Sunday, September 13, 2015

Stocks or Home Equity? - What’s The Best Retirement Investment

Hello Everyone and Happy Grandparents' Day to my friends in the US and Happy National Dementia Carers' Day to my friends in the UK. 

This week's Family Caregiver Question Of The Day involves planning for retirement.  In today's economy is it better to build equity in your home or build your stock portfolio. 

Before you answer the question here's a quick look back at Catherine Rampell's February 2013
article  "In Hard Economy for All Ages,  Older Isn't Better … It's Brutal".  She wrote:
"Young graduates are in debt, out of work and on their parents’ couches. People in their 30s and 40s can’t afford to buy homes or have children. Retirees are earning near-zero interest on their savings.
In the current listless economy, every generation has a claim to having been most injured. But the Labor Department’s latest jobs snapshot and other recent data reports present a strong case for crowning baby boomers as the greatest victims of the recession and its grim aftermath.
These Americans in their 50s and early 60s — those near retirement age who do not yet have access to Medicare and Social Security — have lost the most earnings power of any age group, with their household incomes 10 percent below what they made when the recovery began three years ago, according to Sentier Research, a data analysis company.

Their retirement savings and home values fell sharply at the worst possible time: just before they needed to cash out. They are supporting both aged parents and unemployed young-adult children, earning them the inauspicious nickname 'Generation Squeeze.'"

Thankfully the economy has bounced back since the recession and housing market slump of 2007-2008.  However the savings, pensions and home equity lost by millions during that time period will never be recovered unless they invest rapid growth but risky stocks or take on the housing market.   So what would you do?

As Diana Olick reported for CNBC in December 2014,

"Even as the stock market soars to record highs, federal regulators are announcing new, cheaper ways for cash-strapped borrowers to buy a home. With the catastrophic housing crash of the last decade still glaring through the rear view mirror, the government is again pushing home ownership as the best way to build wealth, but is it?"
'It would perhaps be smarter, if wealth accumulation is your goal, to rent and put money in the stock market, which has historically shown much higher returns than the housing market,'  said Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Shiller at a Standard and Poor's conference last week."  -- "Where to put your cash? A house or a stock" by Diana Olick  

This is just one of the many decisions facing family caregivers who are often planning for their own retirement while trying to manage the legal and financial affairs of their parents.  This is our Through The Maze Question of the Week.

In addition to your feedback,  I will be inviting financial and legal experts to share their thoughts and recommendations and, as always, I will be sharing posts from respected caregiver advocates and organizations.   I hope that you will find these posts helpful and will share them with other caregivers.  

And Thank You for supporting this page."

Thursday, September 10, 2015

You Could Fill One of America's Largest Cities With A Disease Many People Don't Know About

Did you know that one million Americans are living with a condition known as hydrocephalus? 

That's more people that the total population of cities like: Boston, MA; Pittsburgh, PA; San Francisco, CA; Seattle, WA; Denver, CO; Washington, DC; or Indianapolis, IN.

In fact, the odds are that you probably know someone with this condition and don't even know it and sadly they may not know it either.

When my mother was diagnosed with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus no one in my circle of friends, family or colleagues had ever heard of the disease.  In fact as late as 2011 I was still encountering health professionals who had never heard of Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus or who were under the impression that only babies had hydrocephalus.  Some even thought that you could recognize a person with hydrocephalus by their appearance. 

While more is being done to raise awareness about this condition, it is still not widely known, especially in the African-American and Hispanic communities.   So in spite of my dread of being in front of the camera I posted this video on Youtube to remind people that September is Hydrocephalus Awareness Month and that hydrocephalus can affect anyone.  

In the following video Dr. Adam Mednick appears on The Dr. Steve Show with his patient to discuss Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH) which is a brain disorder caused by the buildup of too much cerebrospinal fluid in the brain. "Many health care professionals are unaware of NPH," says Dr. Mednick, a neurologist and author of the book "NPH - From Diagnosis To Treatment".

"NPH can be difficult to diagnose, and it is commonly misdiagnosed as Parkinson's disease or Alzheimer's. It's important to be aware of the symptoms and get the right diagnosis because unlike these diseases, NPH can be reversed," says Dr. Mednick. For more information on NPH visit Dr. Mednick's website:

"Additional information:

NPH is called "normal" because the condition develops very slowly, and initial tests often show that patients have normal brain pressure, when they actually do not.

It is estimated that 375,000 Americans have NPH, but unfortunately, only about 11,000 have been treated. Those who go un-diagnosed live the balance of their lives in wheelchairs and adult diapers.

Unlike Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease, many NPH patients can have their symptoms reversed by having a neurosurgeon insert a shunt in the brain to drain away excess fluid. In most cases, these people can return to their normal lives.

Adam S. Mednick, M.D., Ph.D. is a neurologist in private practice in North Haven, CT. He is board-certified by the American Academy of Psychiatry and Neurology."

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Calling Family Caregivers: Guest Bloggers Wanted on Through The Maze

There is a saying that doctors make the worse patients.  Well something very similar can be said about parents when they find themselves in a position of needing to be cared for by their adult children.  They can be the worst.

No matter how we love our parents and they love us, there are moments when our elderly parents seem determined to pay us back for our teenage rebellion and every childhood tantrum . 

If you are, or were, a family caregiver who provides, or provided, more than 20 hours a week of in-home care for an elderly parent living either in your home or their's and would like to share your stories, poetry, photography, humor or suggestions,  I invite you to guest blog on Through The Maze. 

Sharing our stories can help future family caregivers prepare for the day when  they find themselves in the position of feeding, bathing and changing the diaper of the person who once did all those things for them. Life gets truly interesting when the parent-child relationship is suddenly reversed.  It's a dramatically different experience than caring for a child, spouse or other  relative.  No matter how you try to guard against it, there is no one else in the world who can bring out your "inner child" like your parents   After all, they had your entire lifetime to practice.  And no experience will evoke your childhood memories and emotions in quite the same way.  One moment your parent has fallen and you are helping them up and the next moment you're remembering a time that you fell and your parent picked you up.  Or one moment you're reading the newspaper or a book to your parent and suddenly your mind travels back to the many times your parent read to you.

By sharing our stories of the day-to-day, sometimes year-to-year,  care of a parent, we can help others know that they are not alone in their experience.  It is emotionally difficult to watch a parent struggle with the effects of aging or battle arthritis, cancer, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's  or any other form of life stealing disease.  And as beautiful as the moment can be, no child of any age is truly prepared to be present to hold the hand and say goodbye to someone who has been a part of their life since they breathed their first breath. 

And if you're a sandwich generation caregiver, sharing your story might help your teenager understand why your parent just got away with telling you to "shut up" but they can't.  :-) 

If you're interested in guest blogging here on Through The Maze email me at  

Or if you're already blogging on this topic, posting on another blog, or host your own blog,  feel free to share a link to your posts or blog in the comments section.  This isn't a competition, it's a community of family caregivers who know what it is to walk a mile in each other's shoes.  Or as I like to say, journey through the maze of life.