Getting Organized – The Perfect Gift

perfect giftStudies show that only one in four individuals can correctly say exactly where their insurance policies, bank account and safety deposit box information, and investment statements are located. Fewer can correctly, and quickly, put their hands on personal data such as wills, powers of attorney, home, auto and health insurance policies, passport numbers, and health records. Even fewer are 100% confident that, in an emergency, a trusted family member could locate (and correctly interpret) their computer passwords!

December is always a busy time of year – holiday festivities and searching for those perfect gifts for friends and family make it hard to think about getting much else. However, putting your financial records in order is one of the most important things you can do for yourself and for those you love. Let’s use a few of these cold winter days to gather together records and create a reliable filing system to organize the information in one place so that family members can easily locate them in an emergency.

Information should be stored in a safe place such as a secured folder on your computer, a safety-deposit box, or in a locked fireproof box. And be sure to tell key family members or friends, or your lawyer or professional money manager, where this information is stored so they can find it easily and quickly.

It’s so easy not to think about it now, but taking a few minutes to organize important documents can be such a relief, especially when the unexpected happens. Not only does it make our lives easier, but it can make a world of difference to a loved one who has to locate this information – and isn’t that a perfect gift for this time of year?

Home for the Holidays? Make it Count.

rockwell thanksgivingIf you live far away from your elderly parents, there’s a good chance you’ll be traveling to visit them in their home this holiday season. It’s a good time to take an objective look at how they are coping. Skype and FaceTime may not reveal what you can observe in person, so we’ve prepared a list of things to observe during your visit. Of course, these tips apply to both Mom and Dad.

List of Observations

  1. Is the house neat, clean and orderly?
  2. Do you see signs that repairs and maintenance are overdue or being ignored?
  3. Is she walking well and maintaining her balance?
  4. If there are stairs, is she still able to navigate stairs safely, both up and down?
  5. Is she gaining or losing a significant amount of weight?
  6. How is her speech? Any signs of slurred speech? Forgetfulness mid-sentence?
  7. How is her eyesight? Is she squinting more often? Struggling to read the newspaper or unable to work her favorite crossword puzzles?
  8. How is her hearing? If she seems to be talking more loudly herself, this could be a sign of hearing loss.
  9. How is her short term memory? Does she get confused easily or ask the same questions over and over?
  10. Is she maintaining her personal appearance and cleanliness?

While you’re there, check around the house for hazards, like loose throw rugs, clutter, low lighting, and overloaded electrical outlets. Should there be grab bars installed in the bathroom? Do porch lights need replaced or locks and gates repaired?

If your mom is still driving, let her drive you somewhere during the day and again at night. Ask about her social life and request the name and phone number of her closest friends.

If any of these observations turn into concerns, find a quiet, relaxed time to talk it over with your parent(s) and share your concerns. Expect resistance or denial (it’s normal), so keep the conversation calm and short, and be sure to ask her opinion. Unless an issue appears life-threatening, share your observations with other family members after the visit, and together come up with an action plan. This could end up being the best holiday gift you could have given Mom, ever!