Virginia Morris is the author of How to Care For Aging Parents. Originally published in 1996, it has been described as “The bible of eldercare” by ABC World News, “An indispensable book” by AARP, and “A compassionate guide of encyclopedic proportion” by The Washington Post.
With Baby Boomers approaching old age, Virginia’s book is more relevant than ever. I lost both of my parents early to Alzheimer’s, and I know that as parents live longer and further away from their children than ever before, they also can make massive financial mistakes that may impact everyone involved for years to come.
Today, Virginia joins the podcast to share the story of how she went from reporting on healthcare to become the media’s go-to personality on eldercare, the complicated and changing relationships between parents and children as they age, and how to ensure a smooth financial transition through this process.
In this podcast interview, you’ll learn:
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[00:00:00] Andrew: Welcome, everybody, to another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond. Today, very excited to introduce you all to Virginia Morris. Virginia, welcome to the podcast. How are you this fine day?
[00:00:11] Virginia: I’m great. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:14] Andrew: So, today’s show I think is going to be relevant for all of us and when we think back to originally, Virginia, when you wrote the book, How to Care for Aging Parents, and that was all the way, was that back in ‘95, ‘96 or so?
[00:00:30] Virginia: Yes. So, I started the book and working on it in about ‘91, ’92. It seems like forever ago.
[00:00:39] Andrew: And when you started the research for that, what kind of triggered that for you? What was your background and how did you get into that point of knowing that this is a topic that was important and I think is even more important today with the aging population of the baby boomers?
[00:00:56] Virginia: Well, I was a medical journalist and at the time, if you can imagine, there was no Internet what life was like. There were no books on caring for an aging parent and honestly, it was really more my mother’s friends who are going through it. So, now since then I have cared for and lost both my parents but at the time people had to call places and then get material sent to them and they would have boxes of little folders and pamphlets. So, they just didn’t have any real information at all. So, that triggered it and I literally just went to people and said, “If you had a book on this, what would it look like?” And that was the need at the time.
[00:01:42] Andrew: So, prior to writing this book, your background that you hadn’t been an author before. What’s your profession or what were you doing?
[00:01:52] Virginia: I was a reporter and a journalist writing about healthcare and decided to write this book. It was a much bigger project than I had thought. I mean, I just sort of thought, “Oh, okay, I can spend a year and write this book,” but it was about four.
[00:02:11] Andrew: Wow. So, it kind of fit in with both passions of being a reporter and then understanding some of the complexities or the complexities of healthcare and then you got into it and you probably thought, “Hey, this will be easy. We’ll figure this out, get it going,” and then you just started digging in and getting deeper and deeper into some of the things that were out there.
[00:02:29] Virginia: Well, and there are so many issues and it’s so complex. I was actually really glad that I did it before I cared for my own parents because I didn’t come to it with a lot of my own baggage. I really was just listening to hundreds of caregivers all over the country and their issues and what they needed help with.
[00:02:48] Andrew: Yeah. I think this sits home for all of us especially as whether it’s a grandparent, a parent, but in our industry and so investment management firm, we work with a lot of clients and I’ve seen over the last 20 years or so clients have worked with just you see the cognitive impairment and you see what’s happening in the relationships straining. And some of the things we’re going to talk about today are ways that we can help protect our parents, things to look at that you outlined in the book. Not everything from estate planning to password protection to understanding just the intricacies of the medical world, but I lost both my grandparents on separate sides from Alzheimer’s over the course of the last 20 years, and from your standpoint, what do you see with that with living longer, but the cognitive impairment that’s affecting so many?
[00:03:47] Virginia: Well, that’s a huge question. It’s all tough caring for a parent. There are so many aspects of is it time to move? Or should they be driving? Or how do I get along with my siblings? But when somebody’s mind starts to go, and particularly when they can’t even remember that you’re their child, it’s a level of pain that I don’t think one can understand unless they’ve been there. It’s just tragic but I think from your perspective of protecting someone, it becomes complicated, especially in the early stages where it’s not quite clear. Is this a diagnosed disease? Do I now have power of attorney? Am I in charge? And what kind of mistakes they’re making? I’ve seen so many cases, as I’m sure you have too of people not really realizing that this is a problem and suddenly seeing that they’ve emptied their accounts or gone through a ton of money on some sort of scam or quasi-scam or just not very thought out moves. Because one of the first things to go is your financial judgment. So, you don’t necessarily see that somebody has dementia until they’ve already made massive mistakes financially.
[00:05:14] Andrew: One of the things that we’re seeing more and more of on our end and I think this kind of fits in with the whole estate planning side, but on the financial side, maybe at this point you don’t want to give control to the kids or to a family member so, obviously, when we look at trusts and powers of attorney, but then what we’re seeing on the financial lens is designating an authorized person that the institutions whether it’s a bank, an investment advisor, an insurance that they now have the ability based on that authorization when they were sound mind and body to be able to release that information. So, it’s almost like a power of attorney for financial on steroids. And have you seen that and have you seen it be successful in helping to make sure the designated person is able to step in and make the right decisions?
[00:06:01] Virginia: I’m not as familiar with it. I mean, I don’t have a lot of experience with it, but I do advise people to if you’ve named somebody or decided on somebody who is going to oversee your finances when you can’t anymore, it’s good to get them in the act early on. Don’t wait until you’ve had a stroke and you’re in the hospital and now, “Oh, here, you’re in charge,” and they know nothing about your finances. So, I’m always advising people to start that process very early so somebody is at least remotely involved and knows what’s going on and knows the investment manager or the bankers involved and here are all the accounts, here’s the way I like to do things because it’s a lot for an adult child to suddenly take it on. Well, mom’s in the hospital or dad’s in the hospital. I’m dealing with that emotionally and now I have to also learn all of this.
[00:07:05] Andrew: And I think too for when we talk a little bit later on about the caretaker and a lot of times the caretaker has all the stress and the pressure and we need to make sure that caretaker is keeping a sound mind and body and staying healthy. But from the standpoint of seeing my mother-in-law and thankfully, I don’t think she’s listening to this podcast. Love you. But she just moved here from Encino in late 70s and doing awesome, but I can definitely tell that things are starting to change and she still lives alone but like this role reversal. The role reversal of going from, “Hey, that’s my parent and that’s somebody that I’m going to take my orders from as a child and I’m always looking up to them,” to now what we’re seeing in the 40s and 50s is this reversal of that of now that the parents slowly becoming more of that, I won’t say a child, but let’s call it what it is. We’re there now needing you more and more. So, what’s that psychology that can help us as caretakers to define that and understand that reversal is real and not be afraid of it?
[00:08:15] Virginia: Well, I guess, I would first say I would warn people against thinking of it as a reversal because you’re not the parent and they’re not children, and I think that can complicate things if you start to see it that way because, of course, with the child, you know better, you’re in charge, you need to do this, or you’re going to go to your room or whatever. This is an adult who’s led a full life and has a lot of opinions and this is their independence and autonomy and healthcare. So, I think you really need to try to remember as disabled or confused or ill as they may be that this is still your parent and it is an adult who is disabled and you want to try to respect that as much as you possibly can because I think one of the hardest things can be when a parent feels they’ve lost all purpose and respect.
So, in any way you can give them a sense of autonomy and that there’s still someone in charge, even if maybe they aren’t, and you’re still asking what they would like in certain situations, it’s tricky. I just think that when we start to treat our parents like children, it can lead to sort of a downward spiral of us wanting control and them fighting that control. I think often our desire to keep our parents really safe collides with their desire to be independent and find joy in life in their own ways. So, you just have to think of it in kind of a whole different relationship that this is an elderly person who got an illness.
[00:10:16] Andrew: That’s great advice. You don’t want to push them away so I think, listeners, that’s a great way to look at it. So, you think about this. Your first edition came out in ‘96 and now in just a few years ago you had, I think, reprinted and now you have the third edition. What’s changed over the last 20 plus years from writing that book? You started in ‘91 to then having the third edition in 2014 or so.
[00:10:46] Virginia: Well, so interesting, so much has changed. I mean, the Internet for starters, which has made life easier, but also made it incredibly more complicated because while, yes, there’s information at your fingertips, there’s too much information and much of it is bad information and a lot of companies have learned how to create very benign-seeming websites that actually are just trying to sell you something. So, you have to be a very smart, cautious, skeptical consumer when you’re using the Internet. I think it can be just an overwhelming amount of information if like getting a sip of water from a firehose. So, good and bad. Technology, there’s all sorts of new technology, which again, you can be sold a bill of goods. You don’t want to just have your parent being monitored by 20 different machines.
It’s still face-to-face and touch are important things but it’s nice to have a pill reminder or a fall alert or to know when your parents need help. Weirdly, people are living longer even in that short span. I used to talk to people all the time whose parents were in their 80s. I now speak to people quite regularly whose parents are over 100. That seems both statistically and in my own experience to have changed. So, it’s not like somebody just needs care for five years. They’re often needing care for 20 years, which is major. And the boomers are starting to age, so I think boomers we are looking at our own old age in addition to maybe caring for or having cared for our parents, we’re thinking about what are we going to do if we live to be 100.
[00:12:53] Andrew: Well, and the probability of a 65-year-old couple with one of them living to 90 I think is probably what 30% to 40% at least one of them will live to 90, maybe even higher. So, that’s something that is sitting with clients that we have to impress upon them that a 68-year-old who maybe lost their parents at 82 and they think I’m going to die at 84. It’s not the case. The high probability of living to 100 and many of the factors besides the healthcare but running out of money and not having a game plan, these are things as planners we have to look and say what’s the worst case scenario that you’ll live a long time and it could be a healthy life or part healthy, part sick, but these are the things that I think you hit on there that we have to just focus on the new reality.
[00:13:38] Virginia: Oh my gosh, you think about retiring at 65, it used to be, yeah, it might have 15 more years, but now you might have 30 more years so you really have a whole lifetime after 65 and rethink if that’s really a good thing to do.
[00:13:56] Andrew: And I think by 2030, I read recently, there’s going to be over 72 million people that are over 65. That’s just daunting.
[00:14:05] Virginia: Yes. If we step back and look at the whole, we are in for quite a ride. I don’t know how the country is going to deal with that.
[00:14:15] Andrew: So, a lot of in your research and your books that you’ve written and I know the second book you wrote to talking about that. So, all the fun stuff, right? About caregiving.
[00:14:24] Virginia: Oh yeah, I’m a very cheery person.
[00:14:28] Andrew: But when we think about the caregiver, what are some and we talk about these 10 survival tips. So, if we break down a couple of those tips, what can we do as a caregiver to kind of start that process to take hold of things?
[00:14:45] Virginia: Well, I think wherever you are in this whether you are just starting out or nearing the end, you want to be a step ahead if you can. I think one of the things I hear most often from caregivers is, “I wish I’d known. I wish I’d thought of this. I wish I prepared for this.” There’s a lot of denial that goes on, a lot of, “Gee, I just don’t want to do that. I’ll put it at the bottom of the to-do list,” but just a little bit of preparation can change everything whether it’s financial, legal, having documents that you need, thinking about, “Well, mom, if you couldn’t live here, where would you want to live?” What’s the next step there all the way to if somebody’s been diagnosed with a serious illness, thinking about what sort of medical care you really want? What are your goals and priorities? How much do you want to push the limits? Are your healthcare proxies prepared to make tough decisions? I have never yet met anyone who said, “Well, I was just too prepared for all that.”
It’s not exciting advice but it is really, really important. And I think you touched on one of the other things I would stress, which is taking care of yourself. Most caregivers don’t identify themselves as caregivers. They just think they’re doing what they need to do and sort of think, well, she doesn’t live with me. I don’t do day-to-day care or whatever but it’s a really exhausting job and I don’t think we often realize what a toll it takes on us until it’s over. But if you’re fried, if you’re depressed, if you’re sick, if you’re just at your wit’s end trying to juggle work and kids, and parent care, you’re not going to be any good to your parents so it’s sort of goes against your grain. I mean, everyone feels like, “Well, I’m too busy to take care of myself,” but it’s so important that you take care of yourself.
[00:16:43] Virginia: And just taking time out for yourself, making sure you’re eating right and getting exercise and all the things you know you should be doing but actually making an effort to do that because you will just be a better caregiver. You will be a more kind and patient and effective caregiver if you are taking care of yourself.
[00:17:06] Andrew: Right. And especially too if you’re a parent and you’re sandwiched in between helping your parent and then you’ve got children that you’re trying to raise, that becomes even more pressure on you. And finding what makes you happy or having that time to do yoga or meditation or hiking, that’s going to keep you grounded and that’s going to keep you sharp and that’s going to keep you mentally stable.
[00:17:27] Virginia: Yeah. It’s interesting, I think that people sort of feel like, well, everybody has taken care of their parents. It’s what people have done throughout history and across every culture and continent. What’s my problem? Why can’t I? Why is this so hard for me? We forget that in America today like we said, people are living much, much longer with very debilitating illnesses and disabilities and we live farther away from our parents. Women are working, we’re having children later. There are way more demands on this generation than ever before in terms of caring for a parent. So, it is a really big job. It is a huge amount of stress. People get divorced, people end up in financial dire straits themselves. You really have to find some balance.
[00:18:21] Andrew: And I think these tips can also be for the caregiver that’s a spouse both sides here where they as a caregiver have to take care of themselves. We see at the retrospective a couple of years after they have lost a spouse that they’re just getting their life back, and it’s something that you don’t want to wait to that point. You got to also make time for yourself and get the help that you need, whether it’s family, it’s friends, it’s paying for an agency to come in, but you’re not going to be any good if you’re not there for them. So, whether parent or spouse, family member, you got to make sure that you utilize your network of loved ones and trusted people.
[00:19:00] Virginia: Right. Exactly.
[00:19:03] Andrew: So, estate planning we touched on a little bit but let’s talk about that because as you said, so many people talk about, “Hey, I’ll get to it next year,” or they just put it out of their mind because it talks about the invincibility of all of us. So, on the estate planning side, I’m caring for my parents. What are some of the things, the conversations that we can have, or what should we be looking for to ensure that down the road things will be a smooth transition on death or incapacity?
[00:19:32] Virginia: Well, I think the most important probably and you probably have a lot to weigh in on this but is identifying somebody who can handle these things for you that you really trust that knows what they’re doing that can be a good spokesperson for the rest of the family and gets along with siblings, and I mean it’s a lot to ask. So, you really want to think carefully about who’s the best person for that job and bring them in, as I say, as early as possible so they understand what’s happening. One of the things, you mentioned sort of things I’ve seen since I started the book to now which goes with this question is the amount of sort of fraud, and scams, exploitation that goes on and everybody thinks it won’t happen to me or it won’t happen to my parent, but it is rampant.
And that can be just a repair person who comes to the house and tells you, “Well, this roof needs to be repaired,” and when it doesn’t and it cost your parent a lot of money or phone scams and phishing things, but it can also be a caregiver that you’ve hired, an aid in the house. It can be anyone who is taking advantage of someone. So, back to estate planning, again, why it’s so important to have somebody just overseeing getting copies, having your passwords, being able to look at your accounts, make sure things make sense and there’s nothing questionable going on. And I think also making sure you have all the documents signed and Ts crossed and Is dotted. I, as I said, write a lot about death and dying and having a good person to make decisions regarding medical care and making sure that person really knows what your goals and priorities are and what you want is so important.
[00:21:36] Virginia: I think most of what I end up talking about comes back to communication and you just need to communicate with your kids and other loved ones, and your investment people, and your doctor, and your lawyer, and make sure that everyone really understands clearly what it is you want. Don’t assume they sort of get it because you may be one time said one thing.
[00:22:00] Andrew: And that’s beyond that conversation and it’s then taking it and having it legally documented. It’s so important. You think about the end of life, whether living wills or do not resuscitate, many of us can remember about 12, 13 years ago, the Terri Schiavo case in Florida where a young woman was in a coma for a long time and, well, she didn’t have anything in place. Obviously, as somebody young, it’s the last thing we think about, but then it became a battle, a battle between the family, between the courts. And so, just because you say it, what we always encourage is to make sure that you have it legalized and healthcare versus estate planning and trust which sometimes we look at that as, federally, each state is kind of the same. But on the healthcare side, you really want to make sure you understand the statutes for the state you live in or if you move to a different state because they could be treated a little bit differently when it comes to those statutes on the end of life. So, that’s definitely something that you as the caregiver or listeners out there that are thinking about these things, make sure you talk to a counsel or somebody that knows what they’re doing.
[00:23:06] Virginia: And it’s important for people to understand that I think people think of end-of-life care and advanced directives in terms of, yeah, I don’t want to drag out and unplug me when I’m there and I don’t want to be in a state where all medical care is futile and I’m still getting it. But it’s actually so much more complicated than that, not in terms of things that you today have to learn and understand but the decisions are often not about futile care. They’re often about a transfusion or dialysis or a new procedure and how far do you want to go and is this really go with what your parent wanted? So, it’s not that it’s futile or ridiculous. It’s that the odds aren’t great and it’s really hard as a loved one to call those shots to say, “Yeah, we’re done. We want to call hospice in or we want palliative care to come in,” and it’s just painful.
So, all of your instincts, everything we sort of evolved to be, you know, come to the forefront and suddenly you’re saying, “Yeah. We’re not ready to lose her yet. We got to do all these treatments. When in some part of your mind you know this maybe isn’t what she wanted. So, talking at some length, more than the legal documents, I think talking at some length to your children or other spouse or whoever you choose as your health care proxy about what your real goals and priorities are in life and what brings you comfort and what would be unacceptable for you and what you fear and what you believe is so important, so they know when they’re making those decisions, “Wow. She said I want you to err on the side of too little, not too much or whatever.”
[00:25:07] Virginia: It’s so important because often we think we know when we signed the papers and then people end up in the ICU exactly where nobody wanted to be. That was really why I wrote that book was why is it that people who have all the papers signed and have had the conversations and think they’ve done the right thing end up with exactly the care they don’t want which is not just horrible for the person who is dying. It’s horrible for the whole family. They end up with terrible memories and regrets and grief.
[00:25:41] Andrew: Yeah. I mean, communication, from what you’re stating here, communication is the key and I think these are such hard things for people to open up about. So, in your book you talk about kind of what would be the best way to open that dialogue, and although I don’t think you mentioned in here to when not to do it but for me, it just holidays yet seems like let’s do it around Christmas or breaks but I don’t know. Don’t you think it should be something that’s away from those happier, not that this isn’t happy but really that they’re just dialed in, they’re focused on this specific conversation rather than thinking about all the other things that the holidays brings?
[00:26:26] Virginia: Oh, yeah. I mean, ideally, you wouldn’t do it over turkey. No. That’s not ideal. And I think there’s a few things you don’t want to sort of imagine this as one conversation, I’m going to go see her, we’re going to have this talk, and then we’re done.” It’s a series of conversations. It evolves. It goes in directions you don’t necessarily expect. So, I would advise people to be careful about coming to that conversation too well prepared, too well-armed with a checklist that we’re going to talk about this, this, and this, and this and here’s all the information whether you’re talking about end-of-life or is it time to move or should you be driving or your investments or whatever it is. When they hand over the reins, you really want to come listening. What are you worried about? What can I do for you? And really listen to where they are because, A, you’ll learn quite a bit and, B, they’ll be more apt to listen to you if they feel they’ve been heard because it is about them, not about you.
And I have just seen too many situations where well-intentioned, loving family members sit down with, “Okay. We found this wonderful place for you to move to and we’ve talked to a real estate agent about selling your home,” and the door is going to be slammed shut on you, even if it was a great idea because you are already made decisions without them, and how intrusive and offensive that would be. I think we have to remember that we are next. We will be in their shoes and how offensive it would be to us to have our children suddenly barking orders at us or telling us what we need to do. So, you really want to be open and aware and sometimes just let the conversation go where it might even if it’s not where you intended it to go because they may be telling you about something more important to them.
[00:28:22] Andrew: Yeah. So, listen, listeners. Just ask the questions and shut up and listen. So, we talk a lot of what’s changed since your first writing of the book. Obviously, the Internet was in its infancy and I remember logging in through bulletin boards and then obviously dial-up and now things have just gone completely transformed but we think about where these do. It doesn’t matter if you’re 70 or 30. Our lives are now so tied to technology, emails, and social media, bank accounts, passwords, password, passwords. And so, we need to think about that and you as the caregiver, you need to ask these questions. What are some of the things we can do that you’ve seen to ensure that we do have the inevitability to have access to these passwords so that we can gain, you know, that inner workings of their world or pay bills and things like that?
[00:29:21] Virginia: Well, I think just as you say, you want to sit down with them and go through everything. Ideally, if they’re ready to turn the reins over, there’s also an awful lot of automatic deposit, automatic pay, which is so helpful if somebody’s for various reasons, maybe not that good at paying their bills on time or remembering what needs to be done. So, I think setting them up for automatic deposit, automatic paying, sitting down with their bank people and investment people, and then figuring out whatever you need so that you can take over when you need to take over, sometimes you have a power of attorney, a durable power of attorney which for any listeners who don’t know, gives you authority, legal authority to take care of somebody’s financial and legal issues on their behalf when they can’t do it for themselves anymore.
The bank may have their own form that they prefer you use so it’s good to talk to them specifically and say, “Well, I have this form I signed with my lawyer. I want to make sure you’re going to recognize it and accept it.” Yeah. Having passwords, being able to log in and see where they’re at, I mean, money is such a loaded issue and I think one of the things that can happen is you have, and maybe I’m going off on a tangent from your question a little bit but siblings, and if you have financial control or some control over your parent’s money, your siblings need to know what’s going on. And families are complicated, but I just think again, the more communication the better. So, everything you’re doing and this situation needs to be handled in more of a businesslike manner than almost anything else you do.
[00:31:21] Virginia: You think, “Oh, it’s family. I don’t need to be that businesslike about it,” but siblings can really destroy their relationships, I guess. I have seen families who got along brilliantly and during a parent’s illness, one was in charge of the finances, and one was doing a lot of caregiving, and by the time it’s all over, nobody’s speaking to each other. So, again, as I keep saying, open communication, making sure that if you have access to your parents’ money and you’re paying bills that your siblings are getting some report or some communication of, “Here’s what I’m doing. Here’s what I’m overseeing. Here’s how this is being – there was a big expenditure. This is what it was. I want you all to now,” whatever it is so that you don’t have siblings quietly brewing and hating you in the background for all the work you’re doing.
[00:32:20] Andrew: Yeah. I think transparency is key and we’ve seen it time and time again, unfortunately, with clients passing and then the kids stepping in and then ultimately, they end up sometimes fighting over the dumbest stuff, which is the things that they could’ve avoided if they were open with each other. And then it takes a long time to build that relationship back up and, in some cases, they never talk to each other again. On the password front, and I know we’ve talked about this in other shows but one thing that we’re big proponents of is password protection programs. LastPass, Dashlane, but overall what that can be used for, listeners, is for you to have your entire all the passwords that we know we can’t remember anymore and having them secure under one master password. Thus, you’ve got the ability to not have to remember everything and then you can ultimately give that password at some point to a trusted person or have it in a safety deposit box. So, if you did pass away, now somebody has access to it, and now your entire world opens up.
And from that standpoint from us, it was a game changer for me both personally and professionally. So, I highly recommend that. We use LastPass but there’s a couple of other ones that are out there and it is safe and protected and encrypted.
[00:33:38] Virginia: Right. Exactly. As I say, we are next. I mean, we are facing our own mortality in many ways. People don’t always just wait to 90 to die so great idea to think about for your own – so if you’re 50 and thinking about your parents, you may be wanting to also do these things for yourself for your children or for whoever may be in charge if something, God forbid, happened to you. I’ve seen people with brilliant folders in case something happens to me and it has all their contacts, all their legal people, and financial people, and people who should be contacted and their insurance information and their Social Security information and everything is in there and it’s absolutely the most amazing gift you could give your children.
[00:34:30] Andrew: Agreed, and so few and far between do we actually see that. So, be outside the box people and get organized both for their sake and for your own. Over the years you’ve been on a lot of different shows, national media. When you think about it, whether it be Oprah or Diane Sawyer, Today Show. If you think back, what was your most fun experience doing the national tour? Is Oprah as fun as she looks and her show itself? Going back to that, what do you think?
[00:35:05] Virginia: Well, there’s a question I have never been asked before.
[00:35:08] Andrew: There you go.
[00:35:10] Virginia: My most interesting, well, Oprah was an interesting experience, in part because I was at first asked to be on the show to talk about abuse in nursing homes and they had a woman on the show who had filmed her early in the days of webcams had filmed her father in a nursing home who had been hit some and stolen from. And for reasons I can’t at all understand, she left the camera there for three months I guess so she would have enough footage that she could close the nursing home down but, in the meantime, her father was still being poorly treated. I couldn’t have done that. I would’ve been over there in one second and got my parent out of that place. And I turned it down because I felt that there was a lot of stuff out there about abuse in nursing homes which wasn’t all that helpful to people.
And I thought it would be more helpful to talk about how to choose a good nursing home and how to make sure your parent gets a good experience because, in fact, a lot of people have no other choices and in fact, it’s actually the best option for a lot of people. We see what happens in nursing homes. What we don’t realize is that it happens in private homes too so I’ve seen people who had their parents in the basement in a darkened room all day. People beat their, you know, you’re a human being. You get frustrated. It’s hard work. People smack people. People steal from people. So, to say it’s just keep your parent out of a nursing home isn’t all that helpful. Anyway, long and the short is they said they would change the show format which they didn’t and I did go on. And it was quite intimidating because you’re on for two hours and I was the only guest and everybody in the audience was kind of brought there because they’d had a horrible experience in a nursing home.
[00:37:09] Virginia: So, people were yelling. I don’t watch a lot of sort of Jerry Springer type shows but people were just yelling at me. So, I said, well you know, there are good nursing homes and suddenly people are pointing their finger and saying, “Name one. There aren’t. It’s all felons beating people up.” And so, it was tough. They edit incredibly well so you don’t see that in the final show but it was a very draining two hours.
[00:37:35] Andrew: I can imagine and going and thinking they were going to change the format and then throwing you right into it. Wow.
[00:37:40] Virginia: Yes, but Oprah is brilliant and she handles things incredibly well and she reads her audience well.
[00:37:49] Andrew: So, I assume then like the Today Show is probably a little less stressful because it was just more the stuff when you’re…
[00:37:56] Virginia: Yeah. When you’re on The Today Show or Good Morning America or any of those mornings shows, it’s four minutes or five minutes and it just they’re slamming through as fast as they can. But when you’re on Oprah you’re on for two hours with probably 50 cameras aimed at you. And so, after the first hour, you’re exhausted and by the end of the second hour, and then they edit it down to whatever it is, 40-minute show.
[00:38:26] Andrew: Yeah. It’s amazing that they can do it day in and day out and just have that energy as the host to be able to do it but, I guess, like anything, it becomes on autopilot and she just gets out there and she’s able to do her thing.
[00:38:39] Virginia: Well, at that time, she was doing two or three shows a day taping her shows so then she could do her movies and everything else so, yeah, she’s got a lot of stamina, that one.
[00:38:48] Andrew: So, you thinking about healthcare costs and this is something that I think weighs heavy on everybody. We see it in our planning. It becomes a critical piece of it. It’s not just, “Hey, let’s accumulate assets. It’s how we’re going to pay for things.” So, in Medicare and itself is its own animal. What do you see out there with regards to Medicare and just the true understanding of what it’s going to cover and where long-term care cost could really take a toll on an individual’s life savings and then all the way potentially to the caregiver?
[00:39:26] Virginia: Well, I mean, I hate to be depressing. it’s difficult to have people have as you I’m sure have seen what they consider to be a pretty hefty nest egg and it’s gone in a few years. If you have especially something like Alzheimer’s, where you’re going to have long-term pretty intensive needs, the question becomes long-term care insurance and when that first came on the scene, everybody thought everybody should have it and I was sort of a lone voice saying, “No, I don’t think so.” I still have, as you know, some companies have gotten out of the business and it hasn’t worked out quite how people thought it would, but it’s a great thing for certain people. I just think you need to really think about your assets and if you’re on the low end of the scale, there’s no reason to spend money every month that you don’t have on long-term care insurance premiums because you’re going to be on Medicaid very quickly.
And people with surprising nest eggs end up on Medicaid pretty quickly. And if you’re on the high-end, do you want to pay starting at age 55, whatever it is, several thousand dollars a year for something that you probably aren’t going to need until you’re 85. That’s a lot. You know, if you buy home insurance or fire insurance, hey, that could happen tomorrow, but if you’re buying long-term care insurance, you’re buying something that you probably aren’t going to use for some time. That adds up to quite a bit of money you’ve paid in and you just have to think about could you afford to cover that yourself if need be? So, I just think people need to go in with eyes wide open and know what they’re getting. But it’s expensive.
[00:41:21] Virginia: It’s expensive and I’m sure you tell every one of your clients it’s not so simple as 4% or whatever the rule is of X percent of your assets that you can spend every year because your expenses could suddenly be much higher than you expect. More and more people are going on Medicaid and I don’t know how we’re going to continue to cover that but thank goodness for family caregivers who really take probably 90% of the care in this country comes from family and loved ones. So, they burn out. I don’t know what we’re going to do. I testified before Congress once and my message was, you know, it makes sense to support caregivers in the early stages so they can last because the main reason people end up on Medicaid and in nursing homes and costing a lot of money is because their caregivers are just burnt out.
[00:42:30] Andrew: Yeah. You think about your book, the Bible for caregivers, that’s where you being proactive on there and for caregivers and the people they are caring for, it’s taking that initiative to know what it’s going to cost you, looking at the area of the city where you’re going to live, and understanding what the cost on a monthly basis for whether it be a home, whether it be assisted living home, whether it be home healthcare. We got to really take ownership of that and understand how we’re going to potentially pay for it or a lot of people have assets locked into their house that they’ll be able to then sell and unlock that. So, that’s something that that’s important too. What we’re seeing out here in Arizona is and I think this will probably be more and more of the evolution of these communities where you buy in and you’re sufficient, you got your whether it be a townhome or a house and then you go into these phases where then the next phase may be a little bit of a help on the assisted living side or home healthcare and still independent but then you moved to the third tier.
So, you’ve got all of that covered and not everybody can afford that but at least those that are at that point where, hey, do I buy long-term care insurance or do I try to in a sense self-fund within this phased-in communities. We’re seeing that become more and more popular, and I think as time goes on, there’ll be that more evolution, and hopefully make a little bit more cost-effective for those that aren’t high net worth that are able to afford it.
[00:43:57] Virginia: Yeah. One interesting thing for people to think about too is some kind of caregiver contract because if you have one child who is caring for the parent, part-time, full-time, whatever, and may be either quitting a job or cutting back on hours or giving up promotions or not, maybe that person should be reimbursed in some way or supported in some way. And you’re probably not going to pay a family caregiver the way you would an outside caregiver but it is good for families to think about how to support financially or otherwise a child who is taking care of a parent. And people overlook that a lot and they don’t realize how much work goes into it. But it’s pound. What is it pound wise? Penny. But it makes sense long-term and it’s cheaper to support the family caregiver who’s going to do a better job probably than somebody outside the family.
[00:45:07] Andrew: Excellent. I know today we’ve covered just tip of the iceberg of what you go through in your book. In the show notes will be a way for you, the listeners, to buy the book, of course, whether through Amazon or Barnes & Noble or all the other online outlets, but what’s great I think on your site, which we’ll also have obviously in the show notes, Care for Aging Parents, I love your Resource section there that really just breaks down the top areas for caregivers and makes it easy for them to be able to go out there, do the research, make the contact. So, do you update that as time goes on to make sure that it’s the most updated list?
[00:45:49] Virginia: Yes, I try to although I now need to do an entire updated edition of the book. It’s time but, yeah, I do and try to keep it as up-to-date as I can. I have a website, CareForAgingParents.com, that people often write me if they see when it’s not working or up-to-date.
[00:46:13] Andrew: So, that you’re thinking about potentially going fourth edition here in the next couple of years?
[00:46:19] Virginia: Oh, probably it’s time but it doesn’t change that much. So, everything in there is pretty current.
[00:46:27] Andrew: Yeah. I mean, it’s just filled with tidbits and strategies for the caregiver to organize what they have to look at and it just gets your mind thinking in things that you may have thought, “Oh my goodness, I didn’t even think about that.” So, you’ve you really made it easy and organized and it may not be relevant, the book, for you. Everything in that book may not be relevant for you at this particular juncture, but at some point, it will be. So, using it as a way to use it is almost a lifeline and to be able to go back to, I’m sure you probably have gotten that type of feedback from your readers that it helped them as they transitioned throughout their lifetime in that caregiver world.
[00:47:08] Virginia: Yeah. I wish I could get it into people’s hands a little earlier than I do because generally by the time they have the book, they are so deep into it that they’ve already missed some opportunities to make life a little easier for themselves but we don’t think about these things in advance. We think about them when we’re totally fried.
[00:47:31] Andrew: Yeah. It’s just like with the estate planning like we talked about. It’s the last thing we want to think about. So, listeners, you got to take that proactive approach and I highly recommend whether you’re a caregiver now, at some point most likely you will be. We have a lot of financial advisors that listen to the show. I think this is a great gift to a client that may not be in that position right now but get some thinking about it. So, just think in terms of this is going to affect all of us and you’re not going to be – this helps you not do it alone. So, I appreciate the research you do. This is a topic like we talked about that isn’t the most fun but it’s something that’s so needed. And as we continue to kind of with the evolved into where this next generation with the baby boomers, it’s one that points and tips that you go through are important, as important as it was in ’96, even more important than what it’s going to be in 2030.
[00:48:29] Virginia: Yeah. It’s a topic that’s growing.
[00:48:33] Andrew: Awesome. So, we talked about a lot of things today, what to look for in regards to helping to organize and some of the cognitive impairments that are out there. We even learned a little bit of how the Oprah Show works and how much fun that can be. But really, Virginia, I hope you had as much fun as we did, and I truly appreciate you being on the Your Wealth & Beyond Podcast. I think the listeners are going to take away today a lot of good points and tips and do appreciate all the work you’ve been doing and will continue to do.
[00:49:02] Virginia: Well, thanks for having me.
[00:49:04] Andrew: Wonderful. Well, have a great rest of the day and stay tuned, listeners, for another episode of Your Wealth & Beyond coming up later this month. Happy planning, everybody.