KD: Hi Deborah. Thank you for taking the time to share your story. I love this picture of your dad. Tell us about your parents and what you have been going through.
DL: My father fought in the Korean war and received two purple hearts for his service. He passed away on February 20th of this year. My mother survives him and is now 78 years old. She has been with my father since she was 15.
I am in charge of handling my Mom’s affairs now, with the help of my husband, who has helped me so much.
There are so many logistics that could have been handled in advance.
The Veteran’s Administration
My dad wanted a military burial, but didn’t prepare for it. I have been going back and forth with the Veteran’s Administration since his death. It took 3 months, but we have now been able to put him to rest with military honors.
My father also had a pension with the VA, but he never knew about it. I’m working to set that up for my mom. The VA requires a full medical exam and a doctor’s report and my mother’s own report about what she is able to do and the kinds of assistance she may need. They want listings of all trips to the doctor, mileage, and prescriptions.
Social Security Administration
I had to meet with the Social Security office twice to make sure everything was appropriately handled. Of course, my mom’s income has been cut severely now that she has lost my dad’s social security.
I spent hours at the bank going over my father’s and mother’s accounts to get them combined into one.
Since my mother is now living alone and several hours from my home, we needed to have all of her belongings appraised and documented appropriately to be covered by her homeowner’s insurance.
Another part that’s very difficult is having to handle all of the logistics around her home, the gardening, the house cleaning and making sure that she has a fire to keep her warm, all the simple things.
KD: What is your wish list?
DL: Many well-meaning people say they want to help out, and then come by, sit down, eat cookies, drink tea and offer unsolicited advice about things they don’t even understand.
So many people tell me to put my mom in a nursing home, and they don’t understand everything involved in that. First, my Mom has just lost her partner of 60 years of marriage, and to now pull her from her home is too much to ask of her. Second, they have no understanding of the cost of that kind of care. Twenty-four hour nursing care runs anywhere from $6000 to $8000 a month in her area, and more where I live. The money isn’t there for that.
The hardest part is dealing with my some of my siblings and their unwillingness to help with the care that our mother needs during this grieving period. I wish they would be more supportive and less divisive.
My father drove my mother everywhere when he was alive, but my mother had a license and wanted to drive herself after his death, so she did. Shortly after my father’s passing my mother was in a serious auto accident, breaking three of her ribs. Mom needed someone to care for her for 12 days after the accident. That was left to me.
So, while taking care of mom, I had to deal with the claims adjuster, the inspector etc. Her car is a total loss.
After the sudden loss of my father, and my mother being in an accident, it was one thing too many to watch the car that they both shared together for so many years being towed away. It is very painful.
So now, in addition to everything else, mom needs assistance with shopping and just getting around.
KD: If there is one thing you could tell someone who was in your father’s, mother’s or both parents’ position what would it be?
DL: Have a sense of humor. Do what your intuition tells you is right. Treat your children with the same kindness you would like them to give back to you.
KD: And what advice would you give others in your position?
DL: Make sure when you are appointed the executor of your parents’ estate that you know whether they have life insurance or not. My father had none and that has made everything much more difficult. That extra money would have made a huge difference.
Ask if they’ve set up a pension for their spouse, and what all of the sources might be for that, such as places they have worked, the military, and any other sources they can think of. Find out which insurance company they use for their car and their home, and the exact coverage on those policies.
Ask the appropriate questions regarding their wishes for certain people to receive certain material items (jewelry,computers,furniture,cars etc.)
Make sure to get an advance directive from your parents and arrange a meeting with their doctor(s) to be sure the doctor is aware of the directive. Have your parents set up and sign powers of attorney for both health care and financial assets.
KD: Do you have any final words of wisdom?
DL: The most important thing to me is to make sure that my mother goes out of this world with a smile on her face like my dad had in this picture, and I’m doing everything I can to make that possible for her.