Take Advantage of the Holidays to Check in on Your Senior Family Members
Hooper Attorney Justin Randall and Carrie Esselman from the Fox Valley Memory Project discuss how you can check in on their mental health, why it's so important to do so, and how you can best help your loved one with cognitive decline.
Millaine Wells: You know, during the holidays, you might see family members for the first time in a while.
Lisa Malak: So today with Attorney Justin Randall from Hooper Law Office and Carrie Esselman from the Fox Valley Memory Project, we're talking about recognizing when changes need to be addressed. Good morning to both of you.
Justin Randall: Good morning.
Lisa Malak: Well, Carrie, let's start right in. We see our family members. We haven't seen them for quite a while. What should we be looking for when we all get together?
Carrie Esselman: You know, one thing that's easy to do and first thing to do, go look in the fridge, see if there's food in there, there's sufficient food supply. And if the food that is in there, if it's edible, if it's healthy, and if they're in the cupboards and seen the supply of food that they may have. That's one kind of passive way that you can go and see how they're doing as far as keeping themselves healthy and future nutrition, nutrition for the future.
Millaine Wells: What about changes in their house? Maybe it's not as clean as it was. Maybe you're not putting stains on their clothing.
Carrie Esselman: Yeah. Yeah. You couldn't. You know, sometimes there's a smell, an odor to the house because sometimes, you know, incontinence can be an issue that people, you know, hide because of that. And, you know, the organized, you know, if someone has always been organized or their house has been spotless and you walk in, you don't see that anymore or there's- they’re stocking up, you know, they have cans of dog, uh, cat food, but they don't have the cat. There's different things that you can see just within the environment.
Lisa Malak: So what should we do if we notice these changes?
Carrie Esselman: Right. Confronting it in front of the person may be pretty sensitive. You can ask for maybe, you know, why are these why do you have cat food? And look at the answer and maybe they may hesitate and that's okay. But then I would just consult with your, uh, your team, your family team, your caregiver team, and then tap into some resources and explore the resources that are in the area before you put things into action.
Millaine Wells: Speaking of resources, tell us about the Fox Valley Memory Project.
Carrie Esselman: For the Fox Valley Memory Project. We serve four counties: Outagamie, Waupaca, Calumet and Winnebago counties. And we do social programing for individuals living with dementia, memory impairment, and their caregivers. So that caregiver support is important as well. And we do respite programs as well. So we have four days a week. We have a program that provides social programing, exercise, wellness, a lunch is provided and the caregiver does not need to be there so they can drop their loved ones off, be engaged. Same routine consistency, and then they can go have the caregiver can go have respite for those 3 hours.
Lisa Malak: Well, Justin, let's turn to the legal aspect now of noticing memory care loss and the possibility of some Long Term Care. What do we need to know to make it affordable if we're noticing these changes?
Justin Randall: Yeah, I mean, first and foremost, this is going to be something you're going to want to look into well in advance of noticing a cognitive decline. But we always recommend our clients look at Long Term Care Insurance as an option initially so that that can help them privately pay at facilities as long as possible. But if someone's starting to notice a cognitive decline and they don't have this type of insurance or they don't have good Powers of Attorney in place, it's really essential that they come in to talk to an Estate Planning or Elder Law Attorney and get good Powers of Attorney for finance, health care in place, and then also have their Estate Plan updated, too, while they have the ability to do so.
Millaine Wells: Do we have to have some sort of agreement in place for someone to do this planning on our behalf?
Justin Randall: Yes. Yeah. So with the Powers of Attorney, it's absolutely essential to have those, because that's where that authority is going to be granted without these Powers of Attorney in place, especially for the financial and legal side of things. Somebody in their family is not going to necessarily have the authority to act on their behalf. And without these documents, they can require guardianship to get some of the same authorities. But the guardianship courts are very hesitant to grant the same type of authority we can grant through a Power of Attorney.