Factors to Consider if You Want to Stay Home Longer as You Age

Most people want to stay in their homes as long as possible when they get older.

Attorney David Edwards and Elder Care Advisor Melissa Coulter discuss factors that can help you stay at home as long as possible.

There are five safety concerns you should be aware of as you get older.

In addition, it’s beneficial to:

  • educate yourself,
  • listen to those you trust, and
  • be willing to accept help.

How to Stay at Home Longer

elderly driving

The Driving Talk: How to Talk to Your Elderly Parents About Driving

Adult children face many difficult conversations with their parents, but the hardest may be how to talk to their elderly parents about driving. Before approaching this sensitive topic, it’s best to understand what driving means to them — and it goes much deeper than their ability to still run errands.

What Driving Really Means to Our Aging Loved Ones

Whenever facing the challenges that come as our parents age, it can be really beneficial to try and imagine walking a mile in their shoes. Think back to when you first got your driver’s license. What did it mean to you? How did that first taste of independence feel?

Getting your license allowed you to get your first job, meet up with friends, and explore the world on your terms. Driving, particularly in the United States, is the beginning of adult life. And for many seniors, the loss of driving feels like the end of adult life. Imagine that for a minute and let it sink in.

How would it feel to lose your ability to drive?

Your aging parents are reluctant to give up driving because there’s more at stake than convenience. Driving is one of their last connections to life as a fully functioning adult. By this point in their lives, they’ve likely given up their career, downsized from the family home, stopped participating in certain hobbies or activities, and have started saying goodbye to friends and loved ones on a regular basis.

This is A LOT of change, loss, and grief for any human to face.

When they cling to their car keys, we shouldn’t be surprised. To them, driving is a connection to who they were and the life they lived.

Many seniors are aware of the safety risks they face as aging drivers. They also know there are not a lot of alternative ways to get around town. Rationally, they may know that their driving isn’t as sharp as it used to be. But handing over keys to your kids or your doctor is not a rational decision. It’s filled with emotions they may not fully recognize or understand.

So, when the time comes, approach this topic gently. They deserve your empathy and compassion. They are navigating one of the most difficult times in the human lifespan.

How to Know When It’s Time for the Driving Talk

If you’re trying to determine if your parents should stop driving, remember this crucial point:

It’s about their ability not their age.

While it’s true that drivers over the age of 75 have an increased chance of fatal crashes, this has more to do with their susceptibility to injury rather than their driving ability. In addition, keep in mind that aging affects everyone differently. Your 80-year-old mother may be more alert and in better overall health than her younger counterparts. People well beyond 65 can be safe and competent drivers.

One of the best ways to assess your parents’ driving is to observe it firsthand as a passenger. You should also talk with people who ride with them and pay attention when you’re following them (if you’re going somewhere together in separate cars).

Gathering first-hand information is step one. Step two is to answer these questions from the National Highway Traffic Administration (NHTSA):

  • Are they getting lost on routes that should be familiar?
  • Have you noticed new dents or scratches to the vehicle?
  • Have they received a ticket for a driving violation?
  • Have they experienced a near-miss or crash recently?
  • Have they been advised to limit or stop driving due to a health reason?
  • Are they overwhelmed by road signs and markings while driving?
  • Are they taking any medication that might affect driving safely?
  • Have they received a ticket for impaired driving?
  • Have you noticed them speeding or driving too slowly for no reason?
  • Are they suffering from any illness that may affect driving skills?

If you can answer yes to any of these questions, it’s time to talk with your parents about their driving. This may not mean they should stop driving, but they should begin to take steps to protect themselves, such as:

  • Only driving during daytime hours
  • Avoiding highways
  • Avoiding morning and afternoon rush hours
  • Refraining from long road trips

It’s likely time for your parents to stop driving if car accidents are becoming frequent, they’ve been diagnosed with a medical condition (such as dementia), or are on medication that impairs driving ability.

Tips for a Successful Driving Talk

If you’ve decided it might be time for your elderly parents to limit or stop driving, here are a few tips to make the difficult conversation a little easier:

  1. Be prepared. Tell them why you’re concerned using the information you’ve gathered first-hand and/or from others. You should also mention any of the above questions from the NHTSA.
  2. Be sensitive. Don’t talk down to them. They are still fully-grown adults, even if it doesn’t seem like it sometimes. You want to establish an environment of working with them not dictating decisions about their life. Dig deep to approach this difficult situation with empathy and compassion.
  3. Pick the right person. Whoever leads the conversation should be a close friend or family member whom the driver “hears” the best. You may choose to have a one-on-one or group conversation. You know your parent best, so make choices that will best achieve a positive result and protect their dignity.
  4. Use the right phrasing. Using “I” statements will go over better than “you” statements, which can be interpreted as accusatory and result in defensive reactions. For example, “I’m concerned about your safety when you’re driving,” will be much better received than, “You’re no longer a safe driver.”
  5. Use examples. If someone you know has recently stopped or limited their driving, suggest that your parent talk with them, particularly if this person is happy with their decision and has had success using other forms of transportation. If no one comes to mind, you can find plenty of examples online.
  6. Highlight alternatives. They’ll have concerns about getting to appointments, running errands, and seeing friends if they don’t drive. Make sure you have detailed answers about alternative modes of transportation, such as GoGoGrandparent which offers Lyft and Uber rides without having to use a smartphone, or options offered by your county, which we’ll discuss more in-depth below.
  7. Expect pushback. They may be defensive or dismissive of your concerns. And that’s understandable with such a huge life change, but it doesn’t mean they haven’t heard you. They probably need time to think about it and let things sink in. At the very least, you’ve opened up a dialogue and begun the process of taking an important step.

Alternatives to Not Driving

Before you talk with parents about not driving, it’s important to know what transportation alternatives are available in their area.

Public Transportation. Most drivers over the age of 65 live in rural or suburban communities where public transportation is limited, but this option is still available for many seniors. If your parents is uncomfortable using public transportaion, ask your local transit agency about a “travel training” course.

Ride-Share Services. For seniors, especially those uncomfortable with apps, the best ride-share option is GoGoGrandparent. This service allows people to use ride-share services Uber and Lyft without a smartphone. Your aging loved one just calls GoGoGrandparent, follows the easy prompts, and a car will pick them up wherever they are. You can also call 1-855-GOGO-USA for more information. If your aging parents are comfortable with apps, they can use Uber and Lyft directly. Both companies have pilot programs geared toward seniors.

County Transportation. Most counties offer door-to-door transportation services for little or no cost, specifically for seniors.

Hired Caregivers. Another option for those who need assistance would be hired caregiver services. Most will provide transportation as part of their service along with an escort to assist with equipment, carrying bags, etc. These services are typically private pay and the rates are around $20-25 per hour. Lower income seniors can qualify for Community Care which would be free as part of those services. (This requires an application, financial information, etc. to qualify.)

And Last But Not Least — You. Yes, you. Not for every ride they need, of course, but think about how they carted you around to band practice, baseball games, and movie nights with friends. You probably owe them a few rides. Plus, it’s a good way to catch up and check-in with them about how things are going.

The Last Resort – What to Do If They Won’t Stop Driving

Some aging parents won’t give up their keys no matter what information you present. Others won’t even change their behaviors — they’ll still drive at night, in the rain, and on highways at rush hour. So, what can you do if things seem really desperate?

Unfortunately, the options are limited in Illinois. Unlike most states, the Secretary of State will only accept information about potentially unsafe drivers from police officers.

Get their doctor involved. Seniors are much more likely to listen to a healthcare professional than to a family member. If a doctor feels that a medical condition or medication can impair your parents’ ability to drive, they can recommend that they stop. And Illinois law mandates that doctors must encourage patients to notify the Secretary of State within 10 days of becoming aware of those conditions.

Training and self-assessment. AARP offers a Driver Safety Program with a 90% chance of driver improvement. And 92% of participants say they’d recommend the course to a friend! When completed, these courses offer insurance discounts. For a more immediate and less involved option, the NHTSA offers an online Self-Assessment Course. AAA also offers online courses and assessments.

We understand that this is an incredibly difficult time for you and your family. The stress that comes with the challenges of aging can easily overwhelm. This is why we developed our Elder Care Advisor role. We believe that everyone deserves to feel supported and prepared as they care for aging loved ones. We evaluate your family’s needs, tailor a plan that’s just right for you, and leave you feeling well-prepared for whatever may come in the future.

If you would like immediate help from an Elder Care Advisor, we encourage you to call us at 217-726-9200 for more information or to schedule a consultation.

10 Early Warning Signs of Dementia and Legal Tools to Help

Increasing rates of dementia are creating unique challenges when it comes to aging in the United States. Currently, there are 5.7 million people living with Alzheimer’s in the U.S. It is expected that 1 in 6 women and 1 in 10 men living past the age of 55 will develop the disease at some point. Between 2000-20015 deaths from Alzheimer’s increased 123%!

Our Elder Care Advisors work with families every day who are facing the challenges of living with dementia or living with loved ones suffering from dementia. We encourage you to give them a call at 217-726-9200 if you are struggling with an aging loved one.

10 Early Warning Signs of Dementia

The Alzheimer’s Association is a great organization providing research and support. They’ve released a checklist that details the early warning signs of dementia (and compares them with what are “normal” age-related changes):

  1. Memory loss that disrupts daily life
  2. Challenges in planning or solving problems
  3. Difficulty completing familiar tasks at home, at work, or at leisure
  4. Confusion with time or place
  5. Trouble understanding visual images and spatial relationships
  6. New problems with words in speaking or writing
  7. Misplacing things and losing the ability to retrace steps
  8. Decreased or poor judgement
  9. Withdrawal from work or social activities
  10. Changes in mood and personality

Download the checklist here

Legal Planning Tools That Can Help When Someone Develops Dementia

Comprehensive and effective legal planning for families dealing with dementia is vitally important. Living with the challenges of dementia is hard, but without proper planning life is EVEN HARDER. And nobody wants to make things harder. At the very least, effective legal planning should include these three things:

  1. Making plans for healthcare and long-term care. Oftentimes, people with dementia get to the point where they can no longer safely live at home. At that point, expensive memory care is needed. Planning ahead for this massive cost can make things a little easier when the time comes.
  2. Making plans for finances and property. People with dementia often begin to have trouble with numbers, so it is very important that plans are put in place to protect them from the financial difficulties that can occur. These difficulties can arise from them being unable to properly handle their own finances or from others trying to manipulate them and gain access to things like bank accounts. (Read our series on Elder Fraud here.)
  3. Naming another person to make decisions on behalf of the person with dementia. Getting a Power of Attorney in place is an incredibly important first step in protecting the person and the finances of the one developing dementia. Read more on the topic here: 9 Issues to Consider When Choosing Your Healthcare Power of Attorney.

Edwards Group Elder Care Advisors Are Here to Help

Our firm has watched as a growing number of families we know struggle with the challenges of aging. That’s why we created the Elder Care part of the firm. As we encountered more and more families who were stressed to their max, overwhelmed with the decisions that come with this time of life, and plagued by the guilt of “Am I doing the right thing for my loved one?” we knew there had to be a better way. We also saw tangible ways that our team, with their unique mix of experiences, could help make life a little easier for these families.

You can read more about what our Elder Care Advisors can help with here. If you’d like to speak to one of them, we encourage you to call 217-726-9200 to find out more about how they might be able to help your family.

Living Longer: It’s a Blessing, If You’re Prepared

Here’s some good news: people are living much longer these days! So much so that there’s a new field in estate planning. It’s called Life Care Planning. This type of planning doesn’t focus solely on a “death plan.” Instead, it focuses on using strategies to make the last decade of life a little easier and less stressful.

In this 4-minute video, Attorney David Edwards talks with NewsChannel 20 about the benefits of Life Care Planning. If you’re over 55 and concerned about the challenges you’ll face as you age — from paying for long-term care to protecting your hard-earned assets — you should consider putting together a Life Care Plan. It will give you peace of mind knowing you’ve successfully prepared yourself for the extra years you may experience.

We’d love to help you with this process. Give us a call at 217-726-9200. We can answer questions and help you set up an Initial Meeting. We hope to hear from you soon!

Senior safety

4 Safety Categories for Seniors You Should Be Aware Of

Preserving independence and control as one ages is a major goal of many people we talk to on a regular basis. And with seniors who have a strong desire to preserve independence, come families with big concerns about safety. Is it possible for their aging loved one to remain independent AND safe?

Click on the video below to hear Elder Care Advisor, Sandy Eisenmann talk about safety for seniors and the main four categories you should be aware of. (This will take you to NewsChannel 20’s site.) Sandy is trained as a physical therapist, so she often helps families who are concerned about their loved ones safety at home.

Four categories of safety for seniors, along with a BONUS area to watch out for:

  1. Driving
  2. Cooking
  3. Falling
  4. Medication management
  5. [BONUS] Financial

In the video, Sandy shares what to look for and how to know if there might be a problem, as well as what you should do if you think a loved one’s safety or well-being is at risk. As always, if you have questions or concerns about an aging loved one, please give one of our Elder Advisors a call at 217-726-9200. You can read more about our Elder Advisors and what they do here.

safety; seniors; aging in place

Increase Your Quality of Healthcare With These 5 Steps

When you or a loved one are dealing with a lot of medical issues, or even “just one” complex issue, the paperwork can become overwhelming.

Over the years, Edwards Group has evolved into a comprehensive, interdisciplinary resource for families facing the challenges of aging. 

Elder Care Advisor Sandy Eisenmann recently discussed with me what people should consider when it comes to medical records and managing that information. “It really depends on the unique situation of each family, but these are a few of my generic recommendations…”

5 Ways to Organize Medical Records and Increase Your Quality of Care 

1. Keep all records until the charges associated with the procedure or diagnosis have been resolved. This is the minimum amount of time that you should keep the records or notes.

2. Keep ALL surgical and pathology reports. The surgical reports can be helpful if more related procedures are needed in the future. Pathology reports are important in case a disease recurs, but they can also be helpful to other family members who may need them as a reference.

3. Create a lists of ALL doctors, their speciality, and/or what they treated you for. It’s helpful to have this all gathered in one place, especially if you or your loved one are seeing multiple specialists.

4. Keep an updated and thorough history/timeline to help you explain the complex condition or to help other doctors more easily understand what has transpired.

5. Keep a current, up-to-date medication list. Many people may not think of this as “medical records,” but it is vital to receiving accurate care. Doctors’ offices don’t communicate with each other as much as you may think, so if you have multiple doctors, it’s important for you to know at all times what medicines you are taking and what the dosages are.

If there are generic or hereditary considerations, then all of these things can be especially important to keep track of so future family members can have better information if they themselves have to be treated for the same condition.

You may also want to consider starting a 3-ring binder to help you organize paperwork and track tests and appointments if the condition is complex or chronic. That way you can have ALL information connected to the condition in one place — doctors notes, test results, EOBs, co-pay receipts, support organizations, etc.

If you or a loved one needs help with the challenges of aging or dealing with chronic illness or disability, we encourage you to give us a call at 217-726-9200. Our Elder Care Advisors will be more than happy to discuss your situation and see if there are ways we can lessen the burden for your family.

Review Your Medicare Part D Coverage

Feeling confused about your Medicare Part D coverage? Wondering if you picked the wrong plan or if you’re spending too much?

You’re not alone. In fact, Beth Monnat, our Benefits Specialist, has helped 38 clients review their coverage this enrollment season, and only 4 of them were enrolled in the correct plan!

With her expertise, she’s helped those 38 clients save a total of $34,872.01. That’s an average of almost $1,000 per person!

And she can help you too. Book an appointment with Beth today. But hurry! Open enrollment ends Decemeber 7.

You’ll be in good hands with Beth. She has more than 30 years experience in Social Security and Medicare. And she has 12 years experience working almost exclusively with Medicare Part D.

Cut through the confusion and save money––call (217) 726-9200 to book your appointment or click here to learn more.

4 Things You Can Do to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

You may have read in a previous post that Buzz Aldrin has been fighting with his children over his own competency. Aldrin’s children are concerned that he is not able to make good choices any longer… In that same article we talked with Attorney Amanda Lundeen about what everyone should know about adult guardianships. In that same conversation, she gave us four tips to avoid an ugly guardianship yourself.

How to Avoid a Messy Guardianship

1. Get good Powers of Attorney in place while you’re well.

Planning early is more effective than planning during a crisis. Research is pretty clear that decision-making ability and cognition start declining as people age. It is important to think about comprehensive planning before this becomes problematic — somewhere around 60-65 is typically a good rule of thumb.

2. Keep your Powers of Attorney (and your plan) up to date.

It is a pain, but many institutions will not honor a Power of Attorney that is more than a year or two old. We say this all the time, but estate planning is not a one-time deal. Keep your plan up to date with the 3 L’s of Estate Planning, or join our Dynasty Program and be sure your plan will be ready for action when the time comes.

3. Use a professional who understands down-the-road needs of seniors.

Experienced elder law attorneys should be able to help you anticipate what needs may arise in the future. In addition, they should have effective planning tools that can help address those needs.

4. Communicate with your family.

Tell them who you’ve named and consider explaining your thinking on that decision. It’s also important to discuss how you want things dealt with. One of the biggest challenges as we age is discussing with our children things that we’ve never discussed with them before — finances, healthcare, end-of-life preferences, etc. The sooner you can start having those conversations, the easier it will be when things become difficult and an acute problem crops up. The more your children understand your feelings on these issues, the better they will be able to make the decisions you’d want made. This sets them up for success, and certainly will benefit you in the long-run as well.

As usual, planning ahead and thinking through the challenges of aging before they happen is the best way to make sure you and your family can face these difficulties without creating extra stress or expense. Most people don’t know how to manage all the issues that arise with aging loved ones, so Edwards Group developed a holistic way to help families think through the legal, financial, and care issues that develop as someone ages.

In addition to a thorough and effective estate plan, a Life Care Plan offers the option of partnering with us to plan for your care and help you navigate decisions on your journey through the aging process. Call us at 217-726-9200 to speak with one of our Elder Care Advisors.


nursing home medicaid planning

4 Things Everybody Should Know About Guardianship

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has been in the news a lot recently. Aldrin, his children, and even his business manager, are embroiled in a lawsuit over whether Aldrin is competent to continue managing his finances and his life. Sadly, this guardianship feud between Aldrin and his adult children has caused a lot of people to wonder, “How on earth does this sort of thing happen to someone like Buzz Aldrin? How can I avoid being in a similar situation someday?”

What Everybody Ought to Know About Guardianship

Attorney Amanda Lundeen doesn’t have a lot of good things to say about guardianship for seniors. She is the primary attorney who handles these cases at Edwards Group. “Sometimes guardianship is necessary for a variety of reasons, but it’s never the ideal option. It is a stressful process for any family.”

As you consider what tools you need to have in place as you age, there are four things you should know about guardianship for seniors:

1. Guardianship is expensive.

It takes two attorneys — one to represent the senior and one to represent the party trying to gain guardianship — along with court fees and fees to serve the summons. It’s an official legal process without any shortcuts, and that means red tape and expense.

2. Other family members are involved in the process.

(And that may not be a good thing.) Much like when a Will goes through probate, all family members must be made aware when a guardianship is being filed. Children, siblings, parents, etc. all have to be officially notified. This is not only difficult for the privacy of the person who may need the guardianship, but it can also invite interference and disagreement amongst family members, complicating an already stressful process.

3. Guardianship doesn’t solve all the problems.

Many people approach guardianship with the unrealistic expectation that it will suddenly resolve the difficult situation they find their family in. The guardian has authority (and responsibility) for representing the disabled person in dealing with others (medical providers, financial institutions, etc.), but there is one person who may not honor the guardianship — the disabled person. If a family is dealing with an uncooperative individual, guardianship isn’t going to suddenly make that person compliant.

4. Guardianship is an EXTREME option.

It’s really a last resort for families, and like we’ve said, this means there is a complicated and difficult situation going on that demands an extreme solution. Guardianships can often be contested, and when they are they get UGLY. (As you can see in the Buzz Aldrin case.)

If guardianship is so terrible, what can you do to avoid it? Attorney Amanda Lundeen gives four tips to avoid this mess yourself. Check it out in this blog post.

Most people don’t know how to effectively manage the issues that come about with aging. They only handle it once or twice in their lifetime. Edwards Group sees it all the time, and that’s why we developed a holistic way to help families think through the legal, financial, and care issues that unfold as someone ages. Our team is uniquely qualified to provide services and support to families who have questions and concerns about aging, illness, and long-term care needs. Give us a call at 217-726-9200 and ask to speak with an Elder Care Advisor today.

Mom Is Having Memory Trouble and the Family Is Worried

Every week we talk with several families who are worried about the challenges of aging and call us for help. Recently, a family was concerned about mom’s declining memory and dementia.

Mom is mostly unaware of her inability to handle things on her own and really wants to keep control of her keys and the checkbook. She has handled these things for years and is not about to give them up.

Dad is worried about Mom. He’s concerned she’ll wander off or drive somewhere and get lost. He’s increasingly uncomfortable leaving her home alone, worried she’ll try to use the stove and not remember to turn it off. At the same time, he feels terribly guilty when he thinks about taking away the car keys. He feels really stuck and unsure of what to do.

The daughter lives only five minutes away. She is worried sick about her parents, and the situation is adding a lot of stress to her life. She knows her mom is unsafe, so she does all she can to help, but she has a family of her own and works full time. Because her dad is stuck and doesn’t know what to do to keep her mom safe, she is feeling immense pressure to be the parent of her own parents. This is a really uncomfortable spot for her.

The son lives really far away. (Let’s say Florida.) He tries to come home every year, but it’s been almost 18 months since he’s been back. He thinks his sister is trying to be too controlling and take over everything. He knows his mom and dad have slipped some, but they seem fine when he calls them every few weeks.

So, here we are. We’ve got issues of:

  • safety,
  • feelings of guilt,
  • changing family dynamics,
  • and sibling friction

all mixed up together in a big, stressful situation.

How can we bring this family together to make the right decisions?

This situation is hard. But this situation is a common one.

To maneuver more easily through these types of life changes, families need help with legal, financial, and care decisions. This is what we do every day.

Are you facing a situation with an aging loved one where you could use some guidance from someone who has walked through these issues before? Or do you know someone who is struggling with a similar situation and doesn’t know what to do?

We encourage you to call our office for immediate help. Our Elder Care Advisors will be happy to speak with you at 217-726-9200.