Friday, September 17, 2021

In-Home Caregivers: How to Find and Hire The the Right Caregiver

As we age, the time may come when many of us may need a caregiver, whether it is a temporary arrangement after surgery, or a permanent way to avoid moving into an assisted living facility.  You may need the caregiver for yourself, or for someone in your family.  When the need arises, do you know how to find one and what services they can be expected to handle?  How can you be confident that you can trust the person you hire?  What do you need to do to avoid financial and legal problems?

These are all important questions for patients and their families to ask themselves before hiring a caregiver.  The more you educate yourself and the better you prepare to benefit from the service they provide, the smoother things will go for both the patient and caregiver.

What Services are Performed by Caregivers?

Caregivers can be expected to help a patient with their normal activities of daily living. This can include:

Dressing and bathing
Personal hygiene
Ambulation or transferring between a bed and wheelchair
Help with medications
Shopping and food preparation
Light housekeeping and laundry
Transportation to medical appointments or for personal care

In addition, having a caregiver will reduce your loneliness, because they will have conversations with you and may even play card games or engage in similar activities, all of which can help you postpone dementia.

Best Way to Find a Caregiver

In order to avoid the risks involved in using an unlicensed caregiver, it is best to use an in-home care agency which is licensed in your state.  These companies have to meet their state's requirements regarding training and background checks.  

If possible, it is important for a family member to supervise the hired caregiver, especially at first.  According to, the average state-mandated training hours for certified caregivers is approximately 75 hours of study.  Some states require even less time; others require more.  Essentially, this means caregivers must participate in only about two weeks of training.  

Before leaving your loved one with a hired caregiver, or hiring one for yourself, you will want to make sure the person fully understands their duties, including how to properly dispense medication, prepare meals the patient will enjoy, manage the transition in and out of chairs and beds, assist in dressing the patient, know how to use common home appliances, and is capable of helping the patient use the toilet, etc.  Do not leave a patient alone with a caregiver until you are completely satisfied that the person is able to handle all their routine duties, as well as any emergencies which could arise.  

In addition, make sure you write down a detailed fact sheet for the caregiver.  It should include instructions on how they can best help the patient, including allergies the patient may have, medications they take, contact numbers for doctors, neighbors and family members, and any other information you think would help the caregiver.   Even if you are the patient, make sure you put all this important information in writing. This will help the caregiver know what to do in the event you are injured or have a medical emergency and are unable to communicate your needs. 

In hiring a caregiver, you will also want to use an agency which has been approved by the American Board of Home Care.  Their goal is to "uphold the trust you have placed in them to review, check, and ensure the best quality of home care providers looking over your family, friends, and patients."

You can contact the American Board of Home Care at:

(877) 436-5259

Finally, it wouldn't hurt to do a Google search of your own on the caregiver, to see if this person has been mentioned negatively online or has been accused of any crimes. If you suspect they may have had a past problem, bring up the issue with the agency for an explanation.  You would not want to put yourself or a family member in the care of anyone who could be dangerous, or take financial advantage of a fragile person.

What If a Family Member Offers to be the Caregiver?

In some cases, a member of your family may be the best caregiver.  In this case, it would be smart for both the patient and the family member to sign a Long-term Care Personal Support Services Agreement.  In this way, everyone knows exactly what care will be provided, how often, and during what period of time.  In addition, it also will clarify what financial compensation they may receive, and whether this compensation will come from the person receiving the care, other family members, or the state.

A family member may be uncertain exactly what services they need to provide and how to keep track of everything.  You might find it helpful to get a copy of the "Caregiver's Workbook:  Checklists and Worksheets for Family Caregivers."  (Ad) It could help reduce your stress and keep you organized. 

In many cases, state governments will pay caregivers through Medicaid to assist low-income patients who qualify for in-home care. Having a written agreement will show the state where the money is going and what services are being provided.  The checklists and worksheets mentioned in the book above can also help you prove to Medicaid that you are performing the necessary tasks, and the hours you are working.  

Having a written agreement and agreed compensation will also reduce misunderstandings among heirs over the reduced amount of money which they might inherit, as a result of the financial compensation paid to the caregiver.

What Should be Included in the Agreement for a Family Caregiver?

If a friend or family member is going to be paid to provide the care, everyone should see this as fair and reasonable. In order to do that, the caregiver agreement should include the information listed below.  You may want to consider having an attorney draw up the agreement.

* It should be a written agreement.
* It should cover only services which will be provided after the agreement is written; not services provided in the past.
* It should provide for reasonable compensation which would not be greater than would be charged by a licensed caregiver service in your area.
* It should stipulate the types of care which will be performed and the hours the caregiver will work.
* It should specify who will pay the caregiver and how frequently. 
* It should be flexible and include the statement that the services provided may change as mutually agreed upon by the parties.
* There should be a clause allowing either party to terminate the agreement in writing.
* There should be a "backup" person listed in the event the primary caregiver is temporarily not able to provide their services (for example, if they become ill themselves).
* It should cover any additional factors such as room and board, if the caregiver lives with the patient, income tax withholding, medical insurance for the caregiver, vacation pay, etc.
* It should require a detailed log of duties performed, to justify their salary

Advantages of a Family Caregiver

Although having a family member perform the caregiver duties can cause jealousy and problems with other family members, it can also provide an extra level of care which might not be appropriate if the family hires a professional caregiver.  Some of these extra duties include:

Dealing with household and medical bills
Handling other finances
Going to medical appointments and assisting in making medical decisions

Whether you decide to go with a professional caregiver or have a family member provide that service, it will make life much easier on everyone to know that appropriate care is being provided either temporarily or permanently for yourself or a frail or ill member of your family. 

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To learn more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

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Friday, September 10, 2021

Tips to Sell Your Home and Downsize or Move to Assisted Living

During my 30s and 40s, I was a Realtor in Dallas. Often, this involved assisting an older couple in selling their long-time family home before they moved into a retirement community or assisted living.  If they had lived in their family home for a long time, downsizing to a smaller home or apartment in an assisted living community could be extremely challenging.  Often it involved the entire family, including adult children, since an elderly couple can feel overwhelmed with selling the property, making repairs, dealing with movers, and deciding what items they need to sell or give away. 

Fortunately, today there are companies which will help simplify the process. Some of them actually specialize in helping seniors sell their home, declutter, pack up their belongings, and unpack once they have relocated.  

Senior Home Purchase Program

A San Diego based company named the Senior Home Purchase Program (SHPP) was founded with the purpose of giving seniors a simple way to make the transition into senior living.  If they choose to use the SHPP program, the company will make a direct purchase of their home, at a small discount, with no fees payed by the seller.  This means the seller does not have to do any prep work, make repairs, or spend time and money on anything similar.  

Currently, this company only helps seniors in Southern California.  However, seniors may want to get a quote from other companies such as We Buy Ugly Houses or 24 Home Cash Offer to get an "as is" quote on the sale of their home.  There are a variety of similar companies, so if you are interested in getting a cash offer on your home, without repairs or other expenses, you should get quotes from several companies.

If you use one of these wholesale home buying companies, you will have to sell your home at a discount. However, in return, you can set the sale and closing date so it is convenient for you.  You also will not have to make repairs, show your home to strangers, or pay a Realtor commission.  This makes the sale much less stressful for many seniors.

Simply Sell for Easier Home Sales

The same Southern California company that offers the SHPP program also has a program called Simply Sell.  With this program, they sell your home in the traditional way, but they attempt to set a price which will result in a quick sale.  In addition, they do not ask you to pay for any repairs in advance, and they will arrange for someone to help you declutter your home, as well as pack and unpack your belongings.

Once again, this is not the only company which will offer you these services. Any Realtor can arrange to have your home sold "as is" or with a minimal repair allowance.  In addition, many assisted living communities can refer you to someone to help you with the decluttering process.  They will help you go through everything in your home and decide which items you would really like to have with you in your new, smaller residence. Most large moving companies also offer packing and unpacking services.  Of course, it is more complicated to arrange for all these separate services yourself, but the convenience can be worth it.  Hiring people to help you with these services can reduce your stress considerably. 

Rid Yourself of Anything You Do Not Love or Need

Whether you sell your house directly to a company, or use the traditional process, one thing you will want to do is get rid of anything you really do not want or need to have in your new home.  

You may find it helpful to read "The Art of Happy Moving: How to Declutter, Pack, and Start Over While Maintaining Your Sanity and Finding Happiness."  It can help you simplify your move and enjoy it more.  

You may also find it helpful to take the following steps in planning your move: 

Do you have adult children who may want some of your belongings?  This could be a good time to give them the items you have been wanting to pass to them after you are gone, especially if you have some things you do not expect to be using again in the future.

Take a hard look at all the decorative and entertainment items you own.  Do you really need half a dozen vases, an assortment of platters and trays, dozens of framed photographs, cute little collectibles, an assortment of paintings, enough wine glasses to entertain a couple of dozen people, and souvenirs from every trip you have ever taken?  If your children do not want these things, see if you can find another home for items you no longer want or need.  

If you are moving to an assisted living community which will provide your meals, you may not need many dishes or cooking equipment.  If you will have a kitchenette, you may want to keep a few plates, coffee cups, a couple of pots and pans, a toaster, a coffee maker, and anything else you might need to prepare a small meal or snack. Everything else you should pass on to a family member, such as a grandchild getting their first apartment. Whatever cannot be passed on to a family member could be given to a charity.

You may also want to thin out your furniture before you move.  You will want to take your television, favorite comfy chair, bed, dresser, and any other furniture which will help you make the new residence feel homey. You can also take any other items which you love, if there will be space for them, but you do not want to stuff your new place so full of furniture that it becomes difficult for you to move around, especially if you might need to use a walker or wheelchair in the future.  Take what you love and absolutely must have, but leave as much open space in your new home as possible.

Finally, you may also have much less closet space in your new home. Set aside your favorite clothing, purses, and coats which you plan to wear during the last 10 or 15 years of your life.  You can assume that you will occasionally purchase new items of clothing over the years, or receive them as gifts, so you should happily get rid of anything you no longer wear.  Some of us have a hard time letting go of the suits and business attire we wore when we were working, the formal clothing from past special events, and items which are too small for us, but we hope to be able to wear again someday.  Now is the time to let them go.  Just bring what you love and need.

If you find the above tasks too challenging, you may ask an adult child or grandchild to help you.  If that is not possible, hire someone to help you declutter.  A local moving company, or the assisted living place you are moving to, may be able to recommend someone to help you.  

Most importantly, do what you can to make the process as easy on yourself as possible.  You want your new home to be a comfortable and pleasant place, not storage for everything you have ever owned.

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Friday, September 3, 2021

The Best Places to Retire in Pennsylvania

Over the years, this blog has repeatedly been asked about the best places to retire.  Of course, many people who are planning their retirement immediately jump to the conclusion that they should only consider sunbelt locations such as Arizona, Florida, or the states along the Gulf Coast.  However, not everyone wants to move far away from their loved ones and, in the Northeast, Pennsylvania has become a popular retirement destination, with a number of attractive small towns and retirement communities.

This week's guest post was submitted by a representative of one of those retirement communities, United Zion, and provides general information about why so many retirees are discovering that Pennsylvania can be an appealing retirement destination.  

If you are unfamiliar with all the attractions which Pennsylvania has to offer, you may also want to learn more about the wealth of activities in the state by reading "Backroads & Byways of Pennsylvania: Drives, Day Trips & Weekend Excursions." (Ad) After reading this book, you'll know why so many people have fallen in love with Pennsylvania!

The author's guest post is below:  

Pennsylvania is considered one of the top states for retirement in the US. With charming towns, breathtaking wildlife, and an active population, the Keystone State is one of the best states to consider when planning for your retirement.

Continue reading to discover the best places to retire in Pennsylvania.

Evaluating Where to Retire: Pennsylvania vs. Surrounding States

There are 50 states in the country. Each state has its own merits, which makes it worthy of consideration as a place to retire. However, some states are more conducive to the retirement stage than other states.

One of these states is Pennsylvania. This is not surprising, because the quality of life is commendable in some regions, especially for folks who wish to enjoy their golden years in a peaceful home.

The magazine, US News & World Report, awarded Lancaster, Pennsylvania the top spot in its "2019 Best Places to Retire" list. From scenic parks and walking trails, to the quaint shops along tree-lined historic city streets, you’ll find plenty of things to do in Lancaster when you're not hitting the putting green of your suburban community.

Two main reasons make Lancaster, PA, an ideal spot to settle down.

The first reason is the happy life of Lancaster residents. The second reason is the affordable prices of housing in the city.

Lancaster, PA, ranked first among the 100 places that made it to the list in 2019. The other top ten contenders were Fort Myers, FL, Sarasota, FL, Austin, TX, Pittsburgh, PA, Grand Rapids, MI, Nashville, TN, San Antonio, TX, Dallas–Fort Worth, TX, and Lakeland, FL.

Based on the more recent 2020-2021 list from US News & World Report, Lancaster is still considered one of the top five places to retire in the US. Other areas in Pennsylvania which made it to the top 100 include Harrisburg, Allentown, Philadelphia, and York.

You'll want to explore the state of Pennsylvania if you are planning on retiring in the US. The Keystone State offers a wide variety of options for retirees. You can choose to live in any of the state's larger cities, or slip away to the countryside where you can enjoy a simpler life in a small town with fresh air and beautiful, starry skies.

Location/Tax Rates in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania is ideal as a retirement haven because it is a tax-friendly state.

According to tax information from SmartAsset, Pennsylvania has a total tax exemption for Social Security income. It does not collect state income taxes on pension income for senior citizens who are 60 years old and above.

On top of this, the state has tax exemption on payments from retirement accounts, including Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and 401(k)s.

Property tax rates in Pennsylvania are, indeed, higher than average. However, the state's average total sales tax rate is considered one of the 20 lowest in the US.

In general, Pennsylvania is a state where retirees can have the advantage of overall low state tax rates.

Areas in Pennsylvania

It's a practical idea to familiarize yourself with the different areas of Pennsylvania, if you are considering retiring in the state.

Susquehanna River Valley

Located in the heart of Central Pennsylvania, you'll find the Susquehanna River Valley. Based on resources from, the area is conveniently accessible by Interstates 80 and 81 and Routes 11, 15, 45, 192, 61.

The Susquehanna River Valley comprises three counties in Central Pennsylvania: Snyder, Union, and Northumberland Counties.


Situated in Dauphin County, Hershey, Pennsylvania, has an estimated population of 14,411, according to statistics from Livability.

The average income in Hershey is $67,325. The standard home value is $292,552.


Located in the heart of Amish Country, you'll find Lancaster, PA. The city has an approximate population of 61,872, based on Livability information.

The standard income in Lancaster is $39,127. The average value of homes is $119,492.


Lititz is situated in Lancaster County in Pennsylvania. The town has an estimated population of 9,702, according to resources from Livability.

The average income in Lititz is $58,234. The standard home value is $191,253.

Community Life in Lititz, Pennsylvania

You may be asking yourself, "Is Lititz, PA a good place to live?"

Lititz, located in Lancaster County, is one of the best places to retire in Pennsylvania. Aside from the quality of life, low tax rates, and other factors mentioned above, it also showcases a warm, vibrant community.

Lititz was named the "coolest small town in America" by Budget Travel. It gained recognition because of its rich historical heritage, lively presence, and myriad of attractions like cultural landmarks, restaurants, galleries, shops, and events.

About our Community

If you are still looking for the best places to retire in Pennsylvania, we invite you to explore United Zion Retirement Community located in Lititz, PA.

United Zion is a compassionate, close-knit Life Planning Community in Lititz, PA. Our professional and warm staff, small community setting, and beautiful surroundings create an inviting, comfortable living environment. Our mission is to provide the highest quality of care to each resident in a nurturing environment.

Staying in one of the residential living cottages and apartments in this retirement community will allow you to maximize your enjoyment of your golden years in Pennsylvania.

Call us at (717) 626-2071, or send us a message to learn more about our retirement community.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.  You will never be contacted for any other reason.
To learn more about financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, common medical problems as we age, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

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Photo provided by the Union Zion Community

Friday, August 27, 2021

Estate Planning Can Help Heirs Handle Your Affairs Even Before You Die

If you are suddenly hospitalized, or pass away, would your adult children or other heirs be able to figure out what accounts and assets you have, ongoing services which need to be canceled, bills that needed to be paid, and other important information?  Would they know who to notify if you are in the hospital or have died, including friends, landlords, and employers?  Is there someone you trust to have access to your bank accounts in case of an emergency?  Are your heirs aware of what treatments you would accept in the hospital, or whether you have a Do Not Resuscitate order? Do they know if you have a long-term care insurance policy, in case you need to go into a nursing home?  Do your heirs know your funeral preferences or where to find your will and trust?

Most of us would not want to leave our children with a chaotic financial mess to handle if we suddenly become sick, seriously injured, or die, but it happens all the time.  An expected illness or death is difficult enough.  However, when your heirs also have to spend countless hours unraveling the details of your life after an unexpected event, it could overwhelm them.

"In the Event of Your Death" Binder

One solution my husband and I chose to implement was to put together a binder we labeled "In the Event of Our Deaths."  While this notebook would not completely answer all the questions our children might have if we are incapacitated or die, it would certainly help them get started.  We used the notebook to pull together all the information we thought our adult daughters would need if we were unable to take care of our affairs, either temporarily or long-term.  In addition to this notebook, we have also given one of our daughters log-in information for our computers, with access to our bank accounts.

Here is some of the information we put into the binder:

Copies of Our Wills and Trusts
Funeral Arrangement Info
Burial Plot Receipt
List of Who to Contact in the Event of our Deaths
Life Insurance policies
Medical Insurance Info
List of bank and brokerage accounts
Advanced Health Care Directives
Copies of our Driver's Licenses, passports, and other documents

How Else Can We Help Our Heirs Handle our Affairs?

Putting that notebook together will certainly be a big help to our children if something happens to us.  However, it is not the only steps we had to take in order to make things easier for our children or other heirs.  What else should everyone do in order to be well prepared in an emergency?

* Give a copy of the major documents in your notebook to the executor of your will, so they have the information they need, even if they live in another city, or if something happens to you while you are traveling.

Discuss your end of life wishes with ALL of your children or heirs.  This is one way you can reduce the discord between family members if you are unable to speak for yourself, or if you die.  Let them know important things such as whether or not you want to be cremated, and how you want your remains handled afterwards.

Prepare a Heathcare Directive.  In addition to an executor of your will, you also will need a healthcare agent to make decisions for you.  This can be the same family member, or a different person, especially if you are concerned that it may be difficult for your family member to make the hard decisions about your end-of-life care.  Make sure the people you choose for these important jobs know that you have appointed them to these positions and ask them if they feel they will be able to carry out the necessary duties involved.

Sign a Power of Attorney. Make sure you have someone who can handle your finances for you, if you become unable to do so.  You will want an attorney to draw up a durable power of attorney so this person can act on your behalf.  As long as you are mentally competent, you can revoke the durable power of attorney at any time.  It will also automatically end when you die.  You can pick a family member or, if you do not have someone you think would be able to handle this task, you can choose a bill payer service.  Your attorney can help you find someone.

Discuss your bequests and other plans with all your heirs. Make sure everyone knows how your personal property will be passed on to them.  Does someone have a favorite painting, antique, or piece of jewelry they would like to have when you are gone?  Put in writing any special items you are bequeathing to someone, and make that information available to all your heirs.  It will dramatically reduce misunderstandings after you are gone, especially if you are fair to everyone, so no one feels that another family member was treated better than the others.

Estate Planning Documents

You can get your documents prepared by an attorney, and the attorney can also give you advice about who should be your executor and handle other decisions.  He can also provide you with other paperwork you may need.

If your estate is simple and you just want the documents completed, you can find do-it-yourself wills, trusts and other documents online. (Ad) There are a wide variety of online choices to help you get your estate planning organized.  Even if you do not have a lot to pass on to your spouse, children or other heirs, it will be so helpful to them if everything is put into writing, including your end-of-life wishes.

Keep Your Information Up-to-Date

It is important to keep the information in your End of Life Notebook current.  Over the course of a few years, you may move, change your job, open new accounts or even get a new grandchild.   Some of the people on your notification list may have died.  It is important to go through your notebook at least once a year and update anything that might have changed.  It is easy to let that slip, but it is very important.  Time gets away from us all.  However, your notebook will only be helpful as long as the information in it is correct.  

Relax and Enjoy Your Family

Once these details have been worked out, you will feel relieved.  You will be able to enjoy your family visits without worrying about what will happen if you become sick or die unexpectedly.  There will be fewer questions from your children about what will happen to your things if you die.  In fact, it will rarely be a topic of discussion.

Enjoyed this post? Never miss out on future posts by following us.  You will receive a weekly email with the most current post.  You will never be contacted for any other reason.
To learn more about financial planning, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, common medical problems as we age, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.

Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

You are reading form the blog:

Photo credit: Pixabay