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Protect elderly parents with home alarms and insurance

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By Elaine Zimmermann

Jacqueline:  My mother is in her early 70's and am worried about she may need help living in her home.  I will not be able to quit my job if she needs care.   I am not sure I will be able to afford the help she needs.  Do you have any thoughts on this?

Elaine:  I receive many questions about care for aging parents, usually mothers.  If you have an aging parent who is still living on their own, I have two immediate recommendations. 

First, if you have not already purchased a home alert system, I suggest you do this immediately.  There are several companies that offer these online.

Basically it is a necklace or bracelet with an alarm button that your mother wears 24 hours a day.  It is radio connected to her phone line and speaker box.   In case of an emergency, she merely pushes the button.  If the operator on the other end of the speaker box does not receive a verbal reply from your mother that she is "okay", an ambulance is sent.

These systems cost about $35 a month.  But for an additional fee of usually one dollar more a month you can have a lock box—the type realtors place on the front doors of homes—with her home key placed inside.  When the emergency personnel are dispatched to your home they are told the code to open the key box and use the key to unlock her front door.

I highly recommend you purchase this as well.  If emergency workers arrive at your mother's home and she does not open the front door, they will break it down.  Her homeowner's insurance may or may not cover the replacement of her front door.  In any case, it will not cover her deductible amount.

Also, I have heard many stories that when a front door has been broken down by emergency workers, the door, the doorframe and portions of the brick surrounding the door were damaged.  Not only was the damage extensive and time-consuming to repair, but many homeowners learned the upsetting the fact that on older homes—over ten years old--it can be almost impossible to match brick colors.  In the words of one homeowner, "It has never looked right, since."

If you think your mother is safe because she lives in a condominium surrounded by friends, I have heard too many stories of elderly people who have fallen living in condos and were not found until two or three days later.  Condo walls are constructed to stop noise from one unit reaching a neighboring unit.  Calls for help are not heard.

Second, I recommend you buy her long-term care insurance—which pays for a large percentage of in-home and facility care.   Most of these policies cannot be purchased after the age of 75 so it is important you do this while your mother is still eligible.   Check with her or her husband's previous employer for policies.  Group policies usually have lower premiums and few health restrictions. 

Elaine Zimmermann is a personal finance expert who was written about everyday ways to save money on cars, homes, vacations and more. For information on investing in foreclosed real estate you can visit her website at www.AskElaineZ.com.

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