Tag Archives: caregiver support

Optimism, pass it on

Before my mom had a true diagnosis of dementia, we made long drives to see many doctors. On these tense journeys I’d try to distract her each time we passed a huge billboard screaming ALZHEIMER’S CARE. But there was a more inspiring billboard further down the road showing Michael J. Fox and the lines, “Determined to Outfox Parkinson’s, Optimism Pass it On“. It always made me feel better.

Between the Pond and the Woods

Take the long view

The Pass it On billboards are part of an inspirational media series created by the non-profit Foundation for a Better Life. This particular sign reminded me how much I like Mr. Fox, who was so entertaining in his TV sitcoms and Back to the Future movies. His Parkinson’s Disease diagnosis would have wrung the optimism out of most people. Fox had a brilliant career and enormous talent. Despite his early fame, he never seemed vain or self-serving. But what he offered the world through his performances has long been eclipsed by the gift he’s given to people suffering from neurological diseases. He’s invested so much of his time, wealth, and name recognition into Parkinson’s research, that he’s now more famous for scientific philanthropy than he is for acting.

Optimism can dwindle when you watch someone suffer from a disease like dementia. We know there is no cure and finding one still seems far off. But, like Mr. Fox, I always try to look at the bright side. Even as dementia has stolen more of her skills, our family still has still had the opportunity to love my mom during her six years with the disease. Her problems get more complex and care is more difficult. But I think about those billboards every now and then. Fox says of his Parkinson’s Disease, “I can get sad, I can get frustrated, I can get scared, but I never get depressed – because there’s joy in my life.”

That is a powerful message for caregivers and dementia patients alike. Optimism, pass it on.




Death and Taxes

Caregivers have enough to do without fretting over taxes. But that kind of worry comes with the territory when you care for a loved one with dementia. Like all things that require both math and record keeping, I hate it.


I’ve always been a last minute filer. Since I have a writing business, I end up with a drawer full of receipts that must be categorized and summed. Only the threat of a deadline can persuade me to sit down and start sorting. My mother’s approach to taxes was exactly the opposite. Mom filed early every year and even paid for delivery confirmation of her tax returns.  Though Mom’s income and expenses did not require her to file an itemized return in recent years, things have been getting more complicated and now I have a second heap of paper on my desk.

Mom’s medical costs have increased and, as a result, she received Long Term Care benefits from an insurance policy. These reimbursements are reported to the IRS as income on a 1099 LTC form.  We also rented her old home to create an income stream that would help defray care costs as they rise. This means filing a rental income schedule and itemizing the cost of improving the property before renting it. Before you could say Uncle Sam, her economic details outnumbered mine.

Taxes add to the long list of items caregivers already oversee. If your loved one’s IRS return is pretty simple, you can reduce your burden slightly by using free software services offered via the IRS Free File site. If your situation is getting more complex, like ours, you can do most of what’s needed with a program like Turbo Tax, which can be purchased at many retail outlets or online.

If you are spending the first lovely days of spring staring at a mess of spreadsheets and invoices, I feel your pain. The one consolation is that this headache comes with a reliable antidote: File it!