My Dad Dropping Dead: 3 Lessons I Learned About Human Nature – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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My father Hank passed away suddenly this summer at the age of 65.  While he wasn’t in the greatest health, this was a huge shock to our family.

I have been outspoken my whole career about the need for all of us to have wills and advance directives.  So naturally I hassled my Dad into creating his over a decade ago.  And create them he did.

Hank was extremely clear about what he did and did not want for funeral arrangements.  But some of what he did want was extremely unconventional (at least for our family).  Click here to see a 2 minute video of the story:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0EzaGAOll0

For years I have been adamant that every adult should have end of life documents.  Countless times I have heard from people that, “my kids will just decide” or “my children will know best.”  My response has always been: are you sure they know what you want?  And if they do know will they be strong enough to advocate for your wishes if they are not popular with others?  Here’s what I learned about human nature (and myself) from this experience:

  1. You may not know your loved one as well as you think.  I knew my Dad pretty well.  Despite this, if he had not written down his wishes, I would not have known he would not want a traditional funeral.  If I did know, I don’t know if I would have remembered when I was in such a state of shock.
  2. You may be at risk to succumbing from pressure from others.  Even if you are strong-willed, you may feel pressure from others in the family and/or healthcare providers (in advance directive situations).  Even though my aunts did not pressure my siblings and me at all, I know that I felt pressure to consider going against some of Hank’s wishes since they deviated from our family’s traditions.
  3. You may personally be tempted to go off course.  Even though Hank did have all of his wishes clearly in writing, I was startled how in an emotional moment I considered not honoring all of his directions because they weren’t what I necessarily wanted.  While we did ultimately honor his choices, even a strong advocate can have a weak moment.

If my family and I struggled this much when we had precise detailed information in front of us, what happens when the people that love you are not left written instructions? Chaos.  Arguments.  Confusion. Who needs that when you are trying to grieve and absorb a painful loss?

I am so grateful to my Dad for making that very sad and shocking day a little simpler for all of us.

Do your loved ones a favor.  Give them a road map to your wishes.  Talk about it this holiday season.  Then make an appointment with your attorney for the New Year.

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

Secrets To Keeping Your Job When You are Caregiving At Home – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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Are you one of the nearly 20% of Americans who works at a job while caring for a loved one at home? Caregiving for a loved one is stressful enough, but trying to manage a full or even part-time job simultaneously can be downright grueling. Here are five tips on how to balance caregiving while keeping your employer happy.

1.  Don’t expect your employer to anticipate what’s going on. While most employers know what to expect when an employee has a new baby, they have no idea how to support an employee who is caregiving. When an employee becomes a parent, maternity, and even more recently even paternity, leave is the norm. Typically there is a workplace plan in place because this type of leave is expected. Many bosses, even sensitive ones, are less experienced in anticipating the countless challenges caregivers of older loved ones face.

2.  Make an appointment with Human Resources.  What support can they offer? Many organizations are required to offer Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) but are there other benefits available through the workplace health insurance plan or an employee assistance program? Perhaps your employer would be open to flexible hours, telecommuting, an abbreviated work week or longer sabbatical if you need more time off than FMLA can provide.

3.  Keep communicating with your employer. If your manager agrees to change your work duties or schedule to accommodate your caregiving, make sure you honor this agreement fully. Keep your employer abreast if you are not going to be able to hold up your end of the deal for any reason. Document your conversations so you can refer back to them if there is ever a problem on either end.

4.  Don’t quit your job before thinking it through. Many caregivers take early retirement or quit their job entirely to take care of an older loved one. While this might be the right decision for you and your family, it is important to seriously consider the financial and emotional consequences. It may be much more cost-effective in the long term for you to keep working but hire help for your loved one.

5.  Seek help outside the office. While it’s helpful if your employer understands your caregiving challenges, you will likely benefit from support outside the workplace. While your coworkers and boss may be accommodating you, they should not be a dumping ground for all your stress.   Consider whether you could use the assistance of a non-profit that specializes in your loved one’s health issue.  Some examples include the Alzheimer’s Association (www.alz.org); American Heart Association (www.heart.org); American Cancer Society (www.cancer.org) and the Anxiety & Depression Association of American (www.adaa.org).

 

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

How to Spot Red Flags of Clients at Risk for Exploitation – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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Suzanne has been 82- year old Mr. Burns’ financial planner for the last seventeen years.  Mr. Burns has been very conservative with his investments and has never made a large withdrawal from his account.  Today, Mr. Burns calls to say he would like to liquidate his account so he can travel across Europe with his new 28-year old girlfriend.  Suzanne is perplexed by this—she has never known Mr. Burns to go on a vacation other than to visit his daughter who lives a few hours away.  This is also the first time Suzanne has ever heard about a new girlfriend.

Everything might be just fine with Mr. Burns; perhaps he has finally gotten the travel bug and has genuinely fallen in love.  On the other hand, this new behavior could indicate a change in cognitive status.

Many people understand that Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias include short term memory loss.  But what so many don’t understand is that unusual behavior, personality changes, lack of inhibition and getting lost in familiar places can also be red flags.

While financial planners advise and guide their clients, ultimately the client has a right to do what he wants.  Even though Suzanne may express concern about his liquidation request, she ultimately would have to follow his order. That’s why I am thrilled that FINRA has established these new rules to protect the older investor as well as the financial planner:

https://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/Regulatory-Notice-17-11.pdf

Beginning in February 2018, planners will have some options in cases like this.  Suzanne could put a temporary hold on Mr. Burns’ account.  She could also contact Mr. Burns’ trusted contact person who is listed on his account.  These rules offer the financial planner peace of mind when dealing with a client situation that feels “off.”

Once Suzanne exercises these options, it’s possible that it will be determined that Mr. Burns is cognitively intact. Maybe Mr. Burns knows exactly what he is doing and it will all work out fine.  He and the new girlfriend will live happily ever after backpacking across Europe.  Or perhaps Mr. Burns is being exploited and he will end up losing his life savings through a scam perpetuated by the new girlfriend.

With the implementation of these new rules, it is quite possible that Suzanne could save Mr. Burns and his family from the heartache of poor decisions made under the influence of dementia.

If you are a financial planner who wants more information about how to spot red flags of clients at risk for exploitation, join me for a webinar on the topic approved by the CFP Board: Thursday Dec 7–To register, click on http://jenerationshealth.com/online-events. I will also be on Sirius XM this week discussing this topic on Business Radio Channel 111 at 5pm EST on December 5.

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

Why You Don’t Want To Overstep Your Boundaries This Holiday Weekend – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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Are you going to see an older loved one—perhaps a parent– over this Thanksgiving weekend?  Maybe that person has dementia, diabetes, debilitating arthritis or any number of other conditions.  If this parent already has a caregiver—your sister-in-law, for example–check out this short video on why often it’s a good idea to keep your opinions about your parent’s care to yourself:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gs8S96QCljA

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.

Does The Patient Want To Be Featured On Social Media? – By Jennifer L. FitzPatrick

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Have you observed the latest trend on social media?  It’s not a new meme or hashtag.  It’s the phenomenon of people posting about loved ones who are ill or even dying.  I certainly understand why it’s happening.  It probably seems like the easiest way to keep everyone in your friends and family network in the loop.  But have those who post considered whether or not the patient wants to be featured on social media?

In the last six months I have observed the following:

  1. Selfies of family members at a hospice patient’s bedside posing with a person who appears to be sleeping or at least half-asleep.
  2. Videos of patients who have dementia, are recovering from strokes, and/or doing rehab exercises.
  3. Lengthy, personal updates about a patient’s health that are several paragraphs long.  Some of these posts include detailed information on diagnosis, medications, surgeries, and prognosis.  Many of these updates feature graphic descriptions of symptoms the patient is experiencing.

Perhaps these patients are well aware that their health progress will be featured on social media.  Or maybe the family members believe there is implied consent for posting.  After all, Millennial and Generation Z patients may very well assume that such photos or videos of themselves will be uploaded straight to Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or even Snapchat.  But the vast majority of photographs and videos I am seeing in hospital or nursing home settings are of Baby Boomers and Traditionalist who may not realize their health status is being shared.

What can we do?

Family member & friends:  If you want to post about a sick or dying loved one, ask if he or she is okay with it.  While many family members will understand if you send out an e-mail or update a private page like www.lotsahelpinghands.org so close relatives are in the know, many may object to broad-based updates to all of your extensive network of contacts (and their contacts, depending on your privacy settings).

Also, consider the last time you took a sick day.  Would you welcome the prospect of someone posting a picture or video of you?

Healthcare professionals:  If you observe this behavior, remind family caregivers that they should seek the loved one’s permission before sharing.  Talk to them about HIPPA, confidentiality, as well as respecting the dignity of their loved ones.  Suggest that they consider more private ways to share information such as www.lotsofhelpinghands.org.

Jennifer L. FitzPatrick – MSW, LCSW-C, CSP
The founder of Jenerations Health Education, Inc., Jennifer FitzPatrick has over 20 years’ experience in healthcare and gerontology. The author of Cruising Through Caregiving: Reducing The Stress of Caring For Your Loved One, she is also a gerontology instructor at Johns Hopkins University and an Education Consultant to the Alzheimer’s Association. She helps you reduce stress and increase productivity, morale and revenue. Jennifer and Cruising Through Caregiving have been featured in Forbes, U.S. News & World Report, The Huffington Post, Reader’s Digest, Univision and The Chicago Tribune. She has also appeared on ABC and Sirius XM.