November 2008

Seniors & the Holidays

Here are the five tips for keeping your aging parents happy throughout the Holidays in spite of any family turmoil and dramatics.   There’s always “one” in the family, isn’t there (?) that likes to stir things up.

Given these findings, Ellen and Andy Smith, owners of the local office of Comfort Keepers®, a franchised, in-home care services provider have provided the following tips for family members to address with their aging relatives this holiday season to ensure a happy and healthy time is had by all.

1.     Link Up with Like Minds: Senior groups plan activities like exercise, meals, games and trips for seniors wanting to get out of the house and expand their circle of friends. Look into these groups with your relative and find one that best fits their interests. Some local numbers to call: The Goebel Center in Thousand Oaks at 805-381-2744, the Camarillo Senior Center at 805-4824881, and the Simi Valley Senior Center at 805-583-6363

2.       Pick Up a Pen: Sending holiday cards is a wonderful way to spark a new kind of relationship between family members. Once these lines of communication have been opened, seniors will be more inclined to keep up with the correspondence long after the holiday season ends.

3.      Get in the Game: Brainteasers, memory games and mathematical puzzles are not only fun but can employ areas of the brain that aren’t regularly stimulated. Many experts recommend taking preventative measures against Alzheimer’s, including partaking in mentally stimulating activities, particularly crossword puzzles, scrabble, or brain teasers. Medical experts believe that these mind building hobbies help nourish the brain and build a buffer against diminished brain function. Try a few with your relative while you are in town and leave them with a few books or games that they can continue using after you leave.    Doctors in Japan have gone so far as to recommend the purchase of hand-held video brain-training games for elderly patients to stimulate their brains regularly at home. Google “brain games for seniors” for good ideas.

4.      Make a List and Check it Twice: Send your relative a list of possible gift ideas for other family members and review their purchases upon your arrival while helping them with wrapping. If you have the luxury of arriving prior to the holiday, accompany your relative on a shopping excursion to select the perfect presents.

5.      Hire a Helping Hand: If you are still concerned your relative is in jeopardy of mentally “checking out” when the holiday season comes to a close, discuss the possibility of hiring an in-home companion or CNA. Not only will this person be able to help with basic chores and activities, and personal care too if needed, but the caregiver will be able to provide much-needed social interaction for your loved one on a daily, weekly or live-in basis.

Ellen and Andy Smith own the local office of Comfort Keepers® which provides in-home Caregivers and Certified Nursing Assistant level care  for individuals needing assistance with activities of daily living. Services are tailored to the individual needs of each client, and helps seniors to continue living safely and in the privacy of their own home. Care duties include companionship, meal preparation, light housekeeping, grocery shopping, transportation, personal care assistance, accident prevention, and more. Comfort Keepers has over 550 independently owned offices worldwide.  Call 805-494-9900, 805-389-4600, or 805-526-6000

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The Holidays, Families and their Senior Parents

Today and tomorrow, I will publish an article that has suggestions on how to navigate the Holidays with elderly parents that might have memory issues and other challenges associated with aging.   The Holidays can be stressful for many, but particularly for people who’s parents are frail, ill or don’t live close enough to their family, preventing them from seeing them on the Holidays.


                                                                                                By Ellen and Andy Smith, Comfort Keepers           

            For many families, the holiday season marks one of the only times of year that all members can gather together to celebrate and enjoy each other’s company. The portrait before and after this joyous time, however, is often far less picturesque for seniors living alone or far away from relatives.   As the aging population continues to grow – the U.S. Census Bureau projects over 88 million people age 65 and older in the U.S. by 2050 – memory loss and dementia in seniors are posing a major public health burden and it’s often difficult for relatives to monitor that aging family members are getting the level of stimulation and socialization they want and need. But there’s hope: According to a recent study by the Harvard School of Public Health, researchers have found evidence that seniors in the U.S. with active social lives may have slower rates of memory decline and lower mortality rates.

Given these findings, Ellen and Andy Smith, owners of the local office of Comfort Keepers®, a franchised, in-home care services provider have provided the following tips for family members to address with their aging relatives this holiday season to ensure a happy and healthy time is had by all.


I will follow up with the tips in tomorrow’s post to this blog.


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Living Trusts

Borrowers for Reverse Loans have the option of taking the Title of the property in the name of their Living Trust.   Unlike a conventional loan where the borrower is obligated to make mortgage payments every month, they generally don’t provide a copy of their Trust because it’s considered to be too much of a hassle to do  so during the application process. 

Instead a con-current recording of the new loan and the Trust is done at the same time. The new loan is simply done in the name of the borrowers and then the Title is re-recorded back into the Trust right after the initial loan has recorded.

This can be very awkward plus you’re relying on the attorney or Title company to be sure that this happens.  And the danger in this, is that there good be an “oops” moment and the Title is never re-recorded back into the family Trust.   I’ve seen this happen in the past and it can leave a family with a huge problem if someone passes away and the protection of the Trust isn’t in place.

The Reverse mortgage has a different stance on this.   If a borrower has their home in a family Trust, then a copy of the signed and notarized Trust is collected at the time of the loan application and it stays in the Trust during the period of time that the new loan is being processed.

It is sent to the Lender and their attorney will review it to be sure that it meets with HUD”s guidelines ( They always do).   The Trust should always be revocable, meaning that the Trustor’s have the ability to make any changes to it at anytime in the future and they don’t have to worry about putting their property back into it, as it will never be removed during the loan process.

Keeping a property in a Trust when a person applies for a new mortgage, protects them from anyone forgetting to re-record it and the potential danger of having something happen to the estate due to someone having an “oops” moment.

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Reverse Loans and Fixed Interest Rates

When is comes to doing a mortgage, it is usually is best to go with a Fixed interest rate, especially when you’re making mortgage payments. Right?  But how does that come into play if it’s a Reverse loan?

It doesn’t matter unless the borrower wants to pass on a very large loan balance on to their heirs.   Yeah, “fixed’ sounds really good, doesn’t it?   You always know what the interest rate will be but the downside is, that on a Reverse loan that has a fixed rate, you can’t get a line of credit.

The entire amount of money that the senior will receive through their “fixed’ Reverse loan, has to be taken in in one big, large, huge amount of money.   And it will immediately start to accrue interest at around 6.5% (the last time that I looked).   And we are talking about compounding interest!

Many lenders and brokers are sending letters to seniors about getting a fixed rate, a “dangling carrot” so to speak.   And they say what a great loan this would be for them and that they will always know what the interest rate will be, blah,blah,blah…..

Big deal! Who cares?   It’s an illusion and not a really brilliant choice for a senior to use.   Oh, yeah, I shouldn’t forget that they could take this money and invest it somewhere for a return.  Just kidding! Now tell me, what kind of an investment would offset the interest that is being charged on the Reverse loan?

I don’t know of any. 

One of my clients recently sent me two letters that she had received, touting the benefits of having a fixed interest rate on her Reverse loan.   Her hand written comments were hilarious!   And of course, these letters implied a sense of urgency, that she may miss out on getting a fixed rate if she didn’t call right away.

A fixed rate for a Reverse loan is a terrible choice.   At the end of the loan, the balance could be huge.   With the more traditional and safer HECM ( even though it’s adjustable), it’s the saner and safer choice.

The borrower is only charged interest on what they use and overall, the loan balance would be significantly smaller than if they used a fixed rate.

Until there’s an option to have a line of credit on a fixed rate Reverse mortgage, use the adjustable.   In the end it will cost the borrowers and their heirs a lot less money.

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“Boomers” and Long Term Care Insurance


Here is the conclusion of Corrine’s article on Long Term Care Insurance.   I have found that when I’m helping Seniors with their Reverse Mortgage, very few of them planned on needing assistance when they were older.  And even if they wish to purchase the insurance, they won’t be able to qualify due to health issues.

No one ever plans on “getting old”.   But you will and there’s no escaping it.   Plan for the future.   Not only for yourself but your family as well.

I bought my own policy a couple of years ago and believe me, I’m really glad that I have it.   I’ve seen what happens to people when they grow old, helpless and don’t have any money.   Medicaid or MediCal are not something you want to rely on and don’t even THINK that Medicare will pick up your expenses.

Part III

The product is not suitable for everyone. If you have to make substantial changes in your lifestyle to pay your premiums, it isn’t for you. Like any insurance product, it is for those who have something to protect and something to lose. The product is suitable for anyone who wants to avoid an unintended invasion of their portfolio and those who want to maintain their independence, their choices and help their kids fulfill their promise that they’ll never put you in a nursing home.

This isn’t a do-it-yourself product. Meet with an agent specializing in long-term care insurance so they can pick the most appropriate plan at an affordable premium.

— Corinne Berenson is a certified senior adviser. She can be reached at 523-1040 or by e-mail at  Visit her Web site at

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