Will you still need me, will you still feed me

Several of my clients celebrated birthdays over the weekend.  I was lucky enough to speak or see quite a few of them.  As each of us takes another trip around the sun, the truth is we’re all getting older.  And that beats the hell out of the alternative.

Roughly 10,000 baby boomers are going to turn 65 today.  Another 10,000 will turn 65 tomorrow.  And so on.  Our population is growing older and as they do, they need help.  Some may not need help at 65 or even 75, but there will be a point where they need assistance.  Maybe they can no longer safely get in and out of their shower or bathtub.  Maybe they forgot whether or not they had lunch.  Interesting fact, seniors tend towards dehydration because they forget to drink water.  Many falls are the result of undiagnosed UTI’s.  Once someone falls and breaks something, the road back can be long and difficult.  Each of my parents fell and broke a hip.  My father spent the night on the floor because no one could help him up.  Scammers prey on our seniors.  They become lonely and the scammer knows how to be of comfort…right before they get their checking account information.  There is now the Sandwich Generation.  Those folks still have to work, they have kids either still at home or are paying for college and their parents are retired and need help.  The weight can be crushing.

While my father was alive, my mother was able to care for him.  We did not know that my mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.  She was a very intelligent woman and hid her symptoms eloquently, until one day she couldn’t any more.  With my father gone my brother and I struggled to balance work, life and making sure our mother didn’t 1) burn down the condo complex 2) wander away 3) give her credit card to a scammer 4) let a scammer into the house (I called one day and she said she couldn’t talk that the vacuum cleaner salesman was vacuuming the rug.)  Add to that a plethora of things we could not begin to predict.  It was stressful.  We cooked meals in advance for her so we knew she had good food to eat.  We checked on her daily to be sure she hadn’t “fallen and couldn’t get up”.  We took phone calls that barely made sense.  I canceled my New Year’s Eve plans to take her to the hospital because she fell that night.  I left events and parties because she called confused and if I didn’t I had no idea what crazy thing she was going to do next.  She called me at 5:30 in the morning to tell me not to worry she was getting a ride to the hospital with the firemen.  She wasn’t hurt, she called 911 got an ambulance ride for an old shoulder injury.  Her mind was gone but she could still dial a phone.  That doesn’t count the times I was out of town and my brother dropped everything to ferret out what was going on in her failing mind.

If any of this sounds familiar, I’m with you.  I get it.  Been there.  Done that.  Got the t-shirt.

Mom is still with us, living in a memory care facility, which in our case was the best decision to keep her safe.  Each family has different dynamics and different abilities.  In our case, everyone has to work to keep our own families afloat so keeping her in place or having her move in was not an option.  For some families, that’s the perfect option.  Sometimes that’s the sweetest time together.  Sometimes in home care is the solution.  We did that until it was not enough.

One of the resources we used was Senior Helpers in Concord.  Jenny’s staff took great care of my mother after she broke her hip and going forward until it was time to place her.  Jenny even helped us place my mother in the best place possible and helped us with the details of the best way to move an Alzheimer’s patient.  (Hint: it’s not easy).

Another resource I wanted to share was the VA.  If your senior is a veteran the VA has a program to give you a respite of 16 days if the family is the primary caregivers.  The vet goes into the VA for up to 16 days and that gives the family a break.  Sometimes it’s just a mental break, sometimes having the senior out of the house allows for deep cleaning or flooring to be replaced that would otherwise be impossible.

The bottom line, no matter how unique your situation, you’re not alone.  There are resources to help you honor your loved ones as they age.  I can be reached at 925-381-2998.  I would be pleased to connect you to reputable folks who can help your loved one.

No one gets out of here alive

Christopher Bullock first uttered these words in the Cobler of Preston in 1716.

“Tis impossible to be sure of anything but Death and Taxes.”

Ben Franklin usually gets credit, but he was not the first, and certainly not the last.  Jim Morrison famously wrote “No one gets out of here alive”.  And no one does.  Death is the great equalizer.  We all leave this life toes up.

In our society, we spend a tremendous amount of time avoiding the subject.  We don’t look forward to answering the question “what might happen when I die”.   Personally, I had a near miss last year.  Doctors misdiagnosed me with the flu.  I had pneumonia.  They treated me with a cough suppressant which is the worst thing you can do for a pneumonia patient.  By the time they properly diagnosed me I was starting to go septic.  While I was laying in that hospital bed I thought “I have to come back from this, my house is a disaster!”  I did and today my house is less of a disaster.  Because when you die, someone has to deal with your living space, whatever that is.  It can be a miserable task.  In my mind the less hellish I can make that for my family the better.  Since I got out of the hospital, bags of clothes I haven’t worn in over a year have been taken to Goodwill.  Truckloads have gone to the dump.  While this isn’t an article about organizing, it could be.  And I still have a long way to go, but I am living a much less cluttered life.

Most of us don’t get to choose when our ticket gets punched.  I was minding my own business when a guy sat down next to me on a plane.  He was sweating and coughing and three days later I had pneumonia.  Over the years I have known people in their 40’s who went to bed and never woke up.  People in their early 50’s who have suffered massive, fatal heart attacks.  People who have died driving to work, riding their bike, watching the stars.  I’ve seen random acts of God, earthquakes, fires, hurricanes, tornados all end the lives of otherwise happy and healthy people.  And I almost got my ticket punched just for taking a flight from Vegas to Phoenix.  We.  Just.  Don’t.  Know.

So the question is, knowing that information, why do we not at least make some cursory plans for the one thing we all know we will do?  It’s really not that hard to do some estate planning.  Take a couple of hours and set things up so that while your family is grieving your passing they also don’t have to deal with attorneys and courts and appraisers and the government standing there with their hand out.  They are going to probably have to deal with your stuff.  I’ll write about that in the next installment of this series.  Your real estate is going to be a major source of aggravation.  Billy Bob wants to live there rent free but his other brother Billy Ray and their sister from another mister Billie Jo want their money so they can go out and buy the dualie they always wanted and aren’t you spinning in your grave yet?  In truth, you knew your sisters kids were a bunch of knuckleheads and you really wanted your home to be donated to Habitat for Humanity and without specific instructions, that’s just not going to happen.  The thing is, it’s your life.  Your legacy, your way.

The State will divvy your stuff up according to a predetermined formula without regard for your wishes.  If you do some estate planning in advance, your possessions and your wealth can be distributed to the people and organizations you want.  Your wishes are fulfilled.

The first step is to determine what the best way to set up your estate.  Are you a key employee?  Are you self employed?  Your death could mean the end of income for your family.  Is that part covered?  Do you need life insurance?  Should you have a trust?  Only an Estate Attorney can answer these questions for sure.  Don’t rely on a google search to properly provide for your loved ones once you’re gone.

Every individual’s situation is different, yet at the end of the day, no one gets out of here alive.  I have extraordinary estate attorneys that I work with.  I would be pleased to refer you or someone you care about to one of them.  Don’t let the government determine what happens to your life’s work once you’re gone.


It’s not me, it’s you

I talk a lot about the difference between a skilled practitioner in real estate and a hack.  If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know I have no time for bozos.  Yet, consumers keeps hiring clowns.  Yesterday I wondered, at what point does the consumer have to take responsibility for their own experience?

I have often gone to a home to talk to someone about selling their home.  They tell me how terrible their last experience was, and the one before that and the one before that.  That sounds awful I think to myself.  As the conversation progresses the client wants me to list their house for a deeply discounted commission, doesn’t want to make any of my suggested repairs, doesn’t want to stage and wants all the bells and whistles than come with full service pricing.  They don’t end up going with me.  They end up with an agent who will discount their commission because they are green or real estate is something they just “dabble” in when they’re not at their “real” job or they don’t know what they’re doing and have questionable ethics.  Next thing you know, the home sells for way less than the seller thought it was worth and they’ve gone on to talk about what a bad experience they had.  At what point does the consumer have take responsibility for their experience?

I don’t want to pay $5 for a cup of Peet’s coffee so I go to the truck stop across the street and get something that’s been sitting on the burner for three hours.  I only pay $1.25.  Can I complain about the coffee?  I had an opportunity to get a quality product, I was just too damned cheap.  At that point aren’t I responsible for my own experience?

I don’t understand why someone would want to sell the largest asset they own, on the cheap.  I want the best marketing, best pricing, most aggressive, most experienced hand I can find to guide me through that process.

For instances, God forbid that you should need surgery to save your life.  Do you get the guy who is fresh out of the med school on a Latin American island because he’s cheap?  Or do you choose someone who has done that surgery numerous times and knows what to do if something goes wrong?  Don’t you want someone with experience who has been there before?  Or the guy is filling in this afternoon because he needs to pick up some hours?

Granted real estate is not brain surgery, or rocket science, but it is an art.  Choose your practitioner wisely.  Here’s some questions you can ask:

  1. How long have you been selling real estate?
  2. How many transactions have you closed in the last two years?
  3. Are you a full time agent?
  4. Are you part of a team?
  5. If you go out of town who will take care of me?
  6. How often will I hear from you?
  7. Are you planning any long vacations?
  8. How many other clients are you working with?
  9. How many homes have you sold in my area?
  10. What is your marketng plan for my home.
  11. Will you hire a professional photographer to market my home?

A lot of other sites recommend you ask for references.  I am amused that no one ever does, perhaps in this day and age of online reviews that’s not a necessary question any more.  I always bring copies of a few reviews from clients who I know don’t mind being a reference to my listing appointments.

There is a difference between agents.  Sometimes that difference is huge.  If you are in the Bay Area I would be pleased to show you how different I really am.  If you’re reading this in another part of the country, that’s okay, I know professionals throughout the country who can and will take great care of you.  Give me a shout and find out for yourself what the difference really is.