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Question My sister and I are struggling with juggling the caregiving schedule.  We both live an hour away from our mom and are looking for a way to share a calendar and a To Do List. It seems like there should be an easy-to-use tool for this. I'm not looking to recruit volunteers, etc. We just need to be able to look at the caregiver schedule and check in on our To Do List.   Any suggestions?  I haven't found anything online that looks user friendly.   Answer I wrote a column about this! "Apps to Help Caregivers Stay Organized" here on the AARP Family Caregiving website. Lotsa Helping Hands focuses more on coordinating a lot of volunteers, and CaringBridge has an emphasis on providing updates to a wide number of people who are following the care journey—but also has shared calendar and task options. Carezone is a bit more focused on managing various aspects of caregiving and includes a shared calendar and task list, as well as medication lists, automatic reminders, and many other features but you can choose to use just the features you want to use.   I'm partial to apps and sites that I can use both on my computer and on my phone and tablet. There are many "to do list" apps—I use Wunderlist for a task list, and you can create lists that you do then invite other people to, so they can also add tasks and also check off tasks. You can assign tasks to people as well. I use it for my personal, work and caregiving. For a calendar I primarily just use my iCal on my Apple products and send my sister mtg invitations and vice versa. Then we both have the appointments in our personal devices that we also use for the rest of our life. I have color coded so that I can easily see which appts are for me, those I'm caring for, work etc. Google calendar is very similar.   I provide more tips in my column, "6 Tips for Choosing Family Caregiving Technology"!  
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  Question What do I need to know about hiring an insured caregiver?   Answer If it is time to hire an in-home caregiver, make sure the person you hire is adequately insured.  Whether the caregiver is employed by a service or is an independent contractor, it is important to verify the following:   Workers Compensation. The caregiver should furnish proof of their insurance that covers medical bills and lost income should the worker be injured on the job.  General Liability. This covers claims of bodily injury or property damage should the caregiver's services injure someone or damage a customer's property. Professional Liability. Some caregivers possess advanced medical certifications and training. In these instances, a general liability policy might not be sufficient to cover their errors, if one should occur. They might need professional liability insurance. Auto. If the caregiver drives a client to and from errands, appointments, etc., verify that his auto insurance will cover damage to vehicles and bodily injury to passengers or others and that the limit of insurance available for such claims is sufficient. You may be asked to enter into a contract with the caregiver or their employer. That contract could contain clauses that expose you to financial liability that falls outside your homeowner's liability. Talk with your insurance agent or broker about the extent to which your homeower's policy covers in-home caregivers.  
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Question How do I protect my mother's financial assets from irresponsible or abusive relatives?   Answer  Contacting the bank sounds like a good idea. Your mother may need to be present, as it is her account. You may want to be added to her accounts or she can appoint you as her "Power of Attorney".     Many states have laws in place to protect their senior residents. Elder financial abuse and exploitation are not taken lightly, and often come with higher criminal penalties. If there is imminent danger to your mother, 911 is always the first course of action. Theft of any kind should be reported to law enforcement. You may find helpful information through your state's Adult Protective Services, and any local or state social services agencies. Your state should also have an elder abuse hotline that you can find through the National Center on Elder Abuse (https://ncea.acl.gov)   The bank should be made aware of this situation ASAP, whether it is through the authorities or through you. Just please know that the bank will probably not speak with you about much detail unless your name is on the account or your mother designated you as her agent.
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Question Where do I go to sign up to care for my parents and get paid?     Answer The first place to start depends on what state you live in. Here in Florida, the Senior Resource Alliance is the place to start. Find your state's equivalent to that. Your loved one will have to qualify for what is called a Medicaid Waiver. So, once you find your state's equivalent to a Senior Resource Alliance, you call them and tell them you are looking for a "home and community-based Medicaid waiver for a long-term care program" for your loved one. They will walk you through the process from this point.
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Question Any suggestions on resources or lists for how to make a home easier to move around/cook/bathe in and also safer as one gets older? Answer AARP has a terrific Homefit Guide -- Click on that and you'll find the landing page where there are numerous other links, resources, and worksheets you can download. You can download a copy of the Homefit Guide (or order a print copy to be mailed to you. You might want to do both, as the print copy has some great illustrations of options to make a home better and safer). The guide has super-simple things that you can do in each room of the house, including steps and stairways, bathrooms, laundry room, living room, bedroom, garage, outside, etc.    Just make your motto "safety first" and you'll do great!  But comfort and quality of life are also very important. For example, make sure you can comfortably put clothes in the washer and dryer. Front-loading appliances that raise up might be helpful.   I also included an entire chapter about caring for loved ones at home in my book, Juggling Life, Work and Caregiving, and that chapter also includes info on who can help you assess the home in person. There is also a checklist for home modifications and "smart" (or universal) design.   Fall prevention is the first step -- and it's important to remember that means home modifications from simple things like clearing clutter and removing throw rugs, to increasing lighting, adding handrails, moving the laundry to the main floor, looking out for stray electric cords or other tripping hazards, changing the type of chair you sit in (one with arms and not too low is easier to get up out of. At some point a lift chair may be helpful too.), and also using technology like monitors and alerts and motion sensors.    A medical alert system (to detect falls or call for help), and one that includes GPS if going outdoors, is usually the first step for home safety. Here is my column about how to choose one: How Caregivers Choose a Medical Alert System.    A few other suggestions: First, we have a Care Guide just for this -- Help Caring for a Loved One at Home. This free guide that you can download can help you step-by-step with this transition.    We also have a document and video on how to prepare your home for safe mobility. And here's another great article on how to make your home safe.    Some other resources include: https://homemods.org/ https://assets.aarp.org/external_sites/caregiving/checklists/checklist_homeSafety.html https://www.seniorsafetyreviews.com/tips/guide-home-senior-safe/ https://www.cdc.gov/homeandrecreationalsafety/pubs/english/booklet_eng_desktop-a.pdf    
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As the Baby Boomers advance in years, due to divorce rates, less children, and several other factors, there will be lots of seniors who don't have relatives at the ready to assist with medical and other needs. For those who may not have extra hands on deck, it is an important part of your planning to assemble a care and advocacy team before you need it.      In 2012, the American Geriatrics Society published a study describing tens of thousands of patients nationwide who had no family members or designated surrogates available to help with medical decision-making. The study found that  16% of patients in intensive care units, 3% of nursing home residents, and a large (unspecified) number of individuals in a variety of settings who were facing end-of-life decisions were all facing the absence of a relative or designated surrogate.
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Question What is the difference between a living will and a will?   Answer A "living will" is a document that formalizes your wishes for medical decision making at the end of your life. If this is what you are looking for, there are many excellent resources available online, and AARP offers a state-by-state guide that will bring you to a form that may be used in your state. Here is the link for that page:  https://www.aarp.org/caregiving/financial-legal/free-printable-advance-directives/   A "will" is a document that formalizes your wishes for how your property will be distributed after you die and names a person (or people) to be the executor/personal representative who can manage your property until it is distributed.   Question Is it possible to get a will form from AARP that we can just fill out ourselves and have notarized, or do I need a lawyer for a will?   Answer There are form wills out there, but they generally don't cover the full picture (including the practical side of how everything works after you've passed). In general, form wills are not often suggested because there is a lot that goes into that type of planning. Even if we think our assets aren't much or if we don't own much property, there is always some work that needs to be done to close up a person's affairs after they pass away. If we can dictate that through thoughtful planning in a way that can avoid probate, reduce possible conflict among surviving family members, and streamline the whole process, then it makes that work so much easier.   Consider talking to a professional and perhaps seeking out what services are available in your state (there are many programs that do pro bono or low bono wills and estate planning). It can be a small up-front investment, but the benefit to you and your loved ones can be significant.   Wills are not as simple as knowing who you want to inherit what assets. All the bases may not be covered by simply filling out a form. For example, an attorney can work with you on the best ways to leave assets to charities to maximize your gift to them, whether there are deeds that can pass your home directly to someone without need for probate, how to avoid your assets going to creditors instead of your loved ones, ways you can title your accounts now so that they go right to your loved ones when you pass, and countless other ways. It is possible that probate can be avoided completely and you can squash any possible conflicts among your heirs by way of a well-crafted estate plan.   Question What is the difference between a living will and a POLST? I have a POLST from one state and recently moved to another. Do I need to make changes or update it because of the move?   Answer A POLST is a Physician's Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment. It is a document for people with advanced illnesses that specifies the type of care they would like in an emergency situation. Because it is a "Physician's Order," a physician or medical professional is the one who signs this document along with the patient making it. These are not the same as advance directives, which are legal documents. Think of POLSTs like medical orders.    Every state has its own rules and practices. Many states have documents that are conceptually similar to the POLST, but may go by a different name (MOST, MOLST, POST, SMOST, SAPO, etc.). It may be worth your while to do a refresh of all your documents in your new state (both your advance directives and your medical orders). Consult with your medical providers on this point. In the meantime, here are some resources that may be helpful:    Here is an AARP article that provides more information about POLSTs.   Here is the POLST.org webpage, which includes state-by-state information.   Question Can the government (state or federal) or a place where the dying might be being cared for outside the home—hospice facility, hospital, assisted living, nursing home, specialized care facility—somehow intervene to force tube feeding on a dying person despite having an advance directive? If I specify in my Health Care Directive that I do not want tube feeding to keep me alive, and my appointed health care directive representative also knows of my wishes, can a health care provider or a state force it upon me because of "humanitarian" gestures of not wanting me to starve to death?   Who has the final say in carrying out my wishes at times like these—the state or the individual?   Answer There are serious clinical, ethical, and legal implications in this kind of example. The guidelines of an advance directive are what should determine a patient's end-of-life care, and this is why they are such an important part of our conversations about living and dying according to our own wishes.   All fifty states and the District of Columbia have laws that legalize the use of advance directives like living wills, health care proxies/surrogates, and durable powers of attorney. In 1991, the federal government passed the Patient Self-Determination Act that validated all of the states' laws. These documents allow a patient to receive care that is consistent with their desires.   Tube feeding is very specifically addressed in many advance directives. Here is a link to the Oregon Advance Directive. If you look, you'll see that this advance directive doesn't just address tube feeding but it also talks about it under a variety of scenarios (what if the patient is close to death, has an advanced illness, is permanently unconscious, etc.) and gives options like "I do want tube feeding," "I do not want tube feeding," and "I want as the physician recommends."    It may not be pleasant to think about, but half of all patients lose decision-making capacity at the end of life. Of this half, over two-thirds face choices on specific end-of-life treatment options. A living will is what speaks for the patient when they cannot communicate about those end-of-life treatment options themselves. Despite this, while 92% of people have heard of living wills, only 36% have actually completed them.   In short, living wills and advance directives are the tools that allow us to truly be the "captain of our own ship" right up until the time of death, up to and including decisions such as tube feeding. 
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Question We are selling my mom's house and I am not sure what to change her address to—the assisted living facility where she resides, or my address so I am sure to receive anything important. Thoughts? Answers It depends on a bunch of factors. A couple questions to ask include: Do you live near the assisted living facility and will be visiting her regularly to bring her "social mail"? Who takes care of her "business mail"—Does she handle her own checkbook, or do you take care of all of that?   You may decide to have important mail sent to your house to make sure it isn't lost and you can handle it promptly. But have social mail sent to her—greeting cards, newspapers, magazines, etc., if you don't visit her often.   If you have financial power of attorney (POA) or an agreement with your mom to help her pay the bills, I'd have the mail sent to you and then you can hand deliver personal mail when you visit (at least weekly).     If you have POA, like the others have said, make your address her legal address so all bills, tax documents, bank statements, brokerage statements, Medicare EOB, and anything from Social Security, etc., come to your address. This will be the address that you will use for her for tax document and anything legal.   You could give her Assisted Living address to friends and family who might want to write to her. Many assisted living places do not have a secured mailbox for the residents, so keep that in mind. Sometimes a resident may pick up the mail of others by mistake or because they have a mental impairment.     You probably need to change her address officially to your address on Medicare and Social Security. Sometimes this is a problem when picking a Medicare plan since they are by area. But if you are not very far from her, this is no big deal.   If there is a need, now or later on, she needs to add your name to the Medicare and Social Security file so that you can talk to them about any matter. If she becomes mentally incapacitated, you will have to become a Representative Payee on Social Security. This only means that you are authorized to spend this money for her benefit and will have to account for such with them. 
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