Sunday, March 22, 2015

Financial Impact of Being a Caregiver

I am often very transparent about life. 
Why not--God needs to get the glory 
as I wrote in my book, 
Getting Off the Niceness Treadmill!
I do not need to get the glory.  

      We bought our home in 2001 within the first year of our marriage. In 2004 my husband had a heart attack and shortly thereafter the house was refinanced to include the car payment for our used Expedition. After his recovery, we both continued working. I retired from stressful full-time teaching in Polk County Schools in 2007. 

      In December of 2008 my husband and I were all set to begin some retirement years together.  However he was diagnosed with dementia. Six months after this diagnosis, my husband retired. I helped him draft a two weeks notice letter. I surmised that he was not able to remember new directions from his employers and felt he needed to give his two-week notice.

         Suddenly I would have to pull in more income. Eventually I decided to work as a substitute teacher in public schools and to continue my part-time position as an instructor for DUI classes. These two employment opportunities allowed me flexibility for my new role as a dementia caregiver.
         At some point our financial advisor who monitored my IRA suggested we take a second mortgage at a bank where he had a friend. The thought was that the second mortgage would help us maintain the property because undoubtedly it would go up in value before it would need to be sold.          
        I studied Alzheimer’s and kept a good credit rating I thought. We lived our life as best as we could and Sally and Jake gave us a used pop-up camper and we went camping with them. We had two cars until a crash in December of 2010 that I wrote about HERE, which totaled our best car. He stopped driving and I drove our 1999 gas-guzzler Expedition until December of 2013 when it would have taken $6000 to fix. We then purchased a newer used car HERE that he would be able to get into and out of much easier than the Expedition, which we had to give away. We again had car payments.

         In the later years of caregiving we had wonderful volunteers that enabled me to continue to work and my husband to continue to stay in our home. Kenny would come to check on him while I worked and Pharis would take care of our yard and repairs.
          In May of 2014 my husband was rapidly declining and it became apparent that I needed to stay home and not substitute teach, although I was contracted to teach DUI classes and couldn't get out of that.    
        With more decline it became harder for us to manage. There were two choices—a nursing home or Hospice. I chose Hospice. My husband loved our home and Hospice came into our home.  Not long after this decision, he passed away on June 23, 2014. A small life-insurance policy of $20,000 paid for the burial expenses and some of my expenses that summer. I expected to be substitute teaching again in August, but due to my husband’s death I had missed an important meeting for Kelly Services.  Without his Social Security, money became very tight.  Finally a month into the school year I again started substitute teaching and seeing if I could refinance the house with the first and second mortgages.

      The decision to sell was made during my 2014 Christmas vacation when I visited family in Huntsville, Alabama—I would sell and move there. In January I contacted the bank who held the first mortgage and explained the situation and I stopped paying automatically the first mortgage. Not paying the mortgage helped me survive and take care of needed repairs on the house including a new water softener to handle the rust problem. My realtor and my visiting Alabama brother explained the reality of the short-sell to me and I spent two months getting the house ready to sell. 

It had never occurred to me that I would have to downsize at this time, and to sell-short, but I will be happy to live in an apartment and to not burden my Huntsville family with having to downside and sell property in the future.  
      My highest value in the stressful life as a caregiver had been taking care of my late husband whom I loved so much.  There hadn’t been time to take care of myself or to assess the value of our property which we thought would increase by the time we would sell it.  
I am so glad for what I have and look forward to a simpler lifestyle in a two bedroom apartment where I will work on the seminary counseling dissertation on caregiving. Continue to pray for the sale of the home as the first buyer backed out this past week. Our home will be a golden find for someone and I look forward to my golden years in Huntsville, Alabama. 

Friday, March 13, 2015

What I Did Over Spring Break

Monday, the first day of the Spring Break when I would not be able to substitute teach all week,  my realtor, Alison Terry, came over at 10 am. I had taken note of her instructions in January when she first gave them to me, and also HER positive coaching by text for two months. I signed the papers for her to list the house on Monday, March 9. 

Now Alison should have been pleased and in fact was,  because major furniture was gone as I have been blogging about on this site. Repairs that I wasn't able to do while I was my late husband's caregiver had been made. My brother loaned me money for a new water softener and I managed to pay him back at the beginning of this month. A new garage door was installed. Even so, the house was to be sold "as is"--no way could I afford to put in a new kitchen or remodel the two bathrooms or put in new rugs. 

Monday when she came Alison took numerous pictures for the listing. Here are some of the items she featured in the MLS side show:
The brick fireplace.
The circular driveway.
The pergola in the backyard.
The French doors to the backyard.
The lighted vanity and drawers in the master bedroom. 
S P A C I O U S   R O O M S!!

The house smelled good thanks to AirWick in six rooms. (I was not aware of the dog smell in my house but she clued me in.) Family pictures were boxed up and much less was on the walls. 

Meanwhile a certain M. M. had fallen in love with our dream house right away when she saw it on the MLS listing Tuesday night. Wednesday M. M.  and a friend were the first ones to come. Sharon, the realtor from Realty 2000,  came half hour earlier  at 3:30. I had to be out by 4:00 with my dog. I gave Sharon my tour, telling her that the master bedroom used to have a king-sized bed, but was changed to a hospital bed for my late husband and a twin bed for me. Hospice had taken the bed back, and instead of thinking of it as the room where my husband died, the master bedroom now had a twin bed and a sewing island, not that I have done that much sewing lately. (Ziggy still has to sleep with his people, even if it is only I in a twin bed.) 

After Sharon's short tour, I met Sharon's  prospective buyers on the front porch. With Ziggy in my arms I managed to give my "Junk of Old People" rap, humorously telling the prospective buyers of my downsizing efforts. 

Then Ziggy and I did what we were supposed to do while three different realtors were showing the house--we left the house until it was dark.  To date there have been maybe a half a dozen showings and 127 people on my Facebook Like Page for this blog who viewed the Wednesday night message from my iPhone:
Dog Ziggy and I have been holding out in a park for three showings of my house tonight. Started to rain and we just made a dash for the car. Realtor just sent me an email to my iPhone that the first prospect to see it are going to make an offer on it!! 
Ten comments followed. Folks, if all you do is read this blog, you might consider clicking on the above right link to Facebook where I do post a lot. 

Thursday the post hole diggers came to put the For Sale sign in. 

I can't believe we forgot Alison's sign, they remarked. 

I took off to see the movie "Still Alice" Thursday afternoon and then wrote on the Facebook Like page my brief review: Family wins out in this wonderful, realistic Alzheimer's movie. 

I added,  At the end of it [Still Alice]  I turned my iPhone back on at 4:39 pm and read this message from my realtor. 
"You received an offer today! Full price."
At 1:30 pm today, Friday, the 13th, I accepted the offer at Alison's office. 

When I came home, the above sign had been been put on that pole in my front yard. 

This afternoon a lady came by to inquire about the For Sale sign and wanted to see inside. I told her there is an offer I accepted and I couldn't let her in, as my realtor had advised, but I did sit on the front porch and chat with her and gave her Alison's card in case it went back on the market. After all, my poem that became my first rap is featured on this blog--Longing to Chat on the Front Porch With You HERE


Saturday, March 7, 2015

More About Yard/Garage Sales

Three yard sales in October of 2014 helped by several friends including their husbands who could price shop equipment. One in January with my Huntsville brother and Pharis helping to pull it off. Three in February. One unsuccessful one yesterday.

Discovered that books do not sell. Discovered that clothes do not sell. Discovered that selling large items works well with a virtual yard sell, but not at all in a yard sale, especially when the Strawberry Festival is on.
Just packed up those books and brought them to Lighthouse Ministries.
Many other items that didn't sell well also went to The Goodwill. Saving receipts for 2015 taxes. 

The last items I hoped to sell just sat there in the driveway yesterday and then I moved them inside the garage. One day I may be able to park in that garage before the house sells.
Dog not for sale
Anyone need something here?

Family heirlooms were given to my husband's family.

Yesterday during the yard sale when I did not sell anything for a change, my out-of-town brother-in-law Danny, married to my husband's sister,  came by for four framed paintings by his wife and one stitched family tree created by my husband's mother. They understood that it is time these get passed on to their grandchildren or kept by them.

While Danny and I  were standing in the front yard, two students I have substituted for came by and Danny heard me rap for them. Danny also highly complimented me for being an angel taking care of my late husband who had Alzheimer's. Yes it was a tough job, tougher than downsizing and getting ready to sell and move.

Happy I could go to the Strawberry Festival on Thursday and enjoy large, juicy strawberries on a stick dipped in chocolate. The high schoolers working in that booth recognized me and I rapped for their kin working in the booth.

Dale Carnegie once said:
Don't be afraid to give your best to what seemingly are small jobs. Every time you conquer one, it makes you that much stronger. If you do the little jobs well, the big ones tend to take care of themselves.
So many little jobs in moving. I am excited about moving closer to my family in Huntsville, Alabama, renting an apartment and having a landlord take care of things. I am excited about living more simply and enjoying my good health (so far) in my senior years and then having less distractions so I can work on my dissertation.

However, my house has to sell first. 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Reflections on Peter Walsh's New Book

I am in the process of selling my house and also I am dieting with Weight Watchers. Peter Walsh points out that dieting and decluttering all go together in his book released this past week. Amazon got it to me on the release date, February 24th, and I have been enthusiastically reading it during planning periods while I substitute teach.

Peter also adds a third element to decluttering and eating and exercising--mindfulness. And so he launches a plan to work on all three. In this very thoughtful and might I add organized book, he takes twenty-two volunteers on a six-week program. 
From 9/14/12

My Decluttering
But decluttering has taken/is taking me much longer than six weeks.  Walsh uses a room-by-room approach to decluttering as I did when I went through Mindy Starns Clark's book, The House That Cleans Itself.  15 people got Mindy's book that she mailed me beginning HERE IN 2012.* Those of you who have been following my blog saw me prioritize areas to work on, Alzheimer's proofing the house as I went. Along the way I did get help from Pharis for the outside of the property #9. The last two areas, I never got to--the garage #11 and the workshop #10 as my caregiving days became more difficult and even house maintenance took a back seat to caregiving, a sad fact that I have had to remedy in recent days.  My Huntsville brother and Pharis were the ones to clean out Areas #10 and #11 and give me new purposes for those rooms--the garage has hosted three garage sales in 2015 and the emptied workshop is now the staging area for my move to Huntsville, Alabama (Rocket City) as the above banner suggests. The whole project has become a downsizing with rooms changing and furniture leaving the house as I have been chronicling recently.

My Dieting and Exercising
I started back to Weight Watchers at the end of 2011 as reported HERE. In 2012 I lost 25 pounds and I kept off 15 of it as the caregiving proceeded. Who knows! I might have gained all 25 pounds back! As I reported in that first Weight Watcher post, I chose 7 am Saturday as my meeting time. Spring of 2012 also saw a respite cruise paid for by family and on that cruise I maintained my weight. During the last years of caregiving, I chose caregiving above dieting, realizing that I was called to be there for my husband above all while also having to work to make ends meet. My husband did not want me walking outside and so I did get a treadmill that is going with me when I move and that treadmill might have helped my stress level. I might add that Peter says you don't need a treadmill, but because Huntsville is a colder climate, I might not be able to walk outside in the Winter. 

After my husband died, I went back to that 7 am Saturday morning meeting. Weight Watchers has been for me a great social and inspirational time. Why I even checked out Weight Watchers in Huntsville, Alabama last December.  This morning my total weight loss since 2011 is 31.2 pounds. Here I am today with my Lakeland, Florida leader. I looked all over this computer and my Notebook computer and could not find my "before" picture, but people are starting to notice the change. My weight loss is helping me decide  what clothes to keep as I downsize. 

In Walsh's book, he does not plug Weight Watchers, but I certainly want to and studies have showed that Weight Watchers is the best diet program around. 

This area of the soul, the self, for me incorporates my Christian belief and I have been meditating on Scripture regularly. In fact, with a clue from Georgene who has often commented on this blog, I started typing up numerous Scripture passages to meditate on and apply. 

In my caregiving and in my widowhood, Scripture is precious to me--it sustains my days and nights. I also was helped by Staci Eastin's book The Organized Heart, a book that helps us Christian believers be mindful. See HERE and also HERE where I reviewed it. 

So you can see I totally resonated with Lose the CLUTTER, Lose the WEIGHT--with all three of the author's main points, plus learned so much more. 

New Insights from Peter Walsh
Before Alzheimer's came into the picture seven years ago (by my estimation), my husband worked, I would watch Peter Walsh on the Home and Garden Network's "Clean Sweep" in the summers before retirement when I taught in public school. (Those were the days I watched TV before my husband sort of took over the big TV.)  Peter would produce episodes like this one he has pictured on his LIKE* page in his native Australia. 

Already a fan from back then, I enjoyed these gems from his book this week:

  • Somehow, at some point, you became too large for your comfort.
  • Given the environment we live in . . .  How can your body and home not get to this point?
  • If the stuff you own is not helping you create the life you want, then let it go. My main job in Huntsville is to write that counseling dissertation on dementia caregiving. I do not need stuff. 
  • Pitfall #1: Not seeing enough improvement. Oh yes. I can come home and be upset. Yet I look around and it looks so much different than it does before I decided to sell and move. 
  • Pitfall #2: Lack of time. Walsh suggests you schedule tasks like you would any other appointment. I know that perfection is gone, but today I will pack-up my books which are not selling and donate them.
  • Pitfall #3: Resistance from family. Had my husband still been living, I would have had to leave things the way he was used to. But since his death, my Huntsville brother spent time here in January to help me get repair projects underway and to clean out areas #10 and #11 of my home as I mentioned above.
  • Pitfall #4: Isolation. Weight Watchers is such a great group of friends. They cheer you on and understand when you blow it. I do not feel alone. Also, I have learned to ask for help. 
  • Task 2: SEPARATE THE "BENIGN" FROM THE "MALIGNANT" ITEMS. Malignant items are defined as any items that make you feel guilty, sad, nostalgic or angry. 
There are 11 tasks in all,  and this chapter ends with physical activities. The book continues with the bedroom, bedroom closet and the bathroom. 

Then Peter Walsh goes into meddling with my desk and finances. He suggests zones. Zone 1 should be the area by your desk. That has me thinking about getting rid of my four-drawer file cabinet and just keeping selected filing arrangements. Zone 2 represents material that one uses infrequently. I am going to label Zone 2 boxes for my move, put them in the workshop move staging area, and keep Zone 1 material available. The author tells you to back up your computer files. I have already been trying to change my email because I am moving from the Tampa area and cannot have a Tampa Road Runner email. I do like what he says about maintaining your changes and will perhaps discuss this in another blog post or when I move to Rocket City (Huntsville, Alabama). 

So this week I am all into Peter Walsh insights. Shoo away your extra shoes, he says. Yesterday I brought a dozen or more pair of shoes to put here by the music room in the school where I substituted. 


Today we have rain today in Plant City, so I canceled my 7th garage/yard sale and am just working on my downsizing and putting the house on the market today. Besides, the 80th Annual Plant City Strawberry Festival is on and that is the focus in our area now. 

My deadline for having the house go on the market is March 9th and I have to get back to making my rooms look spacious, downsizing and packing. Might try to get to the festival sometime next week with friends from last fall's cruise I invited. Probably will put books into the car to donate when it stops raining, because books have not sold well in my garage sales. 

* One of my blogger friends (also a caregiver whom I interviewed) suggested I form a "The House That Cleans Itself" group on Facebook; that group is not as active as is the Plant City and Friends FB "LIKE" page that I regularly post on and which has 74 members. I am also following Peter Walsh's FB "LIKE" page now and we have messaged each other. His next book, I believe, is on downsizing for seniors or for your parents who are seniors needing to go to a nursing home.