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Our publisher, Sandra Sprague, is also the
owner of Care Givers NW, a leading Portland,
Oregon in-home senior care agency. Many
times during the initial interview with a new
client, a family member will mention the
reason they've come to Care Givers NW is
the realization that their parents have lost
control of their finances; sometimes in subtle
ways and sometimes in very overt manners.
On the next visit to the home of your parents or grandparents, see if any of the common
warning signs that a senior loved one has lost the grip on their finances is in evidence:

  • Uncharacteristic late or unpaid bills - perhaps collection notices
  • Unopened mail piled up on a desk or countertop
  • Apathy or apparent obliviousness about which bills are due when
  • Continuous use of overdraft protection or even bounced checks
  • Recent disorganized record keeping
  • Pile-up of un-cashed checks or items needing to be returned for refund or exchange
  • Sudden increase of purchases via catalog or Internet shopping
  • Unusual participation (or significant increase) in gambling activities
  • Sudden increase in credit card ownership and use

Of course, observing these very real warning signs that a senior loved one's financial life is
spinning out of control and confronting them with it are two very different things. Speaking to
any family member (spouses in particular) about finances can be an emotionally-charged
event; many seniors will feel offended and threatened by being challenged on a subject they've
had the recognized authority over for the majority of their lives.
However, the only way to facilitate help in this serious situation is to initially confront it with a
senior loved one. And there is help for seniors having difficulties controlling their finances:

One of the simplest ways to start is to determine the household income (pensions, annuities,
Social Security, etc.) and debts (rent, mortgage, insurance, utilities, taxes, etc.) and work
together constructing a budget. Ascertain that all direct deposit arrangements are in order and
regularly posting to the appropriate account. Find out if there are any hidden assets in safety
deposit boxes or elsewhere containing stocks, forgotten bank accounts, U.S. Savings Bonds or
collectibles. (Many seniors keep cash and U.S. Savings Bonds in odd places, like between the
pages of books or in coffee cans; leave no stone unturned!)

Ways to Help
If expenses have eclipsed a fixed income, there are a number of solutions which may be
available. Many states and counties have programs for seniors that can augment utility bills,
food expenses and household repairs. Be prepared to help your senior loved one wade
through the paperwork needed to apply for these programs. AARP offers a free service
coordinating qualified volunteer financial advisors to help seniors with their finances.
(Volunteers are recruited by AARP but are overseen by local agencies aligned with AARP.)

Of course, once you've tackled this issue with a parent or grandparent, you don't want the
effort to fall victim to the Lone Ranger Syndrome - riding into town, chasing the bad guys off
then riding off leaving the townspeople no better off in terms of needed ongoing assistance
than they were in the first place. Make a commitment to provide continual assistance. With
permission, arrange for a duplicate bank statement to be sent to you; some credit and debit
card accounts can sen you an e-mail confirmation of transactions so you can better help with
keeping track of spending activities, identity theft attempts and payment postings.

Remember, the sooner a senior's wobbly financial situation is addressed the better - don't
hesitiate to take the initial steps if you suspect something is amiss!
The Associated Press reports that actor Dennis Quaid is involved in a newly-formed nationwide
program, the Naitonal Alert Network for Serious Medication Errors with a goal of helping to
prevent medication errors. In 2007, Quaid's newborn twins were accidentally given overdoses
of a blood thinner while in a Los Angeles hospital. The twins have recovered; after-effects
remain unclear, but hopefully Thomas Boone Quaid and Zoe Grace Quaid will not experience
any residual negative health impacts from this episode.

Name Confusion
Although Dennis Quaid's children's medication crisis was the result of an overdose, the FDA
reports that more than 10% of all U.S. medication errors result from name and vernacular
confusion. (For instance: "D/C" can mean "discharge" and also, "discontinue"; the brand name
Flomax is used to treat enlarged prostates, Volmax is used for bronchial spasms)
We'll report more on this nationwide program, its efforts and impacts in the coming months.
The Top Ten Signs a Senior Loved
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Dennis Quaid Helps Launch Medication Error Alert Program
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