One of the luxuries of spending time with family during the holiday season is the embrace of continuity. Most years are uneventful , unless dad attempts to light the holiday candles with the 40 year old matchbook from the Bowling Alley. Sometimes the nostalgia is interrupted by complications. Maybe age has caught up to mom or Uncle Frank’s retirement has changed the family’s month to month financial outlook. Burying uneasiness may not be appropriate when there is a family support system that can rise to the occasion. There is nothing wrong with a, “So, Mom, how are you feeling?” One simple question can focus the family’s attention on an important issue. Maybe the answer is, “I’m fine, now finish your smashed potatoes,” and everyone around the table looks down at their Frosty the Snowman placemat. More often than not you get, “Not so good, I have been feeling weak lately.” How you follow up that statement can have a long lasting impact. The conversations below share the same intention – to take action in a positive way.
“Have you seen your doctor lately?” (Good Start) “Don’t put this off, Mom -- Jill and Bob will take you to your primary care doctor this Thursday after they drop off their daughter at school.” (Great Start)
"Are you still paying your bills on time?” (Good Start) “Mom, if you need help, we can set up a Power of Attorney to allow Jennifer and I to help you pay your bills and track your finances. “ (Great Start)
“Frank, have you talked to your accountant and financial advisor about your retirement last month? “ (Good Start) “Frank…. I know how much you hate to deal with paperwork. Let your kids gather the information from your old job’s Human Resources Department and start to organize your account statements. “ (Great Start)
“Frank, did you change the beneficiary statement on the insurance policy after Denise passed?” (Good Start) “Frank, we will help you contact the insurance company to request your most current Beneficiary Statement. “ (Better Start)
“Mom, you told me you fell last Tuesday and yesterday – do you want us to stay with you in the afternoons this week?” (Good Start)
“Mom, remember what your old neighbor, Lou went through – let’s go to the elder care attorney next Wednesday on my day off, like we talked about, to protect the house and arrange a care plan.” (Great Start)
“I hope little Cole like his stuffed panda, when are you going start his college fund?” (Good Start)
“When we had our first child we made Wills to choose a guardian….just in case something happened…..I will give you the number of our Attorney.” (Great Start)
“I can’t believe Aunt Denise passed so young….do you have a Will?” (Good Start)
“Frank, I know you have not finished dealing with Denise’s Estate and transferring her accounts. Talk to our Estate Lawyer and while you are at it, make a Trust for the house.” (Great Start)
“Does Adele still have the home health aides coming to the house?” (Good Start)
“Is Adele still paying out of pocket for the aides? She should apply for Medicaid for Home Care. Even with her assets and income she is Medicaid eligible in New York.” (Great Start)
What all of the best follow-ups above share is a tangible direction forward. Asking the first question is step one. Making the doctor’s appointment, having the family work together to obtain documents, and referring the right professional will make an actual difference. One family member, one smartphone can get the ball rolling.
Happy Holidays from Sloan and Feller!