I typically write about family issues in the context of my most embarrassing stories growing up;, my daughters’ total disregard for my amazing sense of humor or how our dog’s persistent flatulence condition has ruined many a family fun night. However, a larger majority of us deal with much more serious family matters, especially when it comes to the care of their aging or ailing parents. “Caring for sick, disabled or dying parents will never be easy,” says Richard Wexler, founder of Points of Life, “But if you are prepared it will make the process easier.”
Richard, an attorney and former national sales manager for a software company has created a family resource service driven by personal experience. Some time ago, both of his in-laws and his own father were diagnosed with various forms of terminal cancer during a six month period. At that time, Richard and his wife, Anna, juggled the responsibilities of work, home and children while getting their parents to countless doctor appointments and making plans for their short and long term care.
“Everyday approximately ten thousand baby boomers turn 65 years old. With aging, there are questions and issues that require attention and planning.
Should we keep the house?
Is our estate in order?
Will our money last once we stop working?
Who will care for us should we become infirm?
Which sibling should take the lead?
How will finances be managed and should we designate a power of attorney?
Could we move in with our children or is a retirement home or assisted living facility appropriate?
If we choose a facility, how do we make that choice?
Who will pay for everything?
“These are important decisions to make, but often times our parents need their children to take an active role in the planning process,” Richard says.
Roughly seven months ago, while delivering an elder care presentation to a community service organization, Richard was approached by Marilyn Ellis, a business coach and thespian, about giving his talk more pizzazz and making the whole subject more entertaining. Richard says, “We practice a process called “elder Ed,” teaching families to plan for life’s stages, so they can retain and control their lifestyle.” At Points of Life presentations, this information is disseminated through a series of humorous vignettes performed by Richard, his partner Marilyn, and a growing group of the lawyers, financial planners and health care providers who have subscribed to be part of the network “dream team,” in each chapter.
“Everyone is welcome at our presentations, but the people that get the most of it are those that have parents in their late sixties,” fellow ALIVE writer Paul Hirsch, who works with Points of Life, states. “Once someone reaches age 70, chances are they will wear down over time and require care in their latter years. Only about one person in 20 dies suddenly at that age.” With innovative skits and songs the Points of Life ensemble use levity to lighten the mood of the audience. With titles such as Help, My Hair’s on Fire, Denial isn’t a River in Egypt and Pushing Up Daisies, the vignettes deal with difficult topics in a light hearted, yet sensitive, manner.
There’s something to be said for dealing with the heavy topics of aging, illness and death with a laugh. “Often times the people in attendance come ins with a heavy heart. We try and help lighten the mood so that after the ninety minute presentation they will engage with our team of experts there to answer questions show,” says Paul. The company’s mission is to help of families plan for life’s stages so they can retain and control their lifestyle. Medicare will cover a person’s hospital stay and rehab, but not the “at home” care, which can be very costly often times running $8,000 to-$10,000 a month. Children of failing parents often aren’t prepared to cover these expenses out of pocket.
“As our parents live longer, they inevitably run into more medical issues. This often translates to family financial pressure. With no plan in place, families will run into a myriad of problems, stress and anxiety,”, Richard says. Richard personally screens all interested professionals and selects who will ultimately make up that county’s chapter. “Most of our experts come through referrals and recommendations, but now we’re starting to get highly qualified people to approach us.”
Being the executor of my parent’s estate gave me the ability to handle necessary matters when they grew ill and passed away just four years apart in the 1990s. However, being in my early thirties, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. A living trust is a great place to start, but there are so many issues that come up related to various levels of care, hospitalization, hospice, funerals, finances and family dynamics that are tested during a difficult time. I relied on friends who had lost parents when questions came up or decisions needed to be made. Having access to a resource such as Points of Life would have made my life easier. Having been there, Richard Wexler is trying to help make an emotional time for families easier and more manageable.
Points of Life’s presentations are often held at schools, churches, senior centers and hospitals. A schedule of upcoming performances can be found on their website at www.pointsoflife.org.