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Talk to Your Parents so You Can Help Protect Them: Excerpt from 'On Your Case'

By    |   Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 02:09 PM

Excerpted from On Your Case: A Comprehensive, Compassionate (and only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Woman’s Life by Lisa Green

Way back in 1963, our nation’s youthful president, John F. Kennedy, designated May as Senior Citizens Month. Back then, America had a population of 17 million adults who had reached their sixty-fifth birthday. Fast-forward fifty years and in 2013, America’s senior population reached more than 41 million. In recognition of this age-quake, the United States Senate rebranded May as Older Americans Month and, with only slight condescension, lauded our gray lions and lionesses for “play[ing] an important role by continuing to contribute experience, knowledge, wisdom, and accomplishments.”

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Along with their undeniable wisdom, the most impressive characteristic of the seniors I encounter is that age has rendered them impervious to shame. Consider my mother, who after a lifetime of Sisyphean housekeeping, arguing with my late father, and nagging her kids about problems real and imagined, in her golden years morphed into a fun-loving singleton prone to departing, unannounced, for swinging gambling vacations with her boyfriend.

Mom and her age-appropriate beau are poster children for the new face of aging, tristate-area edition. Out: early bird dinners, sensible shoes, carefully curated porcelain figurines. In: lingerie shopping, months-long disappearances to a cozy Florida condo, and enthusiastic berating of waitstaff at popular boîtes who can’t indulge their bewildering, particularized food preferences. Do these lovebirds care what my siblings and I think of their late-stage escapades? Certainly not. Ever since the boyfriend (or is it senior friend?) arrived at a family dinner in an expensive New York steakhouse rocking a pair of Bermuda shorts, white sneakers, and knee-high compression socks, we, the younger generation, have recognized gods of mature indifference in our midst.

Spry and hilarious as these seniors may seem, we know all good things come to an end. For some seniors, a shift from fully functioning to acutely dependent is abrupt. For others, it’s a gradual shift that younger relatives don’t notice or prefer to ignore.

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If you have older adults in your life who once looked after you, it’s time to prepare to return the favor. What, if anything, can you do to ensure their well-being and perhaps lighten your caregiving load?

A wise elder care lawyer I know offers this practical advice: speak up now. Don’t be afraid to raise care issues with Mom and Dad; chances are they are thinking about them, but reluctant to raise them with you.

When you do, review information about power of attorney, health care proxy, and living wills. Don’t delay. If your loved one loses the legal capacity to sign these agreements, you may end up forced into court for a guardianship hearing. An outcome that would have cost a few hundred dollars will be one you reach, if you’re lucky, after spending thousands and sharing family matters with a judge.

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If your impressively frugal parents opted for DIY documents in these matters, ask them if you can check them out. Do-it-yourselfers (not just elderly ones) might have relied on an incorrect or outdated form; when it comes to these issues, a court (or bank) might not accept these papers, nor any with execution errors. Before you or your elders go it alone, consider the value of having an experienced lawyer review your paperwork.

Excerpted from On Your Case: A Comprehensive, Compassionate (and only Slightly Bossy) Legal Guide for Every Stage of a Woman’s Life Copyright Lisa Green © 2015. Courtesy of William Morrow.

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Way back in 1963, our nation’s youthful president, John F. Kennedy, designated May as Senior Citizens Month. Back then, America had a population of 17 million adults who had reached their sixty-fifth birthday.
on your case, legal guide, womans, lisa green, parents
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Tuesday, 10 Feb 2015 02:09 PM
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