FA Center: Care for an elderly relative must include planning for natural disasters

When Hurricane Irma struck Florida last September, Linda Lubitz Boone’s 97-year-old mother needed to evacuate her Miami condo. So Boone brought her ailing mom to live with her to ride out the storm.

Boone has been a financial adviser for 25 years, and has counseled many clients struggling with elder-care concerns. “But when it happens to you, it’s different,” she said. “You learn so much. Before, it was an intellectual conversation. Now, it’s an empathetic conversation.”

Boone’s mother had lived independently until November 2016, when she suffered a possible mini-stroke and lost her eyesight. Since then, Boone says she’s taken on “a second job” as caregiver.

During Hurricane Irma, Boone’s house lost power — and air conditioning — for a week. This created a new peril for her mother: dehydration accompanied by hallucinations from the intense heat. Boone found a friend in the area who had electricity — and who agreed to house her mother.

To prepare for such emergencies, Boone suggests scouting out nursing homes and other facilities that are equipped to house seniors. Ask the administrator pointed questions such as, “Do you have a generator?” “How much gas do you store to keep the generator going?”“What happens if your generator stops working? What’s Plan B? Can you move residents to a nearby hospital?”

Even before Irma, Boone had weathered nine months of caregiving to her mother. She acknowledges that initially she harbored some anger in dealing with such a stressful situation.

“You have to suspend judgment and suspend your annoyance,” she said. “But now I’m not as stressed as before, although it’s still a constant low-grade anxiety.”

Linda Lubitz Boone

Boone says she gains strength from sharing her experiences with others facing a similar challenge. And she’s taken practical steps to improve her mother’s daily life. For starters, she downloads books on tape so that her mother — an avid reader — can still enjoy a favorite pastime despite her failed eyesight.

Her mother, who has since returned to her own home, relies on a succession of home-health aides. Boone gives each newcomer a three-page summary of best practices to follow. The tip sheet lists her mother’s preferences in terms of food, personal hygiene, and social interaction.

“I spent a full day with my mother, documenting what she liked and everything about her daily routine,” Boone said. “She helped me write it, and it has really helped” to train new aides.

Her caregiving role has made her a better financial adviser, Boone said. For example, she’s more patient with her eight employees and more apt to listen without interrupting. “I’m better at the office,” Boone said. “But whenever the phone rings, I’m anxious.”

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