Helping Seniors Battle the Unspoken COVID-19 Toll: Loneliness

Isolation leads to loneliness in seniors.

Social distancing is a new term we have all become familiar with over the past several weeks. An essential step in reducing transmission of the coronavirus, it’s important to note that distancing also can cause social isolation and loneliness. Although this can affect anyone, regardless of age, the elderly are particularly vulnerable at this time.

What exactly is loneliness? We have all experienced loneliness at some time, but a more refined understanding can help us help our loved ones.  While social isolation is simply not being around other people, loneliness is a subjective feeling – a sense of suffering from being disconnected from other people. In other words, social isolation may lead to feelings of loneliness. Studies have linked these persistent feelings to higher risks of conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, anxiety, depression and even death.

How to Help

Experts offer guidance on how we can help our elderly loved ones combat feelings of loneliness and avoid their negative mental and physical health consequences.

Some tips:

  • Help with the technology for video chats and social media.
  • Set up regular phone calls or video chats on a daily or weekly routine.
  • Explore online learning opportunities, especially those designed especially for seniors.
  • Help your elderly loved ones to change their expectations for the time being, and understand that this situation is temporary.

Resources: ABC News, The unspoken COVID-19 toll on the elderly: Loneliness, April 14, 2020.

 

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Should You Save for Retirement During the Coronavirus Pandemic?

Short term savings is an important goal during the coronavirus pandemic.
Short term savings is an important goal during the coronavirus pandemic.

As the coronavirus spreads across the US, most of our lives have come to a halt. Some Americans are already out of work and millions may end up losing their jobs during a potential recession, says CNBC in the article “Financial planner: Here’s when you should temporarily stop saving for retirement during the pandemic.” What’s the best course of action for these uncertain times?

Financial advisors typically set a goal of a small portion of household income, usually 10-15%, to be set aside for retirement. Based on your situation, now might be a time to scale that back or stop contributing to retirement accounts, if you don’t have cash savings to fall back on in the short term.

If you don’t have three to six months of emergency funds available—which most Americans do not—then now is one of the only times that the financial professionals are advising putting a temporary halt on contributing to retirement accounts.

What to do with that money? Take the money you would normally be putting aside for retirement and put it in an account for emergencies, if you are able to do so. This is not an ideal time, but hopefully it is a short-term change. Make a commitment to yourself and your retirement to start contributing once you are back on normal financial footing.

Having an emergency fund right now is critical. Legislation to help during the coronavirus pandemic is being passed, but how much help will be available for individuals, and when it will be available, is anyone’s guess. If you or the family’s main breadwinner becomes ill and can’t work, or if your job is among those lost because of the coronavirus, having a cash cushion of any kind will be important.

Every news cycle brings more things to worry about, so having an emergency fund also can provide some peace of mind. When we are worried on a chronic basis about paying for unexpected expenses, the stress can take a toll on our physical well-being.

In addition to moving retirement funds to an emergency fund, now is the time to back off of non-essentials, like subscriptions or memberships that are not being used. Make a list of everything you are paying for that is not essential—recognizing what you and your family really need, versus what you want—and send those savings to your emergency fund. The cuts may be temporary, but they will add up faster than you expect.

The charges you are not adding to credit cards now for things like dining out, going to the movies, etc., may start showing up as smaller credit card bills. However, don’t rush to spend any discretionary income. Rather than apply that money somewhere else, like increased online shopping because you are bored, also put that extra money into your emergency fund.

These are unprecedented times, when the margin for careless spending has become very slim. Be proactive about protecting your financial well-being, so you are able to weather this storm.

As for your physical health, learn more about the Care Plan recommended by the CDC at https://www.galliganmanning.com/covid19-update-cdc-recommends-care-plans-for-both-older-adults-and-caregivers/

Reference: CNBC (March 18, 2020) “Financial planner: Here’s when you should temporarily stop saving for retirement during the pandemic”

Suggested Key Terms: Retirement Accounts Pandemic, Savings, Emergency Funds, Credit Card Bills

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Creating an End of Life Checklist

Creating an end of life checklist including assets, personal information and locations of important documents will help your family act on your behalf.

Spend the energy, effort, and time now to consider your wishes, collect information and, most importantly, get everything down on paper, says In Maricopa’s recent article entitled “Make an end-of-life checklist.”

The article says that a list of all your assets and critical personal information in an end of life checklist is a guarantee that nothing is forgotten, missed, or lost. Estate planning attorneys can assist you and guide you through the process.  Our firm prepares Estate Planning Binders which include schedules to hold that exact information.  As described here https://www.galliganmanning.com/not-a-little-black-book-but-a-big-blue-estate-planning-binder/  Especially in the age of computers, it’s critical to leave this information for fiduciaries in a way they can find it.  They’ll be glad you did.

Admittedly, it’s an unpleasant subject and a topic that you don’t want to discuss, and it can be a final gift to your family and loved ones.

When you work with an experienced estate planning attorney, you can add any specific instructions you want to make that are not already a part of your will or other estate planning documentation. Make certain that you appoint an executor, one you trust, who will carry out your wishes.

This isn’t a complete list, but consider including the following personal information in your end of life checklist: your name, birthday, and Social Security number, as well as the location of key documents and items, birth certificate, Social Security card, military discharge paperwork (if applicable), medical directives, ID cards, medical insurance cards, house and car keys and details about your burial plot.  Your attorney will give you copies of your estate planning documents, such as your will, trust, documents relating to trust funding, powers of attorney, medical powers of attorney and so on.

In addition, you need to let your family know about the sources of your income. This type of information should include specifics about pensions, retirement accounts, 401(k), or you 403(b) plan.  Be sure to include company and contact, as well as the account number, date of payment, document location, and when/how received.

You also need to include all medicine and medical equipment used and the location of these items.

And then double check the locations of the following items: bank documents, titles and deeds, credit cards, tax returns, trust and power of attorney, mortgage and loan, personal documents, types of insurance – life, health, auto, home, etc. It’s wise to add account numbers and contact information.

Another area you may want to consider is creating a list of online passwords, in printed form, in a secure place for your family or loved ones to use to access and monitor accounts.

Be sure to keep your End of Life Checklist in a secure place, such as a safe or safety deposit box because it has sensitive and private information. Having it in one place will help your family when the time comes to act on your behalf.

Reference: In Maricopa (Feb. 14, 2020) “Make an end-of-life checklist”

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