Stuck in the Middle: Retirement Planning

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in Financial and Tax Matters, Planning |

Originally published at on November 5, 2012.   “Many boomers are assisting parents financially or are losing income because of their eldercare obligations,” says Mara Osis, founder of ElderWise, an organization that provides information and coaching to help families caring for elderly loved ones. “They may turn down career opportunities or even retire early, if they feel it’s up to them to take on this responsibility and don’t see any other way of doing it.” Read the complete article:...

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Caring for Aging Parents: Are You Prepared?

Posted by on Apr 9, 2013 in Health Emergencies, Planning, Powers of Attorney |

Originally published on June 24, 2011 at   When Iola Pryma was told she needed to have a lung biopsy to investigate the tumours a CT scan revealed, one of the first things she did was make her daughter, Kandis Pryma, her power of attorney for her finances. A 71-year-old widow, Pryma knew that in the event of a long recovery — or worse — she would feel much better checking into the hospital knowing that her finances were in order. This family was lucky. In their case, the parent was able to make this decision on her own and to guide her daughter through her financial portfolio and banking information without suspicion or embarrassment.  But many families aren’t so lucky, says Mara Osis, president of ElderWise, a Calgary-based company that coaches families on topics relating to aging parents.   Read the complete article:...

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Retirement: Families Planning Together

Posted by on Apr 3, 2013 in Planning |

 Originally published May 2011 on Contribution by Mara Osis, eldercare consultant and speaker on LifeSpeak’s Calgary roster.If one or both of your parents is talking about “retirement”, they are using a term that is being re-defined so quickly and drastically that the word might actually soon disappear. For previous generations, mandatory retirement at 65 was not uncommon; nor was collecting a pension for 25 or more years of service. More recently, retirees were sold the “Freedom 55” concept – endless, carefree days of golf, travel and leisure. Today, because we are expected to live longer than previous generations, retirement is largely uncharted territory. Some older workers are financially secure, and looking forward to leaving the workforce. For others, career and financial upheavals have walloped retirement savings and even pensions. Still others are dreading retirement, fearing the loss of income, sense of purpose and social life that comes with the job. With more evidence that “inactive” retirement can lead to aggravation of health issues, those are real concerns. Today, more people are “getting” the message that they need to plan ahead for the transition. Involving the whole family can help. Whether you are nearing retirement age and wondering what’s next, or watching your parents as they plan ahead (or don’t), here are things for both generations to consider and discuss together. What will retirement look like? Who is retiring – one or both parents or marriage partners? Are your visions and expectations of retirement in sync with each other? If not, how will the gaps be closed? Many marriages undergo a period of adjustment, whether one or both spouses retire. Declining energy, mobility or health are behind some retirement decisions. Understanding the health issues and prognosis helps manage the present situation and plan for the future. If work is too demanding, health-wise, what activity or life focus will take its place? Often, retirees who embark on a “life of leisure” soon find it less than satisfying. The purpose and meaning that came with their careers evaporates; they might feel they’ve stopped contributing. Part-time, contract or volunteer work can be the solution for some. For others, it can be learning and exploring entirely new interests. Every retirement plan needs to answer the question: “How will this next chapter of my life be fulfilling, meaningful, and driven by my values?” How is the family affected? Retirement can change the family dynamic. For example, parents may want to retire to a warmer clime, thus affecting both regular and holiday family get-togethers. Some may want to move closer to adult children and/or take a more active role in grand-parenting. Others may actually crave fewer obligations, e.g., babysitting, and more time to pursue their own interests. How will each generation manage expectations and accept each others’ preferences and choices? A retirement transition is a good opportunity for families to take care of practical matters and look to the family’s future well-being. Here are three things families can discuss together: Caregiving: What kind of future support might the older adults need and even expect? Do your parents believe it’s a family’s obligation to care for its elders, or do they insist they won’t be a “burden” to their children? Whatever the attitudes, the reality is that people are living longer than ever; centenarians are a fast-growing cohort. What would you do today if you knew that your parents (or you) will live to be 100? Legal Documents: Major life changes are opportunities for all adults in the family to review and update wills. Properly prepared wills save families time, trouble and money. Many common life events can...

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“Just in Case” Conversations

Posted by on Jun 26, 2012 in Planning, Safety Concerns, Sensitive Conversations |

If your summer travel plans include a long-distance visit with aging parents, why not use the opportunity to do some “just in case” planning?  The relaxed pace of summer may offer a friendly environment in which to reflect and plan ahead. Also, being face-to-face may allow you to accomplish more than planning from a distance. Here are five tips for getting started, whether you are travelling across town or across the country!   1. Take note of warning signs that your parents may not be coping as well as before. Check for changes in these 4H’s: health, hygiene, housekeeping, and hazards around the house, as well as other areas where they are getting or needing more help. Share your observations about changes, but resist the immediate impulse to offer your solutions.  Listen and reflect before responding.   2. Start or continue conversations about sensitive subjects: framing these discussions as being of help to you may make them seem less intrusive to your parents. Also, give advance notice that you wish to talk about these topics. Allow everyone some opportunity to reflect and prepare when discussing important matters.   What are the “must-discuss” topics? Top of the list is whether your parents’ powers of attorney for finances and health careare in place or have been updated. Where are the other important documents that might be needed “if something happens”?   Finances may also be on your radar – a gentle conversation-opener can be asking whether there is anything you need to know about your parents’ finances as you do your own financial retirement planning.   Your parents’ living arrangements may be fine for now – but what happens if their health takes a sudden turn for the worse? A “health emergency plan”is a good tool for all families to have, but especially where families live hours apart.   Next, find out if your parents are familiar with seniors’ services in their community. Larger centres have dedicated seniors’ resource offices; in smaller communities, you may have to start with the local public health unit.   3. As a family, research and visit some nearby assisted living and long-term care homes. Everyone’s health may be good now, but things can change quickly. If a health crisis happens, and your parent cannot safely return to live at home, knowing which care homes they prefer can be a boon at times of illness and stress. Remember, these properties are for those who need medical oversight and personal care. You can explore other “downsizing” options, such as condos and retirement residences, too.   4. Get acquainted with your parents’ neighbors and the group of close friends who looks out for each other. Having a local contact can help ease your worries or check on parents’ well-being if you cannot contact them.   5. During this time, keep things in perspective. Manage your emotions and expectations. This type of forward planning is not an “all-business” project; rather, it’s a process that involves reflection, patience and building trust.   You can expect resistance to change, even denial, along the way. Emotions may consume more energy than performing the tasks at hand. You may have to deal with old relationship dynamics and alter some established behaviour patterns before you can move forward.     Taken all together, this tip list may seem daunting. But it’s still best to get started now, before a crisis happens. Take one step at a time, commit to the next step, and steadily build towards a solid plan for that “just in case” someday.   Get started or re-started this summer!   © ElderWise...

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21 Ways To Avoid An Elder Care Crisis

Posted by on Feb 29, 2012 in Planning |

Thank you for subscribing to ElderWise INFO!   Please click on the title below to download your free e-booklet: 21 Ways To Avoid An Elder Care Crisis.   This file is in Adobe PDF format, for which you will need the free Adobe PDF Reader, available at   You will now automatically receive ElderWise INFO newsletters. Should you no longer wish to hear from us, a one-step unsubscribe link is included with each newsletter.   Click on the Articles tab above to read previous issues.   We encourage you to become an ElderWise Member, giving you access to exclusive members-only content and preferred pricing on all our publications. Membership is FREE. Click on the "Join Now!" tab at the top of this page.   Extending you a warm welcome to the ElderWise community…   Mara Osis President     21 Ways To Avoid An Elder Care...

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Hope, Promises & Reality: Eldercare Costs (Part 2)

Posted by on May 24, 2011 in Financial and Tax Matters, Planning |

  In Part 1 of this article, we looked at the costs of home adaptation and the options for in-home care assistance for the elder Olivers. Part 2 examines mobility – both in the home, through assistive devices, and transportation options for seniors – as well as a few important tax considerations.   Assistive Devices/Aids for Daily Living   Brian Oliver reads off for his brother a price list of common devices that help frail seniors stay safely in their own homes: “Stair-lift, $3,000; walker, $350; custom wheelchair, $400; adjustable bed, $1,500 – are you kidding?”   Before hitting the panic button, here’s what Brian needs to do: A safety and accessibility audit can determine what’s specifically needed; your provincial society of occupational therapists (in Ontario, can provide a list of visiting therapists. Check whether your parent’s extended health benefits include coverage for medically necessary assistive devices and care, that aren’t provided by government programs. These may include purchase or rental of ‘durable medical equipment’ such as (non-electric) hospital beds, wheelchair, walker, crutches, canes; ambulance services, physiotherapy and paramedical services such as chiropractor or podiatrist; medical supplies; hearing and vision aids. Your provincial government may offer an assistive devices program that rebates part of the purchase price of eligible devices; in Ontario, consult, or search “aids to daily living” for your province. Visit to learn about their assistive devices program for manual & power wheelchairs, scooters, home and bath and personal aids, seating and walking aids, lifting equipment, threshold ramps and some repairs. Tax Considerations   Learn which of your parent’s essential medical services, care, equipment and even transportation may be tax-deductible.   If your parent is classified as disabled via the Canada Revenue Agency’s form T2201, Disability Tax Credit Certificate, they may claim a credit on their annual tax return. The form is completed by a physician or other healthcare professional, and certifies that the care recipient needs assistance to carry out the activities of daily living – such as bathing, eating, and ambulation.   Annual medical expenses must exceed 3% of net income or $1,813 to qualify for the credit. Check the Canada Revenue Agency’s website and your tax professional for more information.   Transportation Options With the diagnosis of dementia, Mr. Oliver will no longer be driving. Patience, tact, and discussing options may help him cope with this loss. When so many financial pressures loom, a good exercise can be to look at the costs vs. benefits of car ownership.   Mr. Oliver paid $25,000 seven years ago, and only drove the car locally. With $1,000 per year to insure and $100 per month for gas, it has cost $40,400, or $5,700 per year to run. This annual amount could easily cover local transportation by taxi. Opening an account with a taxi company, with a monthly statement paid by credit card, is a convenient option that also allows easy tracking of expenses.   Other options include subsidized transit services such as Wheeltrans, and non-emergency ambulance and wheelchair transit fleets. Volunteer drivers are available for many community services, including day programs and congregate dining (eligibility criteria may apply).   Many medical and personal services (such as lab tests, physiotherapy and foot care) can also be delivered in the home.   So where does this leave the Olivers? They have tallied the potential expenses for home modification, in-home care assistance, assistive devices and transportation. They are learning about the many seniors’ benefits available from governments and community services.   Will they balance the budget? Can Brian and his brother keep their promise to Mom and Dad? It’s...

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