By Betty Berry, Tuesday, July 12, 2011  Q: My parents are getting on in age and will eventually need my assistance. I have no idea where to start planning. Can you suggest some starting points?

A: Many people avoid dealing with this subject until a crisis arises. You are to be congratulated for wanting to be prepared. There are three areas that you should become knowledgeable with: living arrangements, medical coverage and estate planning.

Talk with your parents about their thoughts on future living arrangements when and if they become unable to care for themselves. If they want to remain in their own home, you will need to familiarize yourself with the community resources available to provide the support they will require. You should also research alternative living arrangements in case remaining at home is no longer an option.

You will have to become familiar with the type of medical coverage your parents have selected and what it covers.

You should obtain the name and phone number of their primary-care physician and any other physicians treating them. Become aware of any illness or disabilities they have and especially what medications they take.

Estate planning includes legal, financial and final-needs issues. You should find out if your parents have an advance health directive, a will and/or trust, and a general power of attorney for finances.

Know who has copies of these vital documents or where they are kept. If your parents have an attorney, you should also have his or her name and telephone number.

Finances are a key part of making any arrangements. Discuss with your parents their financial resources, both income and assets. This information will be of utmost importance if you need to place them in a long-term care facility or apply for government-assisted programs. You should also know if they have long-term-care insurance.

The most difficult area to discuss will be final needs. Try to find out if your parents have made funeral arrangements and possibly have prepaid. If no plans have been made, encourage them to tell you what they want.

Discuss all issues with your parents while they are still able to make appropriate decisions and make their wishes known and if you have siblings, make them part of that discussion.

Q: I’m ashamed to admit I was the victim of a scam. Can you give some hints that will help others spot a con artist?

A: Don’t beat up on yourself for being taken — anyone can be a victim.

A clever con artist is a good actor who disarms the victim with a good-guy approach. Potential victims often share the same characteristics. Many times, they will be older, female, living alone and very trusting. But if that description doesn’t fit you, be careful; others become victims, as well.

You’ll likely never detect a con artist by looks. However, words and expressions can reveal his or her true identity. The con artist’s ultimate goal is the victim’s assets. The scheme will often require cash only or involve secret plans and get-rich-quick and something-for-nothing promises.

Time is always of the essence. A potential victim will be required to act in haste. Today-only or last-chance opportunities are seldom good investments.

Money-saving home improvement projects offered door-to-door by workers with leftover materials may not be so economical. The materials are often defective or inferior.

The con artist can dream up more ways of separating cash from a victim than we can comprehend. If you are a victim, don’t be too embarrassed to report it to authorities or testify in court. This is the only way to help stop this kind of crime.


Today, 1:30-3 p.m.: Seminar, “Are You Listening — Communication Is a Two-Way Street”; Westlake Civic Center, 31200 E. Oak Crest Drive, Westlake Village.

July 18, 1:30-3 p.m.: Seminar, “Will You Pass Your Next Driving Test?” Goebel Senior Adult Center, 1385 E. Janss Road, Thousand Oaks. For reservations, call 381-2744.


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