Jessica Gibbs [00:00:33] Welcome back to Off the Wall Today. It’s just me, Jessica, your host today, Dave, is off, but we’re going to be talking about kind of a difficult topic today, which is taking care of your aging parents. It’s something we see our clients at Monument grapple with sometimes for many years. How do you take care of your loved ones when you’re a busy executive or business owner? Sometimes with your own family, your own kids, and you have lots of demands on your time? Where do you even start? What are the biggest mistakes you should look to avoid? Are there things that you aren’t even aware of that you should be thinking of? That’s why we’re really here to tackle today. And we’ve got several members of Monuments Team here. You know, they’ve dealt with this firsthand, and I’m really grateful to them for their willingness to open up and share their experiences and what they’ve learned in helping their parents. So please welcome Dean Catino, President and Co-Founder of Monument.
Dean Catino [00:01:29] Hello, everybody.
Jessica Gibbs [00:01:30] And Monument’s Client Experience Managers, Cathleen Phelps.
Cathleen Phelps [00:01:33] Hello. Happy to be here.
Jessica Gibbs [00:01:35] And Cecelia Gilliam.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:01:37] Hello.
Jessica Gibbs [00:01:38] So taking care of aging parents obviously encompasses so much financial, medical, legal, potentially downsizing a home, retirement community, long term care and end of life wishes. So we thought it would be helpful to kind of break our conversation down into specific topics. And Dean and Cecilia and Cathleen will share their wisdom along the way. So let’s dive in. Research by Fidelity Investments found that 72% of parents expect one of their children to assume long term care giving responsibilities if necessary. But only 40% of kids cited as filling that role were actually aware of that. And similarly, 70% of parents expect one of their children to help manage their investments or retirement resources. But only 36% of those kids involved actually knew that. So there’s a big disconnect between what parents and kids may be thinking. And Cathleen, can you talk a little bit more about the importance of starting the conversation with your parents early?
Cathleen Phelps [00:02:40] It is so difficult to start the initial conversation about aging and eventual death. Nobody wants to talk about that. But somehow you need to find out what your parents plans and wishes are. And when I think about it reminds me of having to have that birds and the bees conversation with my kids. And you think, How am I going to do this? When should I do it? And really, it’s not just one talk. It’s many smaller conversations over time as things change and evolve. Maybe using a news article or somebody else’s experience as a way to bring up the topic because it’s kind of the awkward, but you need to do it. The very last thing you want is to have a crisis and then not know what your parent wants and not have visibility or access to their resources to help them.
Dean Catino [00:03:32] Yeah. Cathleen, I’m in total agreement. So important to start the conversation early and in small steps, like you said. And I actually believe that many of our parents really want to have this conversation. I love the idea of using stories of friends and it or an article to bring up the point that’s so very important. And in my experience, many of our parents are very aware of their advancing age and the limitations that often come with it over time. And this is a universal fear, but there’s a fear of losing independence. And that’s where we can help. None of this is really new. We’re all going to go through it. And the goal here is to help our parents with support and resources and to let them know that we’re listening to them and letting them take the lead as they move forward.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:04:23] I would say you’d want to begin right now protecting yourself and your loved ones early by putting financial guardrails in place while you still have the cognitive capabilities and capacities to safeguard your financials. And that way you’re prepared to pull the trigger and enact the plan when the time becomes apparent. So I would say don’t kick the can down the road. Be proactive now and get your affairs in order.
Jessica Gibbs [00:04:50] That’s such a great point, Cecilia. We’ll talk more about the legal in a bit. But that cognitive capacity is so important because if you lose that, that completely changes the game as far as how you can prepare. So great point. I also think even if someone still has their full cognition, I think it’s worth noting that seniors are really easy mark for scam. Even if they are fully cognizant. In 2020, two, adults over age 60 reported 88,000 complaints to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, with total losses of $3.1 billion. This is just in one year, and the average loss per victim was over $35,000. So people are getting targeted even if they are fully of sound mind.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:05:35] They are a vulnerable group. And I can share with you a personal example with my mother in law being scammed over the phone. She was called by these nefarious actors, frightening her so much that she was going to go to jail for not paying her federal taxes. She had calls upwards of five times a day. She would then call my husband and I in tears thinking she was going to go to jail. We eventually had to change her phone number and make it private. But again, because we didn’t have all the information and all the guardrails in place, the phone company thought we were the scammer. So it was it was a lot of work just to get her phone number changed. It is frightening that they are a vulnerable population out there and there are bad actors preying on them.
Jessica Gibbs [00:06:22] Right. And in addition to bank accounts being targeted, I think you also have to think about your parents’ house, which could be a significant asset. Think about my in-laws, for example. They’ve lived in their house outside Seattle for decades now. It’s appreciated significantly and they frequently get calls or even people knocking on their door trying to buy their house directly from them. Whereas it may seem like a good idea to transfer ownership of their house to you, the child, in order to protect your parents from predatory buyers. Doing so means that you would lose step up in basis on the house if they owned it until their death. You’re taking on the liability associated with a house you’re not living in. So it may not be as brainless of an idea as you might think it is going to be. I want to get more into the financial and know I want to bring you more into the conversation to run through the universe of financials that listeners should be thinking about. I want to approach this from the perspective of, okay, if you’re kind of taking that first step into having the conversation with your parents and your they’re starting to open up. They’re trying to share their finances with you. What is the list that you need to be thinking up? Because of course, there’s a lot of things and it’s easy to make stuff.
Dean Catino [00:07:36] So it really is. In preparation for this, I started writing down various accounts in various areas and the lists kept getting longer and longer and longer, and then there was like sub lists of certain areas. So as I was prepping for it, I did write this stuff down. It’s a huge playing field and what I wanted to do is I wanted to categorize as I grew through the lists in a few different areas, and I’ll bring a little color to some of the items, but I’m going to hit this list and hopefully I can do it quickly. As you said, Jessica, this is the idea. If so, if a parent is going to start opening up their finances to you, these are some of the areas that you should be kind of thinking about. If they’re not brought up directly, maybe can kind of urge them to say, what about this, this, this and this? And often as kids, we kind of know what our parents kind of have but maybe don’t really. So here we go. Financial accounts and investments, banking accounts, savings accounts, brokerage and investment accounts. There’s credit union accounts. And then we can get into the whole titling of how these accounts are actually titled. But there’s trust accounts and there’s various forms of trust accounts, way too numerous for this podcast. But then there’s joint accounts, individual accounts, there’s tenants in common accounts and designations of transfer on death accounts as well. Those are designations. We’ll talk about that later. Then there’s the retirement accounts, the classic ones we all know about IRAs, Roth IRAs 401-K plans. There’s pension accounts, there’s annuities, there’s actually life insurance, long term care insurance, there’s health savings accounts, flexible spending accounts used for medical care. Each of these accounts have beneficiaries. And that’s something that, again, we want to be looking at. Are the beneficiaries accurate? Do they represent what mom and dad want today? Maybe it’s something they wanted ten years ago and it’s changed. All these things have usernames and passwords, so they’re all electronically connected as well. So a lot, you know, capture right there. Then there’s like donor advised accounts. These are charitable accounts and even 529 accounts where as an owner, maybe mom and dad own a 529 account for a grandchild, we need to make sure that we understand that. Then there’s the advisors and key relationships that mom and dad may have legal your CPA, your tax advisor, a wealth advisor, etc. We want to make sure that we know who those people are moving into liabilities and credit credit cards of which there can be oodles of credit cards. It’s not just a Visa card, a MasterCard. It could be a credit card for a retailer or what have you. Debit cards, mortgages, lines of credit, home equity, lines of credit. Personal loans. Maybe Mom and Dad lent money to somebody and you need to know about that. Then there’s all the home bills and automatic payments that have been set up through their banking relationship. Often utility companies, gas, electric phone, those dollars come automatically out of mom and dad’s bank account. So we want to make sure that we have a good understanding of that. And then there’s other services like lawn care and cable. Homeowner’s association, the list goes on and on and on. Getting into income and cash flow sources, Social Security, pension income, rental income, investment income. And that might be in the form of gains and losses. Interest in dividend income, annuity income. There’s life insurance that can also play a part here. Personal loan in that the income in principal that may be returned there to your mother and father. Let’s get into assets a little bit. The primary asset most people know about is the home, the primary home. It could be a home, it could be a condominium. There could be vacation property as well, or rental property. There could also be business investment interests as well. There’s also art. Some of our parents have a very nice art collection that has great value. And then there’s personal sentimental items that you want to know about. And of course, a safety deposit box that we want to make sure that we have access to or at least know about.
Jessica Gibbs [00:11:29] Or know where the key is.
Dean Catino [00:11:31] Key is. Exactly. Big note on real estate, because a home and especially in my parent’s situation, they’ve been in their home for 50 years. Jessica, much like your your in-laws, they’ve been there forever. I know my dad bought that house for $76,000 back in the seventies.
Jessica Gibbs [00:11:45] Oh my gosh, wow.
Dean Catino [00:11:47] It’s worth $1.6 million today. There’s a huge gain there. The point is that he’s put a lot of money into that house. That increases cost basis. So driveways, roofs, additions, kitchens, etc.. These are capital improvements that increases cost basis. So we want to make sure that if someone’s been in that house for a long time, even though they bought it at a very low dollar amount, they’ve put a lot of money into it. That increases your cost, which decreases any gain on that house. So I’m going to stop there. The list is long. I’m kind of exhausted. I want to let the next person go.
Jessica Gibbs [00:12:19] Let’s get overview, though.
Dean Catino [00:12:21] Thanks.
Cathleen Phelps [00:12:22] Well, is a lot. You’ve gone through a huge laundry list of items. And as a kid, I’m like, how do I even find all this stuff or what? This all is because it’s not my account. So there are a couple of options. You don’t even necessarily have to be titled on any of these accounts As an owner or even a power of attorney. Your parents can add you as trusted contacts on many of these accounts so that institutions and advisors will talk with you if there’s ever a question or a need. You can also be listed as an interested party on financial accounts and receive statements, so you at least have an awareness of what’s there and what the activity is.
Jessica Gibbs [00:13:05] I think being an interested party, I think it’s really important because unfortunately, even if your parents have an investment advisor, you should still look closely at their holdings and activities and their account just to make sure that they’re advisors, not steering them towards bad investments or churning the account to create commissions, which unfortunately happens every adviser is not like Monument, is not always looking out for the best interests of our client. So that’s where I think if you can be listed as a trusted contact our interested party, you can start getting those statements, as you said, Cathleen, and you can really be keeping an eye out for that.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:13:39] And on the flip side of the investments, there’s also the medical insurance and medical benefits that you should have the conversation with your parents of being added as a trusted contact, someone who the physician or the medical facility. Your parents will grant them access to talk to you about their medical conditions and how they’re being cared for. That’s another consideration.
Cathleen Phelps [00:14:03] And here’s a long shot. See if you could get your parents to use a password manager. Maybe you use one yourself to set a good example, but everything has a log and you don’t necessarily want to be receiving all this paper. It makes it hard to understand what you’re looking at. Eventually you are going to need to be able to log into their account. It’s just really, really difficult if they haven’t maintained that access for you. I mean, my mom still has things she can’t log it into for my dad and he’s been gone for three years. My brother has the same name. So that has made it much easier to work through some of the access problems. But that solution’s not going to work for everyone.
Jessica Gibbs [00:14:44] You know, and see if your parents are willing to let you be added as a contact. So their regular bills, if they’re still doing the paper bills and still writing the checks, in particular see if you can set up electronic payments. That could be a nice way to help them with better pay, but I think also gets you insight into their expenses. So that’s another idea. Okay. I want to turn to the legal and estate planning, because we all know how important that is. We talked about the. Earlier. I want to dive into that more. As Cecilia said, it’s so important to create and keep these documents up to date. You know, while your parents have their full cognitive capacity. So, Dean, what are the essential documents that listeners should make sure that their parents have and importantly have up to date?
Dean Catino [00:15:30] You’ve given me another daunting task here to go through a list, and I’m going to try to trim it as best I can, because as I was thinking about it, this list can get really long and really in-depth. And that’s the idea here, is to cut out, not scratch, the surface. We want to go a little bit deeper, but here goes. There are really four essential estate planning documents and you may have heard of them, obviously, a will, a trust, a power of attorney. And then there’s something called an advanced health care directives, of which there are different flavors of that. The idea here is not to give you a lesson on how these all work, but make you aware of them that they’re out there. We’ll do a quick review, but if you know your folks, have them get copies of them if you can, especially if you’re named as a trustee or power of attorney, you definitely should have that. But read them, go through them. Are they current? Check the beneficiaries. Does it express what your parents want today? Some of these documents are very, very old. Mom or dad could say, Oh, yeah, we have a will. We created it 25 years ago. It’s probably doesn’t represent what they want today.
Jessica Gibbs [00:16:35] Or potentially a state laws within the state.
Dean Catino [00:16:38] Absolutely. So here we go. Wills and most people are really familiar with will say have a pretty good understanding of how they work. A will is really only becomes effective when you pass away. It really has no use while you’re alive. It’s one you die. So I’m not going to get into the components of a will only to understand that a will must go through something called the probate process, and that is really a court supervision of property being transferred from one person to another, and that this is a public process. So we want to try to avoid that because there’s a lot of issues. Things get slowed down, they get mucked up. It can be very costly and it can be time consuming as well. So we want to avoid probate. The things that get probated are things that are in assets that are titled in somebody’s name solely like a bank account. For example, Mom and dad have a bank account. It’s in Dad’s name. Dad passes away. That has to be probated. It just can’t flow. So there’s ways to avoid that. You can put on what’s called a transfer on death designation to accounts, which is a very simple way of transferring an asset at death to a beneficiary. It could be one person, it could be several people. It’s totally up to the individual. There are joint accounts. Joint accounts also avoid probate joint tenants with rights of survivorship. It goes from one to the other at death automatically. And of course, a trust doesn’t go through a probate because there are name beneficiaries there.
Jessica Gibbs [00:18:12] If you’re listening to this, I think I just want to underscore if you or the child is listed as the executor. Probate is going to be on your shoulders. So you have an interest in limiting what’s going to go through probate as much as you possibly can to make that probate process as streamlined as possible is going to make your life easier if you’re in the role of executor.
Dean Catino [00:18:34] It’s important to have a will. Make no mistake about it. But what goes hand in hand with a will is a trust. Typically, it’s referred to as a revoke trust or a living trust. It works in a very similar manner to a will. There are name beneficiaries. The cool thing about a trust, the important thing about a trust is that there is something called the trustee. And typically when there’s a living trust, the person who is the guarantor or the person who creates the trust is also the trustee. It’s my trust and I’m in charge of everything. The trustee basically is in charge of everything. But the important aspect about a trustee is that there can be a successor, a trustee. So if I become incapacitated, the next trustee up the successor can step in and take control of a lot of what’s going on. The important aspect about a trust is it doesn’t have any real value unless something is titled into that trust. You may have a trust. There’s nothing titled into it. It’s just a collection of ten or 12 pages of paper. So we want to make sure that we title assets in the Trust. Things like bank accounts, things like real estate. Essentially, anything can be titled into that trust. And then on your passing, it actually moves over to the named beneficiaries and it works outside of the probate process. And that’s very, very important. The next item up is a power of attorney. Again, this is such a very, very important document. Simply put, a power of attorney is really a written document that gives one person the principle and empowers another person, the attorney, in fact, to act on their behalf as a fiduciary. So for asset management, for example, if you become incapacitated, that person who holds that attorney, in fact, through the power of attorney, that person can act on your behalf to do pretty much everything that you would do, all of your banking, your bill pay, collecting from creditors, operating a business. They could even sue on your behalf. They can make gifts on your behalf. That is a very, very important document to have, and it’s something that you want to think about before your parents, if they don’t have one, to make sure that they actually think about this before they get into advanced years. And finally, the last one is advanced health care directives, of which there really are two. There’s something called the living will. Many people are familiar with that. And there’s something called a power of attorney for health care. So let’s talk about them for a second. A living will essentially directs your physician for your end of life procedures and wishes. If you become incapacitated, we’ve all heard horror stories about somebody who has gotten very sick and they’re on some sort of life sustaining equipment. For all intents and purposes. They’re not going to get better at all, however, because their body may be very strong. They could be in this state for many, many months, in some cases even years, which is something that I don’t think many people would want. But if you make that decision in advance through a living will, you’ve actually told your physician, I don’t want to be in that situation for a period of time. And that allows that physician to take your wishes and act on them appropriately.
Jessica Gibbs [00:22:02] I think the advance medical directive, I feel like people have opinions about that. Some people really prefer I don’t want a legal document that I did years ago to dictate my end of life care. So if this is the case, if this is your parent’s preference, I’d rather have a conversation with my health care power of attorney. Maybe you, the child. And I’m just going to tell you what my wishes are and you’re going to make decisions in your best interest. So that is another approach. Not to say like you have to have a medical director, but I think if you’re not going to have one, you need to make sure you’re really clear on what your parent’s end of life wishes are and that you’re comfortable fulfilling that role. Also being the one to make those decisions.
Dean Catino [00:22:41] I actually did this with my mom and dad, and my dad had a hard time with it, just like you were indicating. The nice thing about having a living will is you’re not putting the pressure on any one individual kind of make the call. That’s a lot of pressure on somebody. But Jessica, your point is well made, it’s specific to your situation. And just to know that it’s out there is so important. The second thing is a power of attorney for health care, Jessica, which you kind of hit on, but that really allows. Your attorney, in fact, your agent to actually make decisions in regards to your health care. By the way, you don’t have to be incapacitated. You could actually be just older and you want to have someone there to kind of help you make decisions to get information on the diagnosis, treatment options, the release of information to help you make medical decisions on behalf of your folks. That’s so very important to have, because sometimes physicians or medical institutions are reluctant to release that type of information, even though you may be a family member. This is a legal document that gives you the authority to kind of step in. There’s also something called a HIPAA release. And many of us, when we go to the doctor’s office, that’s one of the first things you do when you fill out the profile. Has your insurance changed? Are you at the same address? And by the way, who do you want to designate as somebody, if you prefer, that they can actually release information to? HIPAA is an act that was enacted by Congress and brought into law, does not allow information to go to any outside party without your consent. So your medical information is your medical information until you give authority to release it to somebody else.
Jessica Gibbs [00:24:23] Yeah, the HIPAA release is really important because you can approaach it in two ways. One is how Cecilia referenced before, where you’re at your doctor and you write in I give HIPAA release for my doctor to talk to whoever you want. But what if your parent is sent to the E.R. for some emergent events and the hospital doesn’t have a HIPAA release? This is the piece of document where you can show up to the hospital. You can say, here I have a HIPAA release when my parent was cognizant and they gave me authority for you to talk to me. So this is like you have to think of HIPAA as a two way street. You can approach it where you give your doctor that right. But I think it’s also important to those what if scenarios where you just haven’t already given it. This is your piece where you as the child can get information about their care and that may be at the hospital setting or a doctor may also be at a residential facility.
Dean Catino [00:25:13] And I could even come back to the health care power of attorney, which actually gives you not only access to the information, but the ability to make a decision, which is also really, really important.
Jessica Gibbs [00:25:23] But I think this is something I’ve heard from attorneys, is when it comes to the health care power of attorney, it’s best to list one agent, no co agents. That’s really the advice that I’ve gotten from attorneys so that you really do have that one person who is talking to the doctors on behalf of the family and saying, this is a decision. But let’s just say you’ve got two siblings and one of you is the power of attorney for health care decisions, but you still want your siblings to be able to receive medical information and talk to doctors if needed. So that’s where the HIPAA release comes into place. You can list multiple people to be able to talk to doctors.
Cathleen Phelps [00:25:57] It is a lot. And for your parents, do you even know where these documents are? If they have them, that’s great. But do you even know where they are so you can see what they say. My mom recently redid her estate documents. We worked together with her attorney on that. I have online copies of those, so that was great. But prior to that, when my dad was alive, there were no online copies of anything. They had paper copies and my parents stored them in a safe. And I didn’t know about that combination for a long time. These are the kind of logistical considerations that you might want to think about before there is some kind of emergency and also encouraging your parents to keep all of these related documents together, all your estate documents, Social Security cards, insurance policies, having everything in one binder is helpful. My parents actually had a red binder they were counseled to do. This is part of my dad’s retirement planning at his job. That binder was literally red, so it was easy to find and it had everything in there. It was really very helpful when we needed it had doctors and trust in a state attorney. Information about enhances and accountant to financial institutions. Pretty much anyone we would need to contact in an emergency or to settle affairs.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:27:22] True and also tagging on to that. Not only do you need to know where the documents are, you also want to take a step further in making sure the beneficiary information is correct and verifying that your parent’s assets are titled correctly. Not to pound the drum from what Dean just said, but if there is a trust in place, make sure that the information and the assets are all titled within that trust again. Another example is my mother in law. When she passed, she had a partnership that had never been titled in her trust. It went into probate for over a year. No distributions were made or allowed until the asset was titled properly. And again, that becomes public record. So making sure your information is correct, beneficiary information, check that at least annually because that could change as well for whatever events might have happened in the past year. And then if you don’t have a trust, consider, to Dean’s point, adding that transfer on death. I’ll give you another example is a car. I’m not going to get into the advice here, but we had a vehicle that was in probate for over a year. So have a checklist of all your assets and how they’re titled and do your best to keep it in order for when the events unfold.
Cathleen Phelps [00:28:35] I just help my mom with a lot of that prior to establishing the trust and we went through and redid all of her beneficiaries after my dad died and we added transfer on death to all of her accounts, which she didn’t need before, because prior to that they had been joint accounts for a while. She didn’t really see the point of having a trust. My parents really didn’t see the point of having a trust. It just seemed like a big expense. But after my dad passed, my mom started to realize, Oh my gosh, what if something happens to me and I’m incapacitated? I think I am going to need a trust after all. So it is a good idea if your parents have not taken that extra step or haven’t seen the point of making that investment, it really is a good idea to get that immediate access to funds for their care in that situation.
Jessica Gibbs [00:29:27] Let’s switch gears to talking more about care needs as your parents age, because they can be hard to keep a pulse on your parent’s physical and mental state, particularly if you don’t see them regularly. And it’s possible that they may seem okay when they’re in their own home, they’re in their familiar surroundings, but you take them out of that environment. Maybe they come stay at your house for a little while, then maybe it becomes apparent that it isn’t safer for them to be living alone, or maybe that they’re very lonely. I think mental health is something worth checking in on your parents about, so maybe it is time to start looking at retirement communities. That’s kind of the next step that they want to pursue. So as I said, it can be really hard to see that when these changes as we age are often incremental.
Cathleen Phelps [00:30:14] That is true. And as our parents are aging, all kinds of health care considerations are cropping up. Either they get sick or develop some kind of chronic illness or perhaps have a fall and an injury. And just understanding the impact of that is really a lot easier if you can persuade them to allow you to go with them to their doctor’s appointments for those kind of things. It’s really nice anyway to have additional ears and someone to take notes because medical vocabulary can be complicated and overwhelming, and it’s really surprising if you have two people there and at the end, like, were we even in the same room?
Dean Catino [00:30:56] Compare notes, right?
Cathleen Phelps [00:30:58] Everybody is hearing different things. So it’s really nice to have extra ears. And being part of these visits allows you to ask questions and to ask questions that your parents might not think of or might frankly be too scared to ask. Like, is it time to start hospice? Hearing everything firsthand is just going to give you better information for making living and other care decisions. And also, no parent likes their kid telling them what to do. So difficult decisions like you need to move to assisted living or you really should not be driving anymore. That kind of thing might be better received from their doctor, someone outside the family rather than you. So that’s just another reason to make sure you can have some communication with your parents’ doctors.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:31:45] Agreed. And another consideration is you don’t want to end up somewhere in reaction to an event, a medical event that puts you in the assisted living home that you didn’t even have the opportunity to choose. And I guarantee you you will not be happy. So take the steps and the time now to help your parents think about what type of environments are right for them. What level of care do they need to know now as far as independent versus assisted living? And are there steps up and when would you be pulling those triggers to. Go from independent to assistant living. And if you’re looking at retirement communities, there might be a wait list. There’s additional upfront costs, down payments, ongoing costs. They will adjust for inflation. So that will skyrocket as well. And are there medical evaluations required to enter the community in order to establish a baseline for the type of care that the community will need to offer to your parents? And then, of course, over time, as they move in, there is going to be that graduated care that they might need to step into when it becomes apparent. And how do you access that care? The other thing to consider are amenities inside of these or retirement facilities. And consider finding a caregiver manager who becomes the ears and eyes for your family while they’re at these communities and they can report back to you. We’ll talk more about the caregiver manager later on.
Dean Catino [00:33:19] I just want to kind of add on just a quick story here, because you made me think of something. These facilities are very necessary, but they’re also very, very expensive. It’s really important to vet them. Just because a facility is big and large and expensive doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to be better care. And my personal story with my mother, who was in a memory care facility, she was starting to fail and there was a local home that was right in the town that my folks have lived in for the last 50 years. One of my best friend’s sisters actually worked there for decades and very highly recommended. My mother was in there for a little over 24 hours. I’m not going to go through the details, but it was a horrendous situation and the care was it was a terrible event. We moved her out of there and she went into another facility that only had 30 patients and it was wonderful. My point is that you need to vet these places and it’s so important to visit them, which many of us want to do anyway, but to visit them often. And even though visiting hours may start at 10 a.m., sometimes it’s interesting to get there at 9 a.m., just get there a little earlier and just kind of see what’s going on. And hopefully you will never be surprised. But I think it’s always good. These facilities are supporting your loved ones and you’re not there 24 hours a day and often the staffing is maybe not what you would want that them and check in as often as you can.
Jessica Gibbs [00:35:01] And I think if you’re listening to this and you’re just starting the journey and you’re just trying to get a sense of why long term care costs even are in the area where your parents want to live. One tool that I love is from Genworth, and we’ll link this in the show notes where you can search the average costs for in-home care if that’s something that your parents want. We haven’t talked about that as much. Their preference is to receive care in-home for as long as possible. You can search costs for community and assisted living care and nursing home facilities by city, state or zip code. So you can really get a sense of what the average was. That could help as you’re planning. And if your parents have a long term care policy, it may be worth starting to investigate the details of the benefit and how to trigger the start of coverage, even if they aren’t planning to use it.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:35:48] Just to that point, Jessica, I had an experience with Genworth in a long term care policy with my mother in law, and one thing we learned is the policy can take upwards of 6 to 9 months to get rolling because they have to establish a baseline of what is required. Doctor evaluations need to be had. Doctors need to sign off and then there will be other people coming in to the home to evaluate what the policy is going to help you. So if you do have the long term care policy and Genworth was one that our family had just my own personal experience of what we had to go through to get that going. It was upward of 6 to 9 months. I will say that they did look back once we already started paying out of pocket for the care. They went back and made us whole, but it was an interesting process that we weren’t quite prepared for.
Jessica Gibbs [00:36:36] That’s really interesting because I think most people will think, Oh, it’s a 90 day elimination period. That means you won’t have coverage for 90 days. But that’s so interesting from firsthand experience that it may take way longer and you may be out of pocket for costs, but you eventually, hopefully you’ll be reimbursed for, as you said. But that’s really interesting planning. I want to add to what we’ve been talking about, because there’s an often overlooked part in the conversation around moving to a retirement community, and that’s the need to downsize. Going through all of the things you’ve accumulated over your lifetime and deciding what to keep, donate or dump is something that’s going to take a lot longer than you think it’s going to.
Cathleen Phelps [00:37:15] We just went through this with my mom. My parents lived in our family home for like 40 years. We had a lot of stuff in there and my parents really had been spending time cleaning things out, giving things away, donating things, just throwing things out. But when the time came to help my mom move to a smaller place, it was just really a lot of work. It was very overwhelming. Even with three siblings and my brothers in the real estate business, we had a lot of expertise that people wouldn’t necessarily have and we still decided to hire help. There are businesses that can help you with downsizing. They include hauling away what you’re not going to take. They can help you sort through what to keep. They can help you send more valuable items to auction so you can make some money from that. They will take things away to charity or just haul stuff off to the dump, if that’s what makes sense. They can organize movers for you, pack up the truck, unpack into your house, and set everything up so they can really do an end to end move management for you if that is what you want to do. Of course all of this costs money, but it can also save a lot of time and emotional agony of going through decades of stuff. So we contracted with someone to help my mom and then each kid would go over and spend time with her to frantically try to reduce the number of hours required to clean outside. So they were definitely good in helping us be accountable. But I will say that the company we chose really wasn’t the right one for us. We didn’t have a great experience. So I would say if you do choose to hire help, make sure that the group you hire is certified by the National Association of Senior and Specialty Move Managers- NASMM. That’s quite a mouthful, but that is a professional organization that has a certification for companies who want to help seniors manage their move. That’s a very specific kind of project. So as you’re evaluating companies, make sure that you’re looking at a move manager as opposed to just an organizer. She’s going to put stuff in the closet.
Dean Catino [00:39:42] Did the place that you guys chose- were they part of that organization?
Cathleen Phelps [00:39:45] You know, I don’t know because at the time I did not know that that was something that I should look for. But now that I am further along in the process and more educated, I would definitely use that site as a resource for finding someone qualified to do the work. So again, check references. Also, these people should be able to give you references and you’ll hear what the company did well and what they did not do well. And you can make a more informed decision.
Cecelia Gilliam [00:40:16] And I’ll tag on to that. Another little nugget to consider. If your parents are downsizing and selling their home, to consider having the mail forwarded to either the power of attorney or a trustee, if you are named as such on your parent’s affairs, because the mail will get misplaced. And then even consider later on when your parents cognitively start to show decline, consider having the mail forward is at the same time to help alleviate to Jessica’s point where you’re still getting the paper mail for the phone and the electricity because my mother in law had the power turned off and the cable turned off because she had failed to pay it on time. And so we kind of stepped in and helped her with that and helped her organize it. And we shredded five months worth of bills that had already been paid, but she thought they hadn’t been paid. So forwarding the mail and helping them organize the mail is another consideration. To help your parents during these times.
Jessica Gibbs [00:41:14] Wow. There’s just so much to talk about. And honestly, we haven’t even really delved into long term care or end of life planning. Maybe that’s a follow up episode, but my last question to you guys is just if you could leave our listeners with one big take away from your own personal experience, what would that be? And Dean I want to start with you.
Dean Catino [00:41:37] Yeah, thanks, Jessica. There’s been so many incredible facets to this conversation. We’ve hit on a lot of them, but I almost feel that we’ve kind of scratched the surface on some of them as well. So there’s a lot more here. But in my mind, the most important step is really to begin. You have to start and knowing that it can be very difficult and sometimes awkward, knowing that this will most likely be a process. It’s an investment in your folks and that’s what everyone wants. I do understand this, that everyone’s relationship with their families are very unique and the pathway traveled forward will also be very unique. Some of us are very close. Some of us aren’t. And that’s okay. Allow your parents to lead a conversation if possible. You can guide them, but let them lead. You’re there to be a resource and a copilot. And this preserves and extends their independence something that everyone really, truly wants. Sometimes parents also have a very hard time asking for help and assistance. So make sure that you’re listening carefully as they share their feelings and experiences, anxieties and frustrations. The central goal here is really to focus on keeping your parents safe, healthy and happy for as long as you possibly can. And that’s an honorable goal.
Jessica Gibbs [00:43:00] It is. Cecilia?
Cecelia Gilliam [00:43:00] So my takeaways would be to plan. Now, I’ve said that multiple times in this podcast and statistically all share the article. The NIH has predicted in the next ten years as the Baby boomers and the Gen-z ers all start to retire, the costs are just going to go through the roof. Coupled with uninsured patients that are coming into the mix as well. It’s going to be a major factor of the costs. So start planning now. On a personal note, I want to instill two emotions. Patience is profound and just kindness because it’s a part of your parents life where you now become the parent. Once a parent, twice a child. So like, sometimes you’re kind of dealing with multiple parts of your life, with your own family, your mom and dad. So patience is going to be the winner in this event when it comes.
Jessica Gibbs [00:43:57] That’s good advice. Cathleen?
Dean Catino [00:43:58] That’s well said.
Cathleen Phelps [00:43:59] Okay. I will say that support networks are super important, both for your parents and for you. So think about who is your parent support network besides you. Do they have neighbors or friends from church or somewhere else who can help provide emotional support or even practical support in terms of getting volunteers or to help them meals driving around other caregiving? Hopefully your parents have some kind of support in addition to you because this can be a stressful time. The next thing is are they even willing to use their support network? And Dean mentioned this It is so hard to ask for help, and my parents didn’t like to ask for help. They’re used to being the helper or not the helpee. And, you know, if they’re private people and just don’t want to burden anyone, maybe remind them that their friends want to help them, they want to. So they shouldn’t feel bad about asking for help. And then you’re going to need your own support network, especially if you’re doing significant caregiving and especially if you have kids depending on you too. So figure out who that network is, minus my running group. Lean on them. They will get their turn to lean on you eventually so you don’t have to feel bad about it.
Jessica Gibbs [00:45:22] That’s good advice. Cathleen I’ll finish up with my piece of advice, which is a lot more blunt, I think, than what Dean, Cecilia and Cathleen I’ve shared. It’s, again, to the point of start early, start looking at options, start talking about what your parents want and what they need sooner than later. Because if your parents procrastinate and I drag their feet for so long, it becomes a crisis. And you get to a point where you either get to make your own choices or the choice is going to be made for you. I think if you have parents that are really having a hard time opening the conversation with you, that may be a way in as to say, I want you to be able to make your own choices. I don’t want to be in a position where I’m making the choice for you and it doesn’t matter if you like it or not. So that if you’ve got a tough nugget.
Dean Catino [00:46:06] Tough love.
Jessica Gibbs [00:46:07] Tough love. Exactly. So thank you all so much. I mean, this is just I know you all spoke from the heart here and spoke from experience. And I just really appreciate it. If you’re listening to this, I really encourage you to in particular for this episode, take a look at our shownotes. We have a ton of helpful resources listed that you can check out. Everything from a financial advocate task lists to caregiver resources. As Cecilia mentions, you know, maybe if you’re like, I don’t even know how to find a caregiver, a home health aide, a retirement community, I don’t even know where to start, that these are resources that you can use to help you get going. We also have some resources listed, like companies that can help with elder fraud prevention and bill pay. We can also have a resource on how to find a financial therapist, which maybe if you have some challenging family dynamics around money and caring for elderly parents, maybe that’s a helpful resource. So again, thank you all so much for joining me. Really appreciate it. And thank you, everyone listening as always, we really appreciate you following along.