Issue 1 » “Treating people the way you want to be treated.”
Mary Winners of About Senior Solutions
We plan in advance for weddings, but rarely for our death. In fact, we plan most everything in our daily lives from the time we get out of bed and sometimes the night before.
We have many tools to help us organize our lives but not one of them is about planning for the slow, inevitable decline of our physical health and our mental clarity.
Yet most of us will indeed experience a slow decline in the last years of our lives and it can be very expensive. Dementia care or 24/7 home care or in-home nursing can cost $9,000 per month or more. For many people it’s unbearable to think of or to plan for. Besides we have things to do today; pick up the kids, groceries on the way home, make dinner, homework, laundry night – who has time to plan for our later years? Mary Winners of About Senior Solutions does. She’s here to help us.
3W: Mary, why did you get into senior care and how long have you been a gerontologist?
Mary: My dad got sick and I saw how the whole system works; rather how it doesn’t, how it fails the children of aging parents, and in protecting patient rights. What we don’t know will not only hurt our parents but us as well. About Senior Solutions has been in the business of helping people for 20 years and we’ve seen all kinds of tragedies play out when the family does not have a plan for caring for a senior.
3W: So the tragedy your family went through within the system changed your life. You got a degree in Gerontology and from there what did you do?
Mary: Yes, experiencing what my family went through inspired me to help other families so they’d never have to go through what our family did. I help families on a daily basis go through some of the most challenging and sensitive issues of their lives. Our company is their guide to make sure they have the right plan in place, the right attorney and even make sure the attorney does their job properly. I make sure the health care providers and home care places are doing what they’re supposed to be doing per the contract.
3W: What happens if people try to go it alone?
Mary: I would say that they are walking straight into a crisis. The healthcare system can step all over you if you don’t have a plan. And worse, you may end up spending $6,000 to $12,000 a month or more for several months. The average decline for a person can last from 12 to 22 months so you can be devastated emotionally, angered by the system, feel helpless, and be in huge debt when it’s over. And if you have another aging parent get ready to repeat the process.
3W: That’s everything times two – it seems insurmountable.
Mary: Well, if you don’t have a plan it most likely will be.
3W: So what does a good plan look like?
Mary: I’m so glad you asked because I have an easy acronym for people to remember: G.I.F.T.
G: Gather your information. Think of who you want on your side; your children, attorney, which senior center you prefer, and whether your senior will be staying at home or with one of your siblings or relatives.
I: Inform everyone. All the key players on your team need to be informed of your plan including your doctor, attorney, CPA, financial planner, specialists, family and friends.
F: Follow through. Meaning sign all your documents! If you forget to sign even one document, it may be void without your signature.
T: Tell every decision maker on your team where these documents are! If your documents can’t be found, then you might be in a most unfortunate situation.
3W: What are some uncomfortable situations families get themselves into?
Mary: Siblings sometimes disagree on how best to take care of mom or dad, sometimes the aging loved one doesn’t want to cooperate, sometimes one of the boomer siblings takes on most of the responsibility and that often becomes unbearable. If their loved one is already in home care sometimes they might be neglected; not taken outside for a walk, just cooped up in their room for days, and sometimes they develop bedsores so large that we have to move them out of that facility. We may even have to enter conservatorship to make sure the attorneys do their job. The list is endless and the sad thing is that this can all be prevented if you have a solid plan in place.
3W: You are the Ultimate Problem Solver. How do you remain so calm and upbeat when you’re talking about these awful situations families go through?
Mary: (laughter) Because I know how the story ends. I always end up always helping these families. I’ve been doing this for over 20 years and I’ve seen pretty much everything. We can help the family find their silver lining. If we’re on your team, we can lead you to that place where everyone will be confident that we’ve come to the best solution and we can all breathe comfortably.
3W: That makes sense. I guess when you’re an expert and have done this for so many years your experience and confidence is your source of strength.
3W: What are you and your company focused on for 2017?
Mary: We all need to be prepared for healthcare costs to rise. Homecare will be more expensive because they will be bundling services. The system is going to get tighter and you may not be able to get the services you want or get out of a service that you are unhappy with. So again, it’s time to make those plans now, not when your loved one suddenly starts their decline.
3W: It seems obvious that we should all have this plan in place but most of us don’t.
Mary: If you’re already in crisis mode and get us involved we take care of everything so you get your life back. If you don’t plan for your aging senior’s decline and eventual death you will literally be faced with an incredible crisis.
3W: If you don’t plan for successfully navigating this inevitable event, you’re actually planning to fail.
Mary: Great way to put it.
3W: So what do I get if I actually plan ahead and have you prepare all our processes for us?
Mary: We meet with you and your family and discuss the best solution for your loved one. Then you can breathe easy because I’m making sure your G.I.F.T. is in place and we make sure your whole team is informed so when the inevitable happens we activate the plan; and everything goes much smoother so you can relax.
3W: Is it challenging to get people to understand that they need to prepare for the inevitable?
Mary: Yes. It’s why we work with so many estate planning attorneys and financial planners. You have to understand that this will be a very stressful and emotional time of your life, so if you have me on your side all that stress is gone, the boulder is off your shoulder, and we are organized. We know what to do and we execute it. You’ll be confident that you’re loved one is going to have their last remaining days exactly as they want, and that is a blessing for the entire family!
3W: Make the plan and work the plan; got it. What keeps you motivated to keep going?
Mary: Helping families. There is always a silver lining. The Boomer Sandwich Generation and their aging parents don’t have to be alone in this process. We are here for them, and we know how to fight for them. All seniors deserve support and to be safe and secure and enjoy life to the end. Imagine having a plan in place where the whole team comes together to support you and your loved ones.
3W: Mary I know that you come highly recommended by many estate planning attorneys and financial planners and families you’ve helped. I’m so glad you took the time today to share your knowledge with our readers. Thank you.
Mary: Of course, my pleasure.
About Senior Solutions
525 South Myrtle Avenue, Suite 208
Monrovia, CA 91016