Geriatric Financial Management Update

Along with FINCON12 I’ve visited my Dad and worked on his finances.  I’ll talk about how he’s doing now and then I’ll review the latest financial lessons.

Alzheimer’s is relentless. Dad’s mid-stage symptoms are worse and his brain is losing control of his emotions. He has trouble remembering faces and aphasia is setting in. For the last 18 months, he’s enjoyed socializing with the staff and residents, but last month the Alzheimer’s progression may have made him much more introverted and withdrawn. He’s also begun showing more signs of sundowning. He’ll try to flee from stressful situations, so the safest environment is a memory care facility with cipher-locked doors. He’s on his facility’s waitlist for their memory wing, and he wears an RFID bracelet that alarms the exit door.

There could be other physical reasons for his behavior changes: depression, vitamin deficiencies, hypothyroid, or medication side effects. His multiple myeloma chemotherapy seems to have worked, although we’re skeptical that further aggressive treatment is his best option. He spent a week in the hospital to check the chemotherapy results along with all of the other possible issues. His medications now include Aricept and a low dose of Lexapro. The first may help moderate the severity of his sundowning, and the second is an antidepressant. So far so good.

Dad’s geriatric care manager has been the vital link. We worked with him 18 months ago to find this care facility, and he’s ready to help with anything else. He and his staff know the area and they work with the hospital discharge coordinators. When a facility has a vacancy, the care manager reviews it with us while we take a tour. The discharge coordinators and facilities prefer to work with care managers, too, because they’ll help the families make better & faster decisions. We’ve learned that a good care manager listens, educates & reassures, makes helpful suggestions, and can respond quickly. If they can help navigate the confusion, stress, and hard decisions, then their hourly rate is worth it.

There’s no false hope here. We’re trying to keep Dad safe, checking everything that could ease his suffering, and seeking a peaceful environment. It’s going “as well as can be expected.” If you’re in a situation like this with your loved ones and you’d like more information on what we’ve learned, then please feel free to e-mail me or use the “Contact me” box.

More geriatric financial lessons

The last post on geriatric finances described how Dad converted four 1960s whole life insurance policies into a single-premium (paid up) whole life policy. He did this while he was in early-stage Alzheimer’s, and even today I’m still unsure that he was acting on his own. He didn’t keep all of the paperwork, but I finally figured it out from his local insurance agency and the previous insurance company.

Last month I had a similar experience with his pension fund. They mailed him one piece of paper (from 2008) that mentioned improvements to his life insurance. Life insurance from a pension fund? Yep. I have no idea why this exists, but it does. Ideally, the pension fund provider would have eventually contacted us about the policy, but there’s no guarantee that the bureaucracy would keep track of us.

We’re not alone in this. People buy insurance policies and then move on in their lives, and eventually, the insurance company loses track of them. Beneficiaries have no idea what policies the insured owned, and the insurance company can’t find them. A national database registers all policies for the companies to track with each other, and state government websites also help find “missing” policies.

My brother had one final box of family photos to go through, and I scanned in most of them for our family archives.  Tucked away in an old envelope of one album was a DD-214:  Dad’s discharge papers.

He’d mentioned long ago that he’d been drafted for Army training, and this was the evidence.  Between January-May 1958 he went through recruit training and “three months of active duty formal training under the Reserve Forces Act Program“.  It must have been during his last year of college, because he said that he was given a deferment to finish college and then start his work with Westinghouse as an electrical engineer.  He had an inactive Reserve obligation through early 1966.  I never saw him in a uniform and he never said much about the experience.  I don’t think he’s eligible for any veterans benefits, but that’s one more research project.

This month the stock market continued rising, and it’s possible that euphoria is edging toward irrational exuberance. I have no idea how high the market will get, or even which way it’s going, but I know that Dad doesn’t need to take a large market risk. Even more importantly, he doesn’t need to endure volatility or confront a bear market. I took the opportunity to cut back his stock holdings, and we’ll put the profits into CDs. I’ll keep his asset allocation at ~30% equities, another ~15% in short-term bonds, and the rest in CDs.

This month I also visited Dad’s lawyer. I gave him a copy of my conservator’s court appointment and checked to see if Dad had any other papers on file that we hadn’t found yet. There were no surprises, and the lawyer appreciated the update. He’s standing by if we want more help.

I hate to think about the final step for a conservator, but we’ve started to plan for Dad’s death. He’s already done the work for us. He has a will and a medical directive, and he’s also given us plenty of advice for handling his cremation and his memorial. Even today, when his memory only covers a few minutes, he still asks us if he did a good job with his estate planning and whether he needs to do anything else for us.

He still wants to make sure that he’s taken care of us and that we “have enough”. Even while he can’t care for himself, he’s still caring for others.

Related articles:
Forensic geriatric finances
Book review: “When The Time Comes”
Book report: “The 36-Hour Day”
Geriatric financial lessons learned

About Doug Nordman

Author of "The Military Guide to Financial Independence and Retirement" and co-author of "Raising Your Money-Savvy Family For Next Generation Financial Independence."
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3 Responses to Geriatric Financial Management Update

  1. Deserat says:

    Doug – your openness about this episode in your life is very generous and I know I appreciate it so that I can possibly know what to expect and the steps to take. At such a time of emotional stress, it helps that someone has a quasi-checklist you can follow. Thanks again.

  2. Janette says:

    ” Even while he can’t care for himself, he’s still caring for others.” It is so much that generation. Thank you for taking us on the journey with you.

    • Doug Nordman says:

      Thanks, Deserat & Jan. Writing about this is probably good therapy, and it helps me bring some sense & order to the situation.
      “That generation”– yep. Alzheimer’s makes you more of who you already are…

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