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If you’re finding a large amount of new purchases and shopping bags on display when visiting a grandparent or parent, you may be justifiably concerned. Just like younger people have problems with spending, older adults sometimes do too.
The fact is, shopping can be a highly social activity, and aging individuals need social contact just as much as anyone else, even more so if they spend the rest of the day fairly isolated. Spending money can be a quick release and source of mental happiness. Unfortunately, it also comes with a very visible price tag, too.
Rather than discourage a loved one from buying things, try these four money-saving strategies to keep them within their budget:
There are multiple ways to help older adults save money, just as there are for anyone else, but this is one time that aging individuals have the advantage. It is a well-established practice that older adults get a “senior discount” from most businesses, particularly restaurants and hotels. Anyone who is eligible and doesn’t use this discount is literally leaving money on the table. While the savings aren’t tremendous in one transaction, they will accumulate over time when applied consistently.
While some may consider coupons as more of a hassle than an effective money saver, coupons can add another 10 to 20 percent of savings on the average purchase from food to appliances to durable goods. In some cases, the savings can be as much as 50 percent. Again, once a person realizes how much is discounted regularly when using coupons, it’s foolish not to take advantage of them. Older adults are fairly used to using paper coupons, but many businesses have switched to electronic coupons and advertisements by email or text—so it’s just a matter of teaching the older generation how to use a new format.
Big savings can be had on large purchases (appliances, cars, etc.) if they are bought a year old. In almost all aspects, these units work perfectly fine and will last reliably for at least another five to seven years. The savings gained from targeting lightly used or surplus new items can be hundreds, even thousands of dollars. Especially with surplus goods, savings can be anywhere from 50 to 80 percent, particularly on clothes and accessories. Again, these are often new goods or almost-new durable goods. When one realizes how much these items can stretch a dollar, folks often kick themselves for not doing it sooner.
The number one way older adults get separated from their money? Scams and too-good-to-be-true offers, usually on TV. However, many aging parents will react negatively to any kind of control on their liberties. Instead, the way to save them hurt and money is to support them by offering a second opinion. This may mean having to be patient with a lot of oddball questions, but it can be worth the effort saving your loved ones from a scam that can steal thousands of dollars from them.
Ultimately, offering your help versus trying to control the situation will be much more effective in the long term.
By Mark Westerman, Chief Marketing Officer for CareOne, Inc., a provider of debt relief services nationwide.
When your older adult has Alzheimer’s or dementia, their brain may experience a different version of reality because of the damage their disease has caused.
Dementia care experts recommend stepping into your senior’s reality rather than trying to correct them or bring them back into ours. That’s because their brain is steadily losing the ability to process information. Forcing them to join us in the “real world” only causes confusion, anxiety, fear, and anger.
This technique takes some getting used to because going along with your senior’s new reality can feel like you’re lying to them. But the reality is that honesty is not always the best policy when it comes to someone with dementia.
Most of us are taught from a young age that any kind of lying is horrible and dishonest. On top of that, we’re told never to lie to parents, spouses, and people we love and respect. So when we hear about lying to someone with dementia, it seems cruel and wrong.
But always sticking to the truth, especially about an emotional subject, is what’s most likely to cause your older adult pain, confusion, and distress.
Plus, their problems with short-term memory mean they probably won’t remember the conversation, so it will come up again. Telling the truth each time forces them to experience the fear and anxiety over and over again.
The disease prevents people from properly processing and retaining information. Is it necessary to cause them so much distress, especially when the truth you tell them is likely to be misunderstood or quickly forgotten?
An effective way to step into your older adult’s reality is to agree with whatever they say or tell harmless untruths. Experts call this therapeutic fibbing. It means saying things that are not true to avoid causing your older adult distress and to make them feel safe and comforted.
In many ways, it’s similar to telling a friend that you love the thoughtful gift they gave you, even if you don’t actually like it. Telling the absolute truth in that case wouldn’t change the situation and would only hurt your friend.
You: You’re 89 years old. You haven’t been to school in decades. And don’t you remember that your mom died 25 years ago? You don’t need to go outside because nobody is coming to pick you up.
Your mom: What? What do you mean my mom is dead? No! She can’t be dead!! I saw her this morning! She told me she would pick me up!!! I need to go outside to wait!! (She’s crying, agitated, and screaming.)
Your mom: School is over. My mommy is coming to pick me up now. I need to go outside to wait for her!
You: Oh yes, it’s almost time to go. Your mom asked me to give you a snack first so you won’t get hungry on the way home. Let’s have some juice and crackers.
Your mom: Ok, I’ll have a snack.
You: (Use this distraction as an opportunity to occupy her with the snack and a fun activity until she lets go of the idea of meeting her mother.)
Always telling the truth to someone with Alzheimer’s or dementia is most likely to upset or hurt them. Therapeutic fibbing is a technique you can use to step into their new reality and spare them unnecessary pain and distress.
Using untruths to validate their feelings and reassure them is not the same as lying for a malicious reason.
Elder law is a specialized legal area that’s focused on seniors and their families. Elder law attorneys often concentrate on things like figuring out how to pay for long-term care, drafting Powers of Attorney, and estate planning.
Having the essential legal documents in place allows you to provide the best care for your senior, both now and toward the end of life. That’s why it’s so important to find an expert lawyer you can trust.
Getting a referral from family or a friend is a great way to find a lawyer. If they have a lawyer they’re happy with and would work with again, that’s a good sign.
It’s best if you can get a referral from someone whose legal needs were similar to yours. But even if you need an elder care lawyer and your cousin worked with an excellent civil attorney, that referral is still useful. Good lawyers know other good lawyers and will probably be able to refer you to a colleague they respect.
Similarly, financial advisors, accountants, and fiduciaries (someone legally appointed to manage money) are professionals who often work with elder law attorneys. If you know and trust one of these professionals, ask them for a referral.
After getting referrals, you’ll still need to choose an attorney. Don’t make up your mind about hiring a lawyer until you’ve met them, discussed your needs, and checked their credentials.
If you summarize your needs in advance, many lawyers will be willing to meet for 15 to 30 minutes at no charge. If there is a fee for a consultation, find out how much it will be. An in-person meeting helps you get a feel for how they work and if their style works for you.
If you meet with a few lawyers and present the same situation to each, you can also compare what they’ve said. That helps you confirm whether their advice is legitimate and helps you think of questions to ask about any differences in advice.
Look for a lawyer with experience handling matters just like yours. Experience comes with years in practice and with how many of those types of situations they’ve dealt with.
If you need help with a Power of Attorney, long-term care planning, or estate planning, ask them to describe their experience with those matters.
Working with someone who is professional and responsive is important.
Some questions to ask yourself after speaking with lawyer are:
To help you remember what each lawyer said and how you felt about them, take notes during and after each meeting. Later, you can review your notes as you make your final decision.
Check the State Bar Association website for your state. Look up the attorney’s name or Bar number to make sure they’re actively licensed to practice law in your state. This will also show if they’ve ever been publicly disciplined.
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There are actually several tax deductions and credits available to adult children who take care of their aging parents or other relatives. Here are your options along with the IRS requirements to help you determine if you’re eligible to receive them.
If you’re paying for more than 50% of your mom’s living costs (housing, food, utilities, medical and dental care, transportation and other necessities), and her 2016 gross income (not counting her Social Security benefits) was under $4,050, you can claim your mom as a dependent on your tax return and reduce your taxable income by $4,050.
Note that your mom doesn’t have to live with you to qualify as a dependent, as long as her income was under $4,050 and you provided more than half her financial support.
If your mother does live with you, you can include a percentage of your mortgage, utilities and other expenses in calculating how much you contribute to her support. IRS Publication 501 (see irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p501.pdf) has a worksheet that can help you with this. To receive this, or other IRS publications or forms via mail, call 800-829-3676.
If you share the financial responsibility for your mom with other siblings, you may be eligible for the IRS multiple-support declaration. Here’s how this works. If one sibling is providing more than half the parent’s financial support, only that sibling can claim the parent. But if each sibling provides less than 50% support, and their combined assistance exceeds half the parent’s support, then any sibling who provides more than 10% can claim the parent as a dependent. But only one sibling can claim the tax break in any given year. Siblings can rotate the tax break, with one claiming the parent one year and another the next. The sibling who claims the parent as a dependent will need to fill out IRS Form 2120 (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2120.pdf) and file it with his or her tax return.
If you can’t claim your mom as a dependent, you may still get a tax break for helping pay her medical costs. The IRS lets taxpayers deduct money spent on a parent’s health care and qualified long-term care services, even if the parent doesn’t qualify as a dependent.
To claim this deduction, you still must provide more than half your mom’s support, but your mom doesn’t have to be under the $4,050 income test. The deduction is limited to medical, dental and long-term care expenses that exceed 10% (or 7.5% if you’re 65 by Dec. 31, 2016) of your adjusted gross income. You can include your own medical expenses in calculating the total. See IRS publication 502 (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p502.pdf) for details.
If you’re paying for in-home care or adult day care for your mom so you are free to work, you may also be able to claim the Dependent Care Tax Credit, regardless of whether or not your mom qualifies as a dependent on your tax return. This credit can cut up to $1,050 off your tax bill for the year. In order to claim it, you must fill out IRS Form 2441 (irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f2441.pdf) when you file your federal return.
In addition to the federal tax breaks, more than 20 states offer tax credits and deductions for caregivers on state income taxes. Check with your state tax agency to see what’s available. For links to state tax agencies see taxadmin.org/state-tax-agencies.
Copy by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Living” book.
According to the National Institutes for Health (NIH.gov), more than 1.6 million older Americans go to the emergency room each year for fall-related injuries. One of the major causes for falls is ice. It seems simple enough to not walk through snow and keep away from areas that are covered with ice; however when the temperature drops rapidly, black ice can occur without warning.
To lessen the chances of a fall in cold weather:
As people age, their sense of touch declines. Arthritis, diabetes, poor circulation, stroke induced paralysis, and a multitude of other conditions can cause lack of feeling, especially in the extremities.
To prevent hypothermia:
Protecting your skin is another winter weather tip that seniors should pay special attention to. As we age our skin becomes thinner and drier, thus more prone to tears. Certain medications can spell havoc on the lining of your nasal passages, creating an increased risk for nose bleeds. Keep the dangers of dryness low by using a humidifier to keep your air moist, drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water content like soups and vegetables, and moisturize your skin daily with creams or lotions.
We cannot stop Mother Nature from sending us winter weather, however we can do ourselves a big favor and be prepared when it does occur. It’s important to make regular visits with elderly friends and family during the winter. This will help make sure that their health is not declining as a result of cold weather.
Source: Chase Patton, AASC.org
“Parents do expect their children will take care of them when they get older, Pamela. The truth is, many children don’t.” That is what a social worker friend said to me in 1988 when I talked to her about my plan.
I was living in Dallas, Texas, did not have children and wasn’t going to. My plan was to gather others who did not have children, form a group and get to know one another so we could rely on each other as we aged.
The above response from my friend floored me. I said, “Huh? That can’t be right. Who doesn’t take care of their parents?”
“More people than you can imagine,” was her response.
I have seen first-hand how children respond to parents who expect to be taken care of by them. It’s not pretty. In this particular case, the mother had taken care of her mother and assumed the daughter would do the same for her. The mother let her independence go when her husband passed away. That included giving up driving before she needed to give it up. As a friend of mine said, “It goes to show how out of touch the mother is with today’s world.”
By taking care of yourself now, you and all those who are close to you can breathe a sigh of relief and live long and unencumbered lives.
I agree with my friend’s observation. The daughter, who is in her early 70s, has a husband, daughters and grandchildren. She has a life of her own. I know how much I dig in my heels when someone expects that I respond a certain way. I rebel. That’s exactly what the daughter did. How would you feel?
When I explained the above situation to my 95-year-old mother, she said, “I was just as shocked when I moved to Florida and got a first-hand look at friends whose children were not involved in their lives. I personally can not imagine you and Linda not being in my life, however, parents should never expect to be taken care of by their kids.”
Every time Mom has let my sister and me know that she has gone to the gym, paid all her bills, hired a handyman to fix things, made friends with folks who ultimately call her to make sure she is doing well, de-cluttered her home, updated her will, paid for her funeral arrangements (it’s reality, folks), used her long-term health care policy to hire an aide for six hours a day…and the list goes on, we are relieved. And a voice inside of me says, “Thank you, Mom. Now, what can I do for you?”
What I learned from that conversation in 1988 is whether you have children or not, taking care of yourself to the best of your ability is the ultimate gift. Do whatever it takes to keep, or get, your own house in order. There are many websites dedicated to physical, mental and spiritual health, finances, insurance and more. Study them. Use them.
Listed below are a few of my favorites:
Did you know that older adults can be highly susceptible to malnutrition? That’s right. Not only is it prevalent in older adults, but it also poses a major health concern. Malnutrition in older adults often results in adverse outcomes such as sickness and even death. Unfortunately, it is often unrecognized or misdiagnosed. It is important for you to be conscious about the food you eat and how often you eat. A breakfast for champions is recommended. Remember what you have always heard, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
How prevalent is malnutrition in older adults?
According to studies, about 60% of hospitalized older adults are malnourished, while 35-85% of seniors in long-term care facilities are experiencing malnutrition. The American Academy of Family Physicians further noted that malnutrition is a predictor of mortality in older adults. Several factors actually account for malnutrition:
Therefore, it is very crucial that you don’t skip breakfast. That meal often has many of the nutrients you need each day.
Why is breakfast so important?
Many older adults less food in one sitting than they used to. If you think you belong to this category, remember that you basically need to meet your caloric requirement throughout the day. Skipping even just one meal can make it harder for you to get all the calories and nutrients you need daily. Here are a few other reasons why you need to incorporate breakfast in your daily dietary routine:
A few more facts:
According to a report released by the National Institute of Aging, women need about 1,600 – 2,200 calories per day while men need about 2,000 – 2,800 calories per day, depending on the level of activity.
Older adults need fewer calories while more focus should be on fiber, high-quality protein, nutrient-dense foods such as those rich in Vitamin B, Vitamin D, and Calcium.
Although these calories are obtained throughout the day, be sure to start your day right by getting the right amounts of energy in the morning to help you get through your day.
My husband and I are thinking about making some modifications to our home so we can remain living there for as long as possible. Can you recommend some good resources that can help us with aging-in-place ideas?
Many retirees, like you and your husband, want to stay living in their own house for as long as possible. But being able to do so will depend on how easy it is to maneuver in your home as you get older. Here are some helpful resources to give you an idea of the different types of features and improvements you can make that will make your house safer and more convenient as you age.
A good first step in making your home more age-friendly is to do an assessment. Go through your house, room-by-room, looking for problem areas like potential tripping or slipping hazards, as well as areas that are hard to access and difficult to maintain. To help with this, there are several organizations that have aging-in-place checklists that point out potential problems in each area of the home, along with modification and solutions.
Rebuild Together, for example, has a two-page “Safe at Home Checklist” that’s created in partnership with the Administration on Aging and the American Occupational Therapy Association. Go to AOTA.org and search for “Rebuilding Together Safe at Home Checklist.”
The National Association of Home Builders also has an “Aging-in-Place Remodeling Checklist” that offers more than 100 suggestions to help homeowners age 50-plus live safely, independently and comfortably. Go to NAHB.org and search for “Aging in Place Remodeling Checklist.”
Also check out AARP’s excellent resource called the “HomeFit Guide” that’s filled with 28-pages of tips and diagrams to make your entire home safe and easier to live in as you age. You can access it at AARP.org – search for “HomeFit” or call 888-687-2277 and ask them to mail you a free copy.
If you want more personalized help, consider getting a professional in-home assessment with an occupational therapist.
An occupational therapist, or OT, can evaluate the challenges and shortcomings of your home for aging-in-place, recommend design and modification solutions and introduce you to products and services to help you make improvements.
To find an OT in your area, check with your physician, health insurance provider or local hospital, or seek recommendations from family and friends. Many health insurance providers, including Medicare, will pay for a home assessment by an OT if prescribed by your doctor. However, they will not cover the physical upgrades to the home.
Another option is to contact a builder who’s a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS). CAPS are home re-modelers and design-build professionals that are knowledgeable about aging-in-place home modifications and can suggest ways to modify or remodel your home that will fit your needs and budget. CAPS are generally paid by the hour or receive a flat fee per visit or project.
To find a CAPS in your area visit the National Association of Home Builders website at NAHB.org/capsdirectory where you can search by state and city.
Written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of “The Savvy Living” book.
For information regarding in-home care and personal assistance contact your local Family Staffing Solutions’ office.