Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Little gizmo helps Mom hear better on the phone

Mom's got some hearing loss and it seems to get worse all the time.   She has a hearing aid but using it on the telephone causes distortions that bother her.    Talking with family and friends on the phone is a major source of support and entertainment for her so I've been really concerned when I know she can't hear me talking to her.  I end up yelling into the phone yet she still can't seem to hear me.   I want to talk WITH her not just listen to her ramble; knowing what's going on with us helps keep her in the loop and she enjoys it. 

Before I go out and buy a volume controlled phone - the best start at $100  - I thought I'd try an in-line amplifier first.  Mom complained of echos and static on the phone so I hoped this would fix that and it did.  I spoke with her for more than 20 minutes and only had to yell once!  It was a huge relief.  I still need to get a phone with volume control on the handset or receiver but this will help reduce distortion on the line and boost the volume for Mom too.

I found the following product at  I usually don't like to shop Walmart but they had it for the best price and I could have it sent directly to Mom's apartment.  I should add that it takes a couple of AAA batteries but the first ones are included with the amplifier.   I also liked that she could adjust the volume on the unit.

Clarity CE-125 High Frequency Portable Telephone Amplifier, US$14.82.

Please note that I am not receiving any sort of compensation for listing this product on my blog.   I have not been given any products or samples by the manufacturer or distributor.  I've posted it simply because it is a useful tool for my mom.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Pop wants to get hitched? Shacking up is easier!

I spoke with a flabbergasted friend last week and I've debated whether or not to blog about it.   My need to point out the variety of scenarios and possibilities for our elders and offer some practical advice won out.... so here it is:

My friends widowed father, age 82, wants to marry a woman he met through his church.   I encouraged her to support him. Provided his finances are in order; his needs will be met without monetary penalty  and with an iron clad Power of Attorney for medical care.   It's a good situation for both of them, they are of similar ethnic heritage so they like the same foods, have the same memories of growing up in the US with immigrant parents - it's all similar history.    They want to move in to an apartment in an assisted living center in the town where each raised their kids, went to church, have doctors and mutual friends.   Another important factor - both are comfortable financially and don't have any dependents that need to inherit their money. They've also downsized and both have few "heirlooms" to argue over.   It's just a great situation and each will be happy.  I've heard other, far less happy scenarios (and, you know you're going to hear about it now...)

My sister in law suffered a great deal of hurt after her grand father remarried and died soon after.  
"Grandpa" was actually the second husband of Grandma; he'd been married before but had no children.  He married Grandma when the daughter was a young woman.  He was a good husband and when a step-grand daughter came along, he wished to be called "Grandpa".    Grandma and Grandpa each brought their own houses, furniture, funds and mementoes into the marriage.  Among the four of them, they had an understanding that all of the things each (Grandma and Grandpa) brought to the marriage would go to their respective family should anything happen.  Some years later Grandma passed away suddenly.  Grandpa was lonely afterward and step-daughter didn't want to take anything from the home for fear of upsetting him.  Just three months passed and one day Daughter got a call from Grandpa's neighbor - he was married!   Daughter went to investigate and learned that it was true, Grandpa married a woman he met at his "club" and she had already moved into the house.   Daughter wanted to gather some of her mothers things only to see that many had been tossed out and the new wife refused to let her take antique furniture, photos of her family - nothing.   This began a very contentious and mean spirited exchange of visits, calls and even a couple of calls to police!  In the end, the Daughter and Grand Daughter got nothing and it was crushing for them.   They wanted the mementos from their mom, grand father and great grand parents that were with the step-grandpa.  After the shock of loosing Grandma, they left things to help him feel a sense of continuity and family and now his lonely heart was more important.  He died a few months later - no will, nothing written down and the "new" wife got it all - Grandma's house, Grandma's furniture, dishes, even the doilies.   Legally, there was nothing the Daughter or Grand Daughter could do. Grandma died with no will so everything went to Grandpa. When Grandpa died with no will it all went to his spouse. 

Now if Grand Pa had just shacked up with the new woman, they would have legal recourse.  ...  That is what I would propose to an elder if they wished to share their life with some one rather than be all alone.   There are all kinds of things to consider when elders marry:

  • In most states a spouse can be forced to provide some kind of support for necessities - no matter how long the marriage.  
  • The legal act of marriage can also tie up funds if a spouse incurs debt after saying "i do".  Debt, funds and property acquired before the marriage are not likely to be considered community property but it all depends on the state. 
  • Should one spouse need state assistance, the state can put a lien on a home even though s/he only spent a short time there and didn't contribute to the upkeep - it all depends on state law.
  • Widows pensions might also stop if a woman is remarried, to retain income, stay single!
  • The contents of a house are generally considered the property of the home owner unless it's a high dollar item like artwork, jewelry.  
  • Elders should give away heirlooms SOON or specifically call out distribution in a will.  Even if the remaining spouse remarries, the original heirs will have a legal standing to obtain things if it's written down.

I've also seen wonderful examples where families are co-operative, where grandma or grandpa WANTS to downsize and passes along heirlooms to be enjoyed while they are alive.   It seems that the painful examples are those we remember most.   I am by no means an attorney or legal expert but I do know that isolation ane loneliness are strong motivators.  If you love your elder, help them to feel less lonely, encourage them to be honest. If they want to share their lives, help them do it in a way that feels best for them and maintains relationships with their kids and grand kids.  Also try to form a friendship with the new "significant other"; they probably need some love and support too.  

Medicaide letter confuses but ALF clears it all up...

We received a letter from Medicaide that said Mom's aid level was about $390 a month.  It's good news that they processed it so quickly but I still have questions.   The letter arrived at my mothers house where my brother lives so he read it to me.   He's not very patient so I didn't ask him to read it over and must trust him when he says "it's a short letter and there's no other discussion or facts." 

Luckily, the director of Mom's ALF called this morning to tell me about the information they received from Medicaide.  She was very clear about the details, and long story short: Adding Mom's income and Medicaide, she will be $1125 short each month for her rent.  Since we paid her rent for January, that total amount is considered a credit with the ALF.  We'll divide that balance by two and use it to pay for January and February.  Come March, Mom will have to share a room.   Her room is already very small so they will try to move her to a larger room.  I expressed concern about mean or aggressive roommates and she assured me they will work with us to find someone who mom will enjoy.  I am also concerned that the room will be too crowded.  Nearly all of the residents have walkers, so with two beds, two walkers or wheel chairs and a couple of rockers or recliners and the room will be chock full!   I HATE that she has to share a room but she complains about lack of company so perhaps it will be good for her.

Now more work for me - getting things set up on direct deposit for pension checks, payment of rent and payment of pharmacy bills.   Ugh!