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Taking Care of the Family Business During the Holidays

November 27, 2009

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The holidays might not seem like an ideal time for adult children to discuss serious issues with aging parents, but a Wall Street Journal article suggests that December is actually the perfect time to discuss such issues, especially because multiple generations typically are in one place for the holidays. The holidays provide a chance to initiate conversations about important issues. The following topics provide good starting points for discussion.

Financial concerns. The recent massive stock market declines and losses in the bond market are serious concerns for retirees relying on their savings. Certified financial planners, including Oast & Hook’s Andrew Hook, recommend that even retirees who prepared a financial plan earlier this year should review and update their plan in light of the market conditions. In some cases, the retirees may have to tighten their belts; families should discuss monthly budgets and identify areas where cuts can be made. Adult children might be able to help out temporarily. On a happier note, grandparents can use holiday visits to discuss establishing 529 college savings for their grandchildren, perhaps in lieu of a holiday present.

Health issues. Oast & Hook routinely receives calls from adult children during the holidays. Because the children don’t see their parents on a regular basis, when the children visit during the holidays, the children notice that their parents are not doing as well as they were during the last visit. Children can observe whether the parents can walk as well as they did before – are they shuffling or unsteady? Are the parents having problems remembering names? If the parents are supposed to be taking medications, then the children can observe whether the parents are taking their medications as prescribed.

Another related issue is determining whether the parents can still take care of their house and function by themselves. Children should observe whether the parents are dressed appropriately, are interested in their personal hygiene, are opening their mail and paying their bills, have food in the refrigerator, and are keeping their house clean.  Dust and cobwebs might indicate that the parents can’t use the vacuum cleaner anymore, or that they have vision problems and cannot see the dust.  If a parent is having problems walking, then children should look around the house to ensure that there are no safety hazards.  This may result in installing grab bars and brighter lighting, and removing throw rugs.  If parents are still driving, then children can ride along with the parents on an errand to see how well the parents are handling the car.  Children can compare notes, especially when some children see the parents more frequently than others.  Parents can also provide the children with updated contact information for their healthcare providers and information on their medications.

Legal issues.  Parents do not need to disclose the contents of their wills or trusts, but they should tell their children where to find their estate planning documents.  If the original documents are kept at an attorney’s office, then the children should have the contact information for the attorney.  Families should review advance medical directives and powers of attorney, especially if the parents have made changes.

The holidays can provide the best opportunity for children to gently ask their parents if they have their affairs in order.  Previous issues of the Oast & Hook News outlined other issues and the approaches that children can use to break the ice for these serious conversations.

The elder law attorneys are Oast & Hook can assist clients with their estate, financial, insurance, long-term care, veterans’ benefits and special needs planning issues.

Ask Allie

O&H:  Allie, we’ve recently heard that cats are trainable, please tell us about it.

Allie:   Sure!  (I may get some grief from my other feline friends for spilling this secret!)  A recent article in the Daily Press discussed the Pawsitive Start program at the Michigan Humane Society in which volunteers train cats in their shelter to do fun behaviors like the high-five, and useful behaviors like walking into a pet carrier.  C. J. Bentley from the Humane Society says that cats need more than playtime outside a cage to be well-adjusted in a shelter environment.  “It’s not about the physical, it’s about the mental as well.  To teach them to be able to solve problems on their own can reduce the stress.  It gives them control over a situation.”  The article describes how to teach a cat to touch your hand with its nose on command, and how to enter a cat carrier on its own.  You need to figure out what your cat wants (usually food), and keep training sessions short.  For more information and training tips, you can read the entire article at www.dailypress.com/features/family/dp-gl_pets-cats_1122nov22,0,3229920.story.  All this talk about training has worn me out.  Time for a nap!

Announcement

The Alzheimer’s Association will be offering a Family Caregiver Education Series.  These programs will be held from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Bayside Library, 936 Independence Boulevard, Virginia Beach, Virginia.  Brown bag lunches are welcome, and drinks will be provided.  These programs are free to family caregivers.  The first program is entitled “Safety in the Home and Away,” and it will be held on Wednesday, January 13th.  Please register at least two business days before each program by phoning Carol Gurioli at 757-459-2405 or e-mailing her at carol.gurioli@alz.org .

Distribution of This Newsletter

Oast & Hook encourages you to share this newsletter with anyone who is interested in issues pertaining to the elderly, the disabled and their advocates. The information in this newsletter may be copied and distributed, without charge and without permission, but with appropriate citation to Oast & Hook, P.C. If you are interested in a free subscription to theOast & Hook News, then please e-mail us at mail@oasthook.com , telephone us at 757-399-7506, or fax us at 757-397-1267.

This newsletter is not intended as a substitute for legal counsel. While every precaution has been taken to make this newsletter accurate, we assume no responsibility for errors, omissions, or damages resulting from the use of the information in this newsletter.

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