Preparing to Care - Purple Elephant


Dad is a Veteran. He’s also retired from the Postal Service. He was an ROTC instructor at a high school for one year too. He has literally served his country his entire career life.

Dad is part of an earlier generation where the husbands took great pride in providing for their family and his wife being able to stay home with their children. He took responsibility to handle the finances and all other things of importance such as insurances and services. It’s not that my mother wasn’t capable – it’s just the way it was and it all worked fine that way…until it didn’t anymore.

Dad was resistant to any notion that he might need a medical checkup. The idea that something could be wrong was not acceptable. After all, it was all of us with the problem – not him. After some relentless convincing from one of my sisters, he agreed to go to simply “rule out” some things.

It was not a great surprise to any of us when we learned he was in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. Dementia and its nasty form, Alzheimer’s, runs amok in our family tree. It’s been the one thing my Dad has most feared…and it’s the one thing he remained reluctant to accept. He began taking prescribed meds to slow it down but soon rejected them on the basis that he didn’t need them.

This is where it gets difficult. It became crucial to get a Power of Attorney on record so that Mom could care for Dad when the time came that he could not advocate for himself. This was a major battle but one to which he finally gave surrender. Thankfully, both Mom and Dad already had a DNR on file (Do Not Resuscitate). That is one more legal order on file to make things smoother…if needed.

We had checked out some Nursing facilities beforehand. None of us knew what to do or even how to approach the issue of having Dad admitted into 24-hour care. We were most appreciative to know that most nursing homes have a social worker on staff to help with this. They should be able to let you know the process of having someone admitted and what all is needed beforehand to have that done. They were also extremely helpful when they suggested we consult with a Senior Financial Planner. We were led to the firm Mom decided to hire to help her handle their finances.

I can’t describe the importance of what this firm, this person, has meant to my Mom. Being a “Senior” planner they are expertly trained in dealing with everything of concern to my Mom. They instilled in her the confidence that everything would be okay; that she’d have what she needed to live off of; that Dad would get enrolled in Medicaid; and that they’d help her hang onto what was rightfully hers.

I’m not suggesting that this became easy. At times, Mom was so overwhelmed by everything that she could do little more than cry. Our government and our legal systems have not made it easy for our elderly population. In fact, it can be so confusing and so difficult that I would wager many give up and lose what they have rightfully earned. 

In time, Mom got most of her finances settled and we got Dad settled into his new home and his nursing care arranged. It became a good time to help Mom downsize and move her close to one of us kids. This meant selling their home and buying another. Dad had planned well for them and she was able to get both accomplished with little stress other than the move itself and the needed remodeling of the new home to work better for her needs.

Change of address: With Dad’s military, civil, and postal service retirements he had a good bit of federal paperwork that needed to be changed to reflect the new address. It’s imperative to notify the federal government to not jeopardize your retirement benefits. There is also military health insurance, and Social Security to notify.

Nightmare is too kind of a work to describe the maze that must be mastered by our elderly dependants. (Mother is 80 years old)

Our first move was to go to the Social Security office so that Mom could change her address and order a new card and to do the same for Dad. = Roadblock = they want Dad to come in and sign for himself. Explaining that he has Alzheimer’s and is in a locked down memory care unit at a nursing home does little to phase the desk worker. We offer the POA (Power of Attorney). It’s rejected. And I quote “The Federal Government does not recognize the Power of Attorney”. A legal, State document that has been recorded through the court system, notarized and filed is not good enough for the Government. They want their own! 

Yes, that’s Mom has to jump through all the hoops again to have a Representative Payee form approved and on file with the Federal Government to authorize her to act on Dad’s behalf regarding all of his federal benefits. It’s the same as a POA – but on the federal level.

If you’re thinking that once that’s done it’s finally over you’d be wrong. You see, government entities do not share information. That means you have to have a Representative Payee form on file for EACH entity to determine validity. At some point you really have to wonder where this all ends. 

We are still in the throes of getting all the required forms filed with the appropriate agencies. I can’t help but wonder how many of our deserving elderly simply give up and never receive what is due them. How many millions are not paid out?

My best advice to anyone facing these possibilities is to get assistance. Ask your nursing home social worker where to begin. Check different websites that deal with dementia and see if they have financial planning advice or contacts. Hire a financial planner if you can. Make it a priority to get the POA that you will need for your loved one. If they are military retirees, check on the Representative Payee form. The more you can do to prepare in advance, the better off you all will be.

Don’t wait. For my family’s sake, I won’t. You see, I’m at risk of Alzheimer’s too.

Here are some helpful links:

Leah Bartelt

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