Not that long ago, before phones with GPS, it was fairly common to become lost in a different city (or even a different part of your own city) and help was needed to become “un-lost.” We could keep driving or stop and ask for directions.
Even the great woodsman Daniel Boone had something to say on the subject. When asked if he ever got lost out in the wilderness, Boone replied, “I can’t say I was ever lost, but I was once bewildered for about three days.”
So why is it that many of us refuse to ask for directions? If we are in new place, it isn’t shameful to not know our way around. Stop and ask an expert. That is the smartest use of your time.
Here in our office, we are basically direction-givers. We help families navigate that time in their lives when advancing age and illness have caused them to lose capacity. They may be on a fixed-income but their expenses are anything but fixed. They worry about paying for medicine, housing or food, but some have trouble paying for all three. Or they worry about where they will be able to live now that a spouse has died or their illness is preventing them from being independent. Many of these client meetings include the adult daughter, who is worried about them and also worried that she doesn’t have enough hours in the day to be their caregiver.
These clients have asked for directions. They have stopped their busy lives and have asked for help. We can help them save money, qualify for government benefits, protect themselves from elder financial abuse and provide for their families after they are gone. They are the smart ones.
But we also talk with families who didn’t ask for directions. These families have become almost hopelessly turned around and have now come to us in the hope that we can bail them out of their situation. They didn’t ask for directions early on. They kept driving. They spent money they didn’t have or made some financial decisions that turned out badly and now they need help. I feel sorry for these families because if they had come to us earlier, they would have had many options available. But they didn’t know. They didn’t want to stop and ask the experts for directions.
If you or your parents are approaching the time in their lives where you might need to become more involved in their care, don’t assume you know the way. Call a specialist for advice. An elder care attorney can explain the probate process, the estate planning process, what a conservator is and when it might be needed to helping families protect their savings from nursing-home costs. Don’t wait until it is too late to ask.
William G. Nolan is an Elder Law Attorney with The Alabama Elder Care Law Firm.
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