The Loose Ends of Aging

My mom has been gone for over two years, but some of her decisions are still haunting me. Recently I received a check from the state issued in her name for an overpayment of payroll taxes in 2010. WHAT? The check was for less than $100; but what a headache trying to get it deposited into an account.

How did this happen? My mom was very practical. At 72 she got my dad to agree to move from DC to the west coast to be nearer to me, their only child. She and Dad had suffered health scares and she also realized that it would be much easier to live in the sunny California climate

At 88, now a widow, she broke her hip and she realized that she needed to move into a senior facility. She chose an apartment in a “three tiered” model so she could stay within the community if she needed more help.

At 91, she needed assistance with her daily living activities. But she didn’t want to move to assisted living, so she hired her own caregiver referred by a friend. Gradually she required more care until in the end it was round-the-clock. Because these workers were in her employ, she was responsible for their payroll taxes and social security. Many people choose to ignore this fact, but not my mom. She had her accountant prepare the quarterly report filings for her. But obviously, they slightly overpaid in 2010, the year she died.

This is hindsight, but I should have said “NO” to her strategy. As she became more frail this “team” of independent caregivers weren’t trained well enough to assess her deteriorating condition. She was paying almost $10,000 per month for 24/7 care. There were other options I should have investigated:

–  Moving to assisted living. The staff is better trained to note the changes in her health. Mom thought this would be even more expensive. I learned too late, it would have been less, even if she had an additional caregiver helping a few hours during the day.

Hiring caregivers from a registered agency. This would have eliminated the additional costs for covering employer taxes. Also, the haunting check would have never appeared in my mailbox. If you use a registered agency for caregiving, you can also keep the needs of the senior and the skills of the caregiver better matched.

Educating myself. I should have attended seminars offered by the Council on Aging and used the internet more effectively to learn more about the advanced aging process.

It is so hard to see our parents pass into advanced aging. We find ourselves at odds with their wishes. But we need to be strong enough to advocate for our parents’ safety and dignity, if they are fortunate to live into advanced old age. That is a delicate balance, but one that can be learned.

If you are blessed to still have your parents, check out your local Council on Aging to see if they have education sessions on caregiving options. November is National Caregiving Month, so many organizations will have programs showcased. Comment if you have questions and I will try to help you find a local resource. Or check out my fellow blogger Sherri Snelling’s web site – www.caregivingclub.com, and hug your folks for me.

Mary Tennyson
Mary Tennyson grew up in the Washington, DC area, went to college in the Midwest, started her career in Boston, and ventured west to California after her husband, Pete, finished law school. She has a BA from Purdue and an MBA from USC. A career/wife/mom, she spent 20 years in the computer software world. In 2008 she founded StashAll®, which manufactures a product line of stylish accessories for the mobility challenged. She and Pete have four grown children and reside in Orange County, CA.
Mary Tennyson
Mary Tennyson

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Comments

  1. Mary,
    You speak from experience and I agree with your conclusions. There is too much emphasis on “staying at home” as the holy grail. In many instances moving out yields a better quality of life. Socialization is very important. But, I think many people look down on caregivers who place loved ones in facilities.

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