Three important legal documents that every adult should have are a will, a living trust, and a living will.  Each document defines your decisions for the different areas of your estate and will save your loved ones time, money and stress when you are gone.  These documents are easy to draw up, or you could have a lawyer prepare the documents for a nominal fee.

A WILL dictates how your estate and property is to be distributed after your death and can also designate guardians for children and self should you become incapable or pass away. A regular will must pass through probate court in most states before your estate can be passed on to your heirs. Most state laws do not require that you use a lawyer to prepare your will; you can use a will kit at home.  Probate court can take some time if there are any disputes, so make sure your wishes are clear when writing your will. A LIVING WILL defines your wish to be kept or not kept alive by artificial life support in the event of terminal illness or injury. A living will also give you the ability to set limits on your hospital, medical and funeral costs that can easily drain your estate and leave your loved ones with the bills. If you express your wishes beforehand, it will make the process much less stressful for those involved in your care and the execution of your final wishes. A LIVING TRUST is quite similar to a regular will, but they are different at the core.  Unlike a regular will that cannot be changed after it is written, a living trust can be amended at any time.  A living trust takes effect while you are alive, whereas a will takes effect after you pass. You can put property into your living trust at any time before your death and afterward your estate goes directly to your heirs without passing through probate court. If you ever change your mind about the definitions of your will, you can change or revoke how your estate will be divided at any time by using a living trust. A living trust will also save money and time later on because your loved ones won’t have to go through probate first.
children help with caring for seniorsMost people have fond memories of at least one of their grandparents. These are some of our most cherished relationships. It’s important to both your children and your parents that they make the most of this relationship while they still can. During this difficult time when the family struggles with dementia or the poor health of your parent, strong grandparent-grandchild relationships are vital and can be very nurturing to them both. Often people leave children out during times of illness, but if this happens they can miss out on the chance to help a relative who needs them. As adults, we want to feel that we are valuable and that we’re making a contribution to our world. That’s what makes old age so tough – we can begin to feel that we’re no longer relevant and that we no longer matter. Kids, on the other hand, want to be recognized for what they do well, especially when they’re teenagers. Kids today often don’t know much about history, and this is where a good relationship with their grandparents can really benefit them. They have much to learn about where they come from, and about things that happened before they were born. Even if your parent thinks your family history is unremarkable, your kids are likely to be curious and glad to know where they came from. And kids, in turn, know quite a few things that grandparents don’t. They may be able to set up your mom’s new DVD player faster than you can say “Gone with the Wind” or they are pros at doing that cool new dance everyone’s talking about. Even a sullen teenager may be more receptive to assisted living visits if you find some way to incorporate their talents. Maybe they can build an online photo album with treasured images to share with their grandparent. Or, if they were just in a school play, maybe your child and their classmates will agree to volunteer to perform a few scenes to entertain the assisted living residents. (Won’t mom be proud!) Make sure that both grandchild and grandparent know what they can contribute to the other, and ask each of them privately to help you by contributing their knowledge and spending time together. By each of them sharing what they know and what they’re good at, grandparents and grandchildren can meet each other’s emotional needs. So getting them to spend time together can be good for your parent, good for your kids, and ultimately, good for you because everyone’s happier and a little less stressed.
teens and Alzheimer'sAn Alzheimer’s diagnosis challenges everyone in the patient’s family. Teenagers may sometimes seem to be wrapped up in their own worlds, but a grandparent who has Alzheimer’s disease can be very troubling for them and significantly affect their lives. Of course, it goes without saying that when a teenager’s parent is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it is all the more devastating. Teenagers are likely to need some help from older members of the family in understanding the disease and what they can do to cope. First, reassure your teenager that the emotions that they’re going through – which may include fear, regret, confusion, and anger as well as sadness – are all normal responses. It may be helpful for them to hear that this will be a difficult time in the family, and for you to acknowledge that this experience is a hard one for them specifically. And of course, it may be good for them to know that they are far from being the only teen in the world dealing with a grandparent with Alzheimer’s, even if none of their friends have any experience with the disease. If there’s no support group in your area that they can turn to, you may want to point them to the website of AFA Teens, a branch of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. There they can find articles written just for them, a community message board where they can connect with other teens, and numerous other resources. One of the most useful things you can do is to explain to your teenager how to communicate with their grandparent. The following are some tips you can pass along to them:
  • Approach a person with Alzheimer’s from the front, so that they are aware someone is coming.
  • Use their name to get their attention.
  • Ask questions one by one, rather than giving them too much to think about at once.
  • Maintain eye contact.
  • Speak clearly and not too fast.
  • Remember that if they forget your name, it says nothing about how much they love you. Just be patient and tell them who you are.
  • Use a voice that is gentle and kind.
  • Smile and use hand gestures and other body language. This sets a positive tone and makes you easier to understand.
One aspect of the disease that teens have trouble with is how to spend time with their grandparent. How do you connect with someone who doesn’t even remember you? Let them know that their grandparent will be glad to have someone come visit them and pay attention to them, even if they don’t know who that someone is. Here are some tips for visits:
  • Help grandparents do some basic, manageable chores. The feeling of getting something done and being useful can be very therapeutic.
  • Ask them questions about the distant past, for example: “What was your life like when you were my age?”
  • Listen to your grandparent’s favorite music. This may also get them talking about the past.
  • Go through family photo albums, especially older ones.
  • Play a game together or work on a puzzle.
  • Read them something that they might enjoy.
It can be easy to forget the needs of teenagers during this difficult time, especially for a parent who is scrambling just to take care of their aging mom or dad. But remember that teens can be very sensitive to what’s going on around them. Spending just a little time to help them adjust to what’s going on can make all the difference.
steering wheelMany children of aging parents face a challenging decision: is it time to demand that your parent no longer get behind the wheel, or are you being overly cautious and wrongly limiting their mobility? The is one of the most crucial moments you’ll experience as a caregiver: it may be the first time you have to step in and request that your parent make a major life change for their safety (and that of others). While there is no pre-defined age threshold that signifies it’s time to hand over the car keys, there are warning signs that may prompt you to initiate the often difficult but necessary discussion about other transportation options for your aging parent:
  • Challenges with Vision: If your aging parent has been diagnosed with conditions such as macular degeneration, diabetic retinopathy or glaucoma, you will understand right away that your loved one’s vision is severely impaired. However, in cases where there is no diagnosis, but you observe such challenges as difficulty in maintaining their lane or in responding to road signs or traffic lights, this may indicate a decline in vision.
  • Memory Challenges: Because the memory decline associated with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease is often misunderstood, it’s important to understand that these diseases cause those affected to lose orientation and become confused at a moment’s notice. If your loved one has not been formally diagnosed but you notice such challenges as getting lost in familiar places, becoming very confused or being easily distracted behind the wheel, be sure to set an appointment to discuss these concerns.
  • Dents and Scrapes: If you begin to notice a number of scratches, scrapes and dents on the vehicle, fence, garage or several close calls, your loved one may be a danger to themselves or others while driving.
  • Physical Decline: Pain or stiffness in the back, neck, arm or leg areas can create real problems while driving. After all, drivers must still look over the shoulder or use the rearview mirror while behind the wheel, so a lack of dexterity can be especially detrimental while attempting to drive.
  • Side Effects of Medication: While medications are prescribed by doctors to effectively treat certain illnesses, these medications can produce side effects within the individuals taking them. Often, the list of known possible side effects is addressed briefly at the time the medication is being prescribed. However, if your loved one takes a number of medications, there is also a risk that certain medications taken together may produce an undesirable response within the body. Your loved one’s pharmacist can often research this information for you. Some side effects impair an individual’s ability to drive, so pay attention to this and respond appropriately if your loved one seems to be having trouble.
While an active and independent senior adult may find the change especially difficult, feeling that increasingly more aspects of their lives are outside their control, there are other viable options you can offer to help your loved one maintain a sense of independence:
  • Community or Senior Transit Systems: Your local area Agency on Aging can usually coordinate trips for senior transit to places like the doctor’s office or grocery store. Certain places of worship also have a system for transporting individuals who cannot drive themselves to different places within the community. Some medical facilities have also expanded their service offerings to include transport to and from appointments for patients unable to drive themselves.
  • Public Transportation: Depending on where you live, the public transit system may be  developed enough for your loved one to get around to different areas. Lower fares are usually offered for senior adults.
  • Create a Ride Sharing Program with Neighbors: This is a great way to increase the sense of community, build up social relationships and barter with others in your network. For example, your loved one may not be capable of driving, but might be able to help with other domestic tasks. Plus, the camaraderie formed is tremendous for older adults.
  • Get Around the Good Old Fashioned Way: Walking or cycling is a great form of exercise and helps reduce the risk of certain diseases. It’s an excellent way to get around on a warm, sunny day. Just remember that while some seniors can still walk or bike when they shouldn’t drive, there are safety considerations even for these simpler forms of transportation too.
Children can have a tough time understanding the challenges of dementia.While it is incredibly difficult for adults to adjust to the progressive challenges that come along with caring for a loved one with dementia, the pain and frustration a child (or teen) might feel can become almost overwhelming. Imagine, for a moment, the difficulties in comprehending why their grandparent or other loved one no longer recognizes them or behaves in a manner inconsistent with previous experiences. It can be tough, but being aware of your child’s feelings and helping them learn to cope can reduce frustration on the part of both your child and your loved one. Dealing with dementia can be frightening as you watch your loved one’s memory and behavior fade into unknown territory. However, children are often curious and as they begin to notice changes, you might help to ward off anxiety by both anticipating questions and by quickly addressing their questions in an age-appropriate manner. For example, depending on the emotional closeness the child has enjoyed with the loved one, the fact that grandma can no longer remember them or seems to be acting bizarre in your child’s presence may suggest the loving, special bond once shared is now lost. Feelings of rejection can ensue. However, you can always do your best to reassure your child that the disease causes difficulty in remembering things. Remind them that Grandma does, however, still love them and regards them as a special part of her life. Young children may develop a concern that you, too, may begin to develop similar symptoms and that they might “lose” you, too. Educate them; dementia is not a contagious disease and it is not a part of the normal aging process. Questions regarding what happens next will have to be addressed gingerly. Young children thrive upon routine; therefore, you will do well to explain to young children how their normal routine may change a bit in the face of the illness. Combat feelings of jealousy by assuring them that although your loved one will need time and attention, they are still an important part of your family unit. Signs that dementia and Alzheimer’s disease is affecting your child may come in indirect manners, such as substandard grades or withdrawal from friends. In instances where your loved one is being cared for in the home, emotional expressions may become more exaggerated or more frequent. For example, your child or teen may become exceptionally frustrated at having to repeat themselves again and again, or from being subjected to seemingly silly accounts given by your loved one. He or she may feel that the loved one with cognitive decline gets all the attention and may lash out in the moment. While it is likely that both you and your child will be learning – and coping – with the effects of the disease at the same time, gently remind them that all people (even those who are forgetful and sometimes difficult) have the capacity to feel and receive the outpouring of love in the moment. Encourage your child to talk about feelings and observations; your child may reveal things you haven’t previously addressed that could be an underlying cause for concern. As much as you can, help them to comprehend that you, too, can empathize with their feelings. Further, help them understand that their grandparent or other relative with cognitive decline did not choose the disease and that the changes happening inside their brain is what is causing the memory and behavior problems. For you as a parent, read over related materials to help with these discussions. Try involving your child with the loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s by engaging them in simple activities like listening to music, setting the table, or creating memory boxes. Above all, you and your child can come together to devise ways of showing your love and support which helps you both to keep an open line of communication available for everyone involved.  
Few things can brighten a senior’s day like a visit from their grandchildren and great-grandchildren. These visits can help add purpose to a senior’s life and help them maintain a connection to a world outside the facility and to the family. It also gives the grandchildren a valuable chance to get to know the grandparent. Being able to see how much they mean to older family members is an important experience for the child. But it can be challenging to think of ways to make this time meaningful and enjoyable. The first step is to prepare the child for visiting the facility. Describe what it’s like and perhaps even show pictures. Explain the purpose of assisted living and why the family decided grandma or grandpa should be there. Explain what behavior will be expected. Be sure to emphasize how happy the senior will be to see the child, but also make sure they know that their grandparent may not be feeling well that day. What to do during the visit can be a challenge. If everyone just sits around in grandma’s room, it will be boring for the children and unsatisfying for the senior. Instead, have a plan. Here are some ideas:
  • Bring children at a time when the residents are socializing. That way, the senior can introduce the child to friends and have a chance to show off their wonderful grandchildren.
  • Wear Halloween costumes so that the grandparent can see in person how cute they look and what creative ideas everyone came up with. There may be other holidays where the children are dressing up, such as Purim or Christmas, and they can show their grandparent their special outfits for these times too.
  • Have children bring a recent school project that they can show to their grandparent. Seniors are likely to be very interested in seeing what kids are learning in school these days. If the project is about something the senior doesn’t know about, that gives the child a chance to be the teacher.
  • Play games. The child can bring a favorite game to share with the grandparent, and it’s likely that the grandparent has a favorite game of their own that they can teach the child.
  • Decorate the senior’s room for an upcoming holiday. Decorations often bring out lots of excitement in children, and seniors will feel loved and have a reminder of the visit after the children have left.
  • Share riddles and jokes and silly songs. Children might be very interested to hear some of the songs the grandparent remembers from when they were the child’s age.
  • Bring photographs or video of a recent event in the child’s life, such as a chorus concert, ball game, or scouting trip. Have the child tell the grandparent stories about what happened.
  • If you’re willing to take on a bigger project, talk to the assisted living facility and the child’s school about arranging a class visit. The children could sing for the seniors or perform a skit. Another idea is to have children interview the seniors about their lives, and use the information to write short biographies that can be compiled into a collection for both seniors and the children to keep.
Seniors will be especially delighted to receive gifts, and children will feel good preparing something for them. Have children draw a picture or make a card for their grandparent. You also might consider baking sweets or making some other kind of favorite food with the child that they can then give to the senior. These are just a few ideas as to how you can create wonderful memories from children’s visits. Just because a grandparent is now in assisted living, their relationship with the family doesn’t have to suffer. In the process, children will learn valuable lessons about giving and bringing cheer to others, and they will get to enjoy precious time with their grandparent that they’ll be able to remember one day when they’re gone.