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Advice for Elder Care Doesn't Have to be Complex

The Orange County Register
The Orange County Register


Let's start with the assumption everyone is really, really happy grandma is coming to live with you.

Sure, it's a far-fetched notion, but the three-generation household — once the norm — is becoming a recession reality.

Multigenerational households made up 5.3 percent of all households in 2008, up from 4.8 percent in 2000, says an AARP report.

It's all about money. Eroded investments — a drop of more than 40 percent in retirement savings, a doubled unemployment rate of 7 percent for 55-plus workers this year — are forcing change.

About 1 in 10 people age 50-plus live either with grandchildren or their parents, says an AARP survey. And 16 percent over 55 say the move was made in the past six months because of economic necessity, ranging from job loss to home foreclosure.

But generations rarely come together easily, says Marion Somers, a geriatric specialist and author of "Elder Care Made Easier — Doctor Marion's 10 Steps to Help You Care for an Aging Loved One" (Addicus Books.com).

Q. I'm impressed with this book because in fewer than 150 pages you give concise and pointed information on everything from a top-notch list of resources to legal and financial issues.

A. I believe in steps, not lengthy chapters. Make it easy. No need to reinvent the wheel.

Q. What is the first major hurdle?

A. If grandma is moving in, the family needs a realistic approach to living arrangements. If there are teenage children, how will they be affected? Who takes grandma to the doctor? What about senior social centers? What about teenage friends visiting? What if grandma smokes?

Assuming the adult child is the caregiver in this sandwich family, every question and issue needs to be dealt with line for line before it arises. Chaos can ruin a family structure.

Q. Tell me some practical matters families need to consider.

A. Is the house elderproof? Make it safer by eliminating or removing clutter. Up the wattage in the lightbulbs because older people need more light.

Q. Let's talk about financial concerns.

A. It's easy to say: figure out your elder's assets; determine monthly income; add up all monthly expenses; figure out if your elder has enough money to live comfortably for the rest of his or her life.

But many of today's retirees are living 10 years or longer than they thought they would.

Figure out assets from all sources, from hidden valuables to checking accounts.

Q. Hidden valuables?

A. Some seniors hide cash and valuables and forget where they put them — buried in the back yard, pinned inside a winter coat, wrapped in foil behind the radiator. It's your job to find these valuables.

Then you need to inventory overlooked assets — possessions like Turkish rugs, insurance policies and so on.

Q. Legal issues?

A. This goes with financial concerns. Protect your loved one by getting all affairs in order. People think this is already done, but in my experience fewer than 30 percent of elders have taken care of everything from determining assets to authorizing a person to make decisions for them if they become incapacitated.

Getting legal issues in order is a relief to most elders. There is a lot more financial abuse in families than most people realize. It is about equal to emotional abuse.

Q. There are such lengthy books on caring for an elder — whether in your home or in aging in place or in a nursing home environment. You are right. The questions are basic and so are the answers.

A. You don't need a huge book. For updated or more information, check out my website, doctormarion.com. I'm constantly adding to it.

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