Feeling sad?

“ . . . we start grieving long before a person breathes their last breath. The more care that is given to the caregivers and the more prepared they are to discuss and talk about their grief and take steps while the person is still with them, often the better the experience will be . . . “ Emma Payne, Grief Coach

Three Ways to Pay for Long-term Care

Secret Cost-Saving  Strategies

Long-term care is expensive, right?!
We’ve been grappling with how to pay for care in our online support groups, and have three tips to share.

mom with dementia, daughter helping with paperwork

211.org This free service is the most comprehensive source of locally curated social services information. Available 24/7–call, text or chat.
State Health Insurance Program (SHIP)
This nonprofit gives free advice about Medicare programs that could provide financial assistance. Call to schedule an appointment with someone from your state.
Programs of All-inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE)
This is a Medicare and state-specific “shared care” program for those who qualify. (You don’t necessarily need to spend down assets like you would to qualify for Medicaid.) It is not available in every state.

One support group participant was so excited that they qualified and will receive help through this program!

If you need more strategies to pay for care (or have a good idea to share), jump on our next support group call.

Grieving the person they used to be

Has dementia changed your relationship?

Are you grieving? Or are you slowly losing someone to dementia? Interviewer Elizabeth Dameron-Drew of Ways & Wane talks to Emma Payne of Grief Coach, a texting service to support people who are grieving, and the friends and family who want to support them, but often just don’t know how.

You may also be interested in this article on forgotten birthdays.

May you find joy in loving one another well, even in the midst of your tears.

Dementia-Friendly Mother’s Day

Seven Sweet Ideas to Celebrate

mom with dementia and daughter celebrating at lunchMother’s Day is frequently a day filled with emotion, especially if your mother is suffering from dementia. Acknowledging the emotion—the joy, the grief, the regret, the love—and creating a plan for the day, transforms it. I gathered some sweet ideas for you, whether your own mom is still with you or not.

If your mom is with you (but not entirely), try these ideas.
  1. Share happy memories about her from the past, reminding everyone who she is.
  2. Celebrate all her senses with her favorite music and yummy scents. 
  3. Get a manicure together. (Maybe the grandchildren can do nails for you & grandma!)
  4. Look at a picture album together.
  5. Tell stories from her life where she was funny/bright/successful, etc.
  6. Take an easy trip to a park or a beautiful drive. Just get out of the house.
  7. Simply cherish that she’s still with you, even if the dementia has caused her not to know you.
  8. Buy a gift that keeps her hands busy.
If your mom has passed away, remember her in one of these ways.
  1. Try out a hobby she loved. Maybe doing so will provide new insight into her.
  2. Repurpose a piece of her jewelry. 
  3. Make a donation in her honor.
  4. Frame her handwriting (maybe it’s a recipe card or a note).
  5. Spend time with others who loved her too and enjoy reminiscing. 
  6. Celebrate another mother in your life.
  7. Take a break from social media so you aren’t bombarded with Mother’s Day pictures that could make the day even harder for you.

If you anticipate that other family members will be grieving that day too, consider including them in the planning of something. 

Whatever the day looks like for you, may you feel love and express love!

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the Co-founder and President of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, doing research work or planning a dinner party while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor.

Senior Tax Help for Free

5 Free Senior Tax Tips That Will Make You Feel Really Smart

All of a sudden, I was responsible for my dad’s taxes in addition to my own. I didn’t even know how he usually did them or where to find his detailed paperwork.

He was living with trauma-induced dementia in a small family care home, and couldn’t help answer questions. I sleuthed out the name of his tax preparer, but felt sure it had to be simple enough to file on my own. I completed his taxes for $100 with online filing software, but didn’t realize that I could have done it for free.

Because of the pandemic, many of the sites that offered free help for seniors living in nursing homes or assisted living facilities are temporarily closed. With the May 17 (it’s been extended) deadline looming, jump on these free tools that are currently available for senior tax assistance.

5 Tools for Free Tax Support
  1. Fill out this quick IRS survey to see which free tax prep tool would fit your senior’s financial situation.

The six questions include age, income and state. When you get to the questions about Adjusted Gross Income, know that Social Security benefits don’t count toward gross income. If this is the only income your senior received, then the gross income equals zero, and you don’t have to file a federal income tax return.

After entering my dad’s information, the IRS suggested an approach for free tax help.

Cool, right?

AARP volunteers can walk you through
  1. If you would rather talk to someone live, the AARP Foundation has volunteers that will help you with your senior’s taxes for free. My dad used to be a member of AARP. Submit an online request and a tax consultant will get back to you within two days. Then they send an online meeting invite.

My father passed away two years ago and so the next year I had questions about filing. Vincent M., an AARP Foundation volunteer, met with me on Google Meet and walked me through the IRS TaxSlayer software. In 45 minutes, I had filed both federal and state online for free. 

Even though I am tech-savvy and had filed taxes in the past using online tax software, I needed his help to get through the questions efficiently. Thanks Vincent and AARP!

  1. If you are helping care for your senior, you may be able to take tax deductions for costs including home adaptations, transportation, insurance, adult day services and more. Check with your tax professional.
Claim your senior as a dependant?

Consider claiming your senior as a dependent. The IRS states that in order to claim your parent as a dependent you must meet all of the following parameters:

  1. You (and your spouse if filing jointly) are not a dependent of another taxpayer.
  2. Your parent, if married, doesn’t file a joint return, unless your parent and his or her spouse file a joint return only to claim a refund of income tax withheld or estimated tax paid.
  3. Your parent is a U.S. citizen, U.S. national, U.S. resident alien, or a resident of Canada or Mexico.
  4. You paid more than half of your parent’s support for the calendar year.
  5. Your parent’s gross income for the calendar year was less than $4,200.
  6. Your parent isn’t a qualifying child of another taxpayer.
  7. If your parent is your foster parent, they must have lived with you all year as a member of your household.
  8. See “qualifying relative, “qualifying child,” and “Table 5. Overview of the Rules for Claiming a Dependent,” in Publication 501, Dependents, Standard Deduction and Filing Information, for additional information about claiming a dependent and certain exceptions that may apply.
Senior Tax Credit
  1. Check in to the Senior Tax Credit for the Elderly and Disabled. If your senior qualifies, you could take up to $7,500 directly off their tax bill. To qualify, a person must be 65 years of age by the end of the tax year. The IRS also establishes income guidelines for each tax year. Check with a tax professional.

The May 17  deadline is coming up, so don’t wait to reach out to counselors at the IRS and AARP Foundation for questions about your senior’s taxes. If you are caring for a senior in your home, talk to a tax counselor about deductions for related costs and about claiming them as a dependent. The time is now to utilize these free resources for your senior’s taxes.

Debbie McDonald is the Founder of Ways & Wane, an online platform that helps you help your aging parent. She lives in Northern California with her husband.

Paying for Long-term Care

How do you pay for assisted living
(or in-home care)?

Author Cameron Huddleston discusses surprising ways to pay for assisted living, in-home care or a nursing home. She includes topics like hidden resources and converting life insurance.

Interviewer Elizabeth Dameron-Drew highlights the Digital Social Worker that walks you through various pay options.

How to Cure Dementia’s Fidgety Hands: Fun Gifts for the Holidays

fidget ball helps people with dementiaMaybe it was for me, but I thought about him as well. I didn’t want to hand him child’s toys, even when in this stage of dementia.

At 79, when his body and mind were compromised by dementia, I’d visit with him and we played all sorts of activities and games. When it was time for me to go home, I hated leaving him with nothing to keep his hands busy. Handing him something that looked like a child’s toy felt like an insult to him and well, it just made me feel sad. So, I present five (not childlike) tactile fidget gift ideas for your senior with dementia. The benefit? To help them stay busy and feel calm. 

Five gratifying and useful dementia-friendly gift ideas
  1. These sculpture-like metallic tangles twist around in endless combinations and are light and easy to manage. 
  2. For animal lovers, these realistic looking, battery-powered cats and dogs move, respond to touch and even purr, but without the care required by a real pet. They aren’t inexpensive, but are a lot less than a real pet would cost.
  3. This slide fidget widget shows up as a handsome and smooth wooden form that fits easily in one’s hand and has beads that slide back and forth on a secure band. 
  4. Introducing a sensory activity combined with an “I Spy” game. There are 20+ small items mixed in with poly pellets in this napkin-size cloth bag.  These sensory bags come in all sorts of fabric choices. 
  5. Like the tangle mentioned above, this wooden art ball fidget toy can be twisted and formed. Its larger size makes it easier to manage. It comes in two sizes and either a natural wood finish or in black/white. 

Note: We recommend these products because we think they’re good and we wanted to save you time. Some of them may earn us a bit when you click on the link. 

May you find joy in loving one another well, despite dementia! 

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is co-founder and president of Ways & Wane. She walked closely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform, she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor. 

Impatient with Repeated Questions? 7 Strategies to Respond with Patience

“What am I supposed to do? What am I supposed to do now?”

Being repeatedly asked the same question by anyone, whether they are 2 or 70, is frustrating. When it means they are fading cognitively, feelings of grief get mixed into the dynamic. 

How can you respond and save your own sanity? Here are 7 practical tips:

  1. Give yourself permission to be sad about your senior’s mental decline and mourn the fact that they are no longer who they once were. It’s okay to be sad about that. It’s normal and actually loving. 
  2. Remember that your senior is asking repeated questions because of damage to their brain cells, whether it’s because of a stroke, a form of dementia, a traumatic brain injury or something else they are now cognitively disabled. They wouldn’t choose to be confused and aren’t trying to annoy you. 
  3. Look for a reason behind the questions. Are they trying to communicate something else altogether? Does the behavior happen at a particular time of the day or around particular people?
  4. Think about how they are feeling, not what they are doing or saying and respond to their emotion, not their behavior.
  5. Refocus their energy on a new activity, even if it’s just a fidget type gadget that keeps their hands busy. 
  6. When responding to them, do your best to keep your voice calm and don’t try to argue or use logic. The latter response will likely escalate their confusion by adding anxiety.
  7. Restate what they are saying and answer their question as best you can with simple explanations. Consider using visual tools like calendars, clocks or photographs to help them remember. 

This video from UCLA Health offers insights and practical tips for managing repetitive questions.

May you find joy in loving one another well.

Elizabeth Dameron-Drew is the co-founder of Ways & Wane. She walkedclosely with her own father through his years of waning. She lives near Seattle, Washington with her two teenage sons, husband and two rescue dogs. When she’s not working on this platform she’s probably creating books, sewing, or vacuuming, or cooking while listening to the rain and thinking about her next creative endeavor. 


Sticker Shock: The cost of caring

Sticker Shock:
The cost of caring

In-home care, assisted living, walkers, prescription copays—it adds up

check, cost of nursing home

The Alzheimer’s Association estimated end-of-life care costs in 2016 were between $217,820 and $341,651. 

1 in 4 adults ages 45 years old or older are financially unprepared for long-term care expenses,
2015 – AARP

Surprising costs add stress to an emotionally charged situation when your senior’s health is faltering. 

Do you want a rough idea how much care costs in your area? Estimate the cost using this online calculator. When we researched options for my father, this calculator was pretty accurate for where we live in California.

cost of nursing home screenshotThere were three key “aging sticker shocks” that surprised us: 

  • uncovered costs of some prescription drugs, 
  • nursing home stays with limited Medicare and/or supplemental insurance coverage, 
  • In-home care, assisted living and memory care not covered by Medicare.

For the estimated 7 million Boomers who provide long distance care, actual out of pocket expenses amount to almost $5,000 per month. For caregivers who have, or are considering leaving the workforce to care for an ailing parent, the costs are even greater—over $650,000 in forfeited salaries, benefits and pensions.

Understand your options and develop back-up plans before it is necessary to help your senior make a long-term care decision. 

Here are three steps to systematically evaluate their current financial situation: 

  1. Review your senior’s finances. If they are reluctant to discuss details, this article by Cameron Huddleston presents good strategies. Identify all sources of income and expenses for Your Person by filling out this Asset Calculator. Even though the results are for California, if you are interested in qualifying for Medicaid now or in the future, it will tell you which assets are Medicaid-exempt.
  2. Find and review insurance policies, including life, medical, home, car, etc.
  3. Find a financial professional to advise you on managing Your Person’s assets.  The Senate Committee on Aging recommends looking for someone with a financial gerontology certification; however the Securities and Exchange Commission does not specifically endorse any financial advisor titles, like elder specialist. Your employer may offer financial counseling services.

Once you have a detailed picture of what care might cost and the assets available, you’ll need to find creative ways to pay for that care. Look for another article in the future about surprising sources for funding long-term care.

May you find peace in loving one another well!

Debbie McDonald is the Founder of Ways & Wane, an online platform that helps you help your aging parent. She lives in Northern California with her husband.