Does your family matter to you? Of course, it does. My husband and I are all about family. We have 3 children and 4 grandchildren and we love having everyone together which is easy because we are all in the local area.But what about when family needs help and they don't live in the area? Virginia is the closest that we ever lived to my home state of New Jersey.Our last 3 years in the Marine Corps were spent in Virginia. The other 9 years of active duty we were in North Carolina and Florida.
At my age - quickly closing in on 54 - my focus has been more on learning how to take care of my parents' needs. I am thankful that they are both in good health and have all of their affairs in order, since they are both in their 80's. I mostly check in with them on a daily basis just to find out how they are doing and what they are up to.
What I I didn't even think about is that I would need to take care of my older sister - who is only 4 years older then me- but here I am, taking on more responsibility. She has pretty severe health issues and other than my parents, I am the only person to step in and help her through these issues. And, doing it "long distance" has not been easy. I feel like I have a callous on my right ear!
Here is my biggest lesson learned from my sister who is a hoarder and one of the most unorganized people that I know (obviously we are polar opposites!)
Get your paperwork in order!
Over 6 hours in one day last week was spent driving from office to office to office to get an original copy of:
- Marriage Certificate
- Birth Certificate
- Social Security Number
- Signing a Power of Attorney
And, yes, I know that I could have done most of this via the internet and/or mail - but I needed to be in New Jersey to discuss things with her so I just knocked it all out in one day. And, all of the documentation was put into a folder immediately to ensure that it is not lost again.
As I'm going through the process of helping her with long-term care, here are some other things I want you to think about and check into:
- Your vehicles - are the titles listed jointly - or just in the name of one spouse?
- Your home - are both you and your husband's names on the deed?
- Who has the key to the PO Box?
- What bills need to be paid on a monthly basis?
- Where is the checking account/savings account? I'm not up in New Jersey enough to know where she banks.
It has been a long 3 weeks - and there is still a lot more to do. I know that this is just the beginning of the process of ensuring that, from here forward, my sister makes smart choices. I'm leaning on the strength of knowing that everything happens for a reason - I'm just not privy to the "why".
As I think about the future, I'm feeling confident that I now have the right people in place to help me through the process of ensuring that my sister is safe and that her health concerns and issues are being addressed.
I do this not because of any rewards, rather because "family matters".
As an adult child, it can be difficult to have discussions about wills, checking accounts, bills, medical directives, etc. with your parents. I have learned, however, that these are the most important questions that you can ask your parents. They won't know the stress that you will encounter without the appropriate documentation. Make it about them - not about you - and get their affairs in order right now.