unexpected event.  It could come in the form of a car accident, a work injury, a diagnosis of a chronic illness, or the death of a loved one or spouse. All of these events have the potential to wreak chaos in our lives. We can allow such events to randomly knock us off course or we can have a general plan in place which lessens some of the anxiety and stress.

Let’s review yesterday’s situations:

Paul’s story:

You may recall that Paul had suffered a debilitating stroke and spent seven months in hospitals and nursing homes until he died at the very young age of 51. He left behind a wife and grown step-children.

What could he have done to prepare?

  • A will or estate plan would have been appropriate
  • Assignment of a power of attorney to (POA) deal with his legal affairs
  • Assignment of a power of attorney for health care decisions

Are these things reasonable given he was only 51 years old? You bet! The earlier the better in terms of planning and looking out for loved ones.  Whether he had these things in place or not is unknown, but anyone who owns assets, has a spouse or children, and who cares about outcomes should have, at minimum, these three things in place.

Pete’s story:

Pete, our 78 year-old retired cowboy has had three strokes, has high blood pressure, and has reflux disease. He lives alone with family spread out in other states. Given his independent nature he prides himself on being able to look out for himself and recovering quickly whenever life has knocked him down. He owns a home, has multiple business investments, and lives frugally. He has a policy that covers him in case of cancer and feels he has adequately prepared.

What should Pete do to prepare?

  • A will or an estate plan is a must
  • Assignment of a power of attorney to deal with his legal affairs and finances is also crucial
  • Assignment of a power of attorney for health care decisions should be a top priority
  • Discussion with his family about who he has assigned to be his POA’s as mentioned above
  • A review of all his business concerns to be sure that contracts are in place that will carry over to his heirs when he passes on
  • If contracts need to be re-written to protect his assets for his heirs this should be arranged with an attorney as soon as possible
  • He may want to look into transferring that cancer policy into a long-term care policy in case he becomes debilitated
  • A living will expressing his exact desires regarding CPR and life-sustaining measures should be discussed with his primary physician then added to his medical chart with a copy prominently displayed in his home.
  • Arrangements should be made for a local contact person who can be called in case Pete needs transport to the hospital in a non-emergency or someone to check on him during, and after an illness or hospital stay
  • A Life-Alert system installed in his home which can be activated in the event of an emergency should be considered

No one is expecting Pete to die any time soon, but if these items are in place he will have some peace of mind knowing that his affairs are in order and his wishes known.

Mae’s story:

Mae is a 95-year old woman who fell a number of months ago, but her broken leg and pelvis went untreated for two months. She is now in a nursing home but wants to return to her home. The doctor has denied her that privilege until 24-hour care can be arranged. She needs time to rest, heal, and be cared for rather than being up and attempting to prove her independence. She’s full of spunk, but her body needs to heal.

What things should Mae put in place to assure she is well cared for and her assets are protected?

  • Mae has a will in place for distribution of her assets on her death. Her family is mostly aware of what is in the will since she has talked with them about this in the past.
  • Mae also has a power of attorney (her son) who pays her bills and handles her financial affairs with her oversight.
  • A power of attorney is needed for health care decisions.
  • Given her age Mae will probably not be able to obtain a long-term care insurance policy at this time, but it is something that others may consider as a good tool to have in place for themselves as they age.
  • A living will expressing her exact desires regarding CPR and end-of-life care are a must if she wants to have a say in how she is treated in the event she is found unconscious or unable to make her decisions.
  • The doctor is not allowing her to go home until there is 24-hour supervision. Mae and her family need to have a frank discussion about the costs, the possibilities of finding a reliable person(s) to provide the care and the alternatives to returning home.
  • If it is decided that Mae will return home she, and her family, must seek the highest qualified individual they can afford and be diligent in obtaining background checks, a contract, and information on how this will affect them from a taxpaying standpoint and as an employer now responsible for paying taxes for household help.
  • The family may also want to consider hiring a caregiver through an agency rather than deal with becoming an employer of household help. This will allow them to defer all employer-related paperwork and requirements to the agency.  They can make arrangements with the agency to hire the caregiver of their choice, or even a family member, if they speak up and make their desires known.
  • A Life-Alert system should be installed as soon as Mae is released to go home.
  • A routine of family visits and calls should be established to be sure the caregiver is providing appropriate care and meeting Mae’s needs if she returns home.
  • In the event Mae does not return home, but resides in a facility, frequent family contact will also be necessary in order to bolster her spirits and assure she is receiving excellent care.

These suggestions are meant to help you and your loved ones consider steps to be taken as you, and your parents, age. The goal is to promote open, honest, and caring communication between adult children and  their aging parents while making decisions based on personal preferences and best-case scenarios.

I hope the three examples given over the past two days have gotten you thinking.

I’d love to hear from you with suggestions, questions, or stories about your personal experiences. Please feel free to leave a comment.






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