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 places?
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 in which you should become knowledgeable: living arrangements, medical coverage and estate planning.
Talk with your parents about their thoughts on 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.
Become familiar with the type of medical coverage your parents have selected and what it does and does not over.
Obtain the name and telephone number of their primary care physician and any other physicians who are treating them. Become aware of any illness or disability they may have and especially what medications they are taking.
Estate planning includes legal, financial and final needs issues. Find out if your parents have an Advance Directive for Health Care, a will and/or a trust and a general power of attorney. 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 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 them. 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 their wishes known. If you have siblings make them part of that discussion.
Q: The more I hear about elder abuse the more concerned I become. How can seniors protect themselves from becoming victims of this senseless and horrible act?
A: You are absolutely correct when you call these acts of abuse senseless and horrible. Abuse is sometimes deliberate and sometimes a reflex to a stressed family relationship. It can be found anywhere seniors are located and in all economic levels.
Isolation is a prime factor in cases of abuse. Seniors should try to stay sociable by maintaining and, if possible, increasing their network of friends and acquaintances. If a change of address is necessary, keep in contact with old neighbors and friends, and try to make new ones.
For seniors who are still active, plan for at least a weekly meeting with a friend outside of the home. If you are confined to home, ask friends to visit even if the visit is brief. This can allow non-household members to observe your well being. Keeping independent is important. If possible, have your own telephone and post and open your own mail. Keep your important papers and belongings organized, and make sure others are aware that you know where everything is kept.
Direct deposit of your Social Security and pension checks will guarantee their safe receipt. Get legal advice about arrangements you can make for possible future disability .
If you suspect that an elder is being abused physically, emotionally or financially contact Adult Protective Services at 654-3200.
Sept. 9: Lawyers at the Library Series “IRA Inheritance Trusts,” 5:30-6:30 p.m. at Ventura County Law Library, 800 S. Victoria Ave. in Ventura (located in the Ventura County Government Center facing Parking Lot A). For information and reservations call 642-8982.
Sept. 15: “Living With Alzheimer’s Mid Stages” seminar, 5:30-7 p.m. at Senior Concerns Day Care Center, 401 Hodencamp Road in Thousand Oaks. Discussion will cover behavioral symptoms, wandering and keeping the person with Alzheimer’s safe. For information and reservations call 497-0189.
Ongoing: OSHER Lifelong Learning Institute Art Education class scheduled for Fridays from 10 a.m. to noon Sept. 11 through Oct. 30 at Studio Channel Islands Blackboard Gallery in Camarillo Old Town. For more information do a Web search for “OLLI CI” or call 437-2748. Registration for all classes is currently in progress.