Browsing posts in: Health

FTD Awareness

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Hi, friends! Thanks for all of your comments on this post! I have loved reading your success stories. It has been so helpful to read about so many who have successfully navigated a mid-life career change and come out on the other side better for it. I so appreciate your support!

Today I’m re-posting an old blog (originally published here). Partly because I’ve been dealing with some serious FTD-related issues lately. The short story is that my dad has now turned to self-harm when he becomes frustrated (which is always). It’s created several mini-emergencies, as he’s cut himself with a razor, hit his head with a hammer in Walmart, and frequently punches himself in the stomach/gut area. My siblings and I are panicked trying to get these symptoms under control. He has a psychiatrist appointment today so – fingers crossed – we can tweak some meds and help reduce some of his anxiety and frustration. I just cannot even convey how sh*tty this disease is. And it gets virtually NO attention. There’s no funding for medical research whatsoever and, currently, there are NO medications available to help slow the disease’s progression. It’s just heart-wrenching to watch.

So, while I have this platform with a little bit of readership (thanks for reading!) I just want to do my part to try to raise awareness. You may also be interested in seeing this very short clip from the Today show. An expert in the field answered some questions about FTD, discussing key differences between FTD and Alzheimers. Check it out if it interests you.

Have a great day!

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It’s October. We all know what that means. Breast cancer awareness month, right? Pink everywhere!

Which is fantastic! We all know someone who has been affected by breast cancer.

But do you know what other “awareness” week is going on right now?

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness.

Fronto-What?

Frontotemporal degeneration. Fronto (as in the frontal lobe), temporal (as in the temporal lobe) degeneration (as in…degenerating).

So, I guess the cat’s out of the bag. This is what my Dad’s got.

It’s a terrible, dehumanizing, crippling disease. It destroys the very essence of the human being.

Right now there is no cure. Unlike Alzheimer’s disease, there aren’t even any treatments to slow progression (just meds to help manage side-effects, such as OCD-type qualities or anti-psychotics to help assuage delusions/hallucinations).

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert. I’ve read plenty, but we’re still relatively new to the disease as a whole, so I’m not going to spout off a lot of statistics at you. You can read about it for yourself. 

Initially I wasn’t even going to post anything. I’ve never revealed my Dad’s illness. But why suffer in silence? This dementia is the second most diagnosed dementia for people under the age of 60. And there is a serious lack of funding right now for it. Mainly because (I can’t help to think) no one has heard of it! What is it, even!? What does it do?

In short? It wreaks havoc. It causes the person’s thoughts and behaviors to change. It will likely force the diagnosed individual into early retirement (or could precipitate an untimely termination). It robs the person of his or her very essence, changing fundamental personality traits.

Frontotemporal degeneration awareness week spans from October 4-11. As you are inundated with breast cancer awareness messages in social media, maybe take a moment to think about this lesser known disease that is every bit as crippling and debilitating. This disease for which there is no chemotherapy or radiation treatment. For which those diagnosed are rarely seen as heroic; no imagery of warriors “battling” the disease. Instead, most are ostracized. Their odd patterns of behavior cause people to cut social ties, forcing them into an increasingly withdrawn, sad, and lonely world.

Given the closeness to home, you can bet that this is going to become something very near to my heart. As we get out of debt, I’d love to be able to start donating to the Association for Frontotemporal Degeneration to raise awareness and provide funds for research. With any luck, one day we’ll have medications to help slow the progression of this wretched disease. Seeing the physical and mental anguish it causes is nothing short of heart-breaking. Research is needed. So spread the word.

Hugs to all!

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about.” (source)


Change of Plans

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Sooooo, THIS happened over the weekend.

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If you ask the girls the story of what happened, here’s what you will hear:

Bailey:  Brooke pushed me off the giraffe!!!

Me: The giraffe????  Do you mean she pushed you off the bed???

Brooke: NO! I pushed her off the giraffe!!!!

 

We do have a stuffed giraffe chair animal thing (if you’re curious for reference, it’s similar to this one, but way cheaper. Ours was like $20 from Walmart 2 years ago). But I still have no idea how being pushed off of a chair that is located on the floor – the seat no more than 6 inches above the ground – could cause an injury. No idea. But somehow, my offspring found a way.

The injury actually occurred on Friday night when they were supposed to be in bed, but were actually up rough-housing (hey – go figure – you do something you’re not supposed to and you end up getting hurt! Tough lesson to learn, kiddo!).  I checked Bailey’s arm and she was able to move everything so I just made her go back to bed.

If you recall from the end of this post, we had a jam-packed schedule last weekend! Saturday morning we got up and met our friends at the local splash pad. It was there I noticed Bailey still was not using her arm – like, at all.  The splash pad is adjacent to a little playground and when the kids decided to go play on the playground it became painfully obvious that Bailey still had a problem. She couldn’t climb the ladder to get up to the top of the playscape. If anything, her arm seemed to be doing worse. She was holding it into her body and not using it at all. I called our playdate quits early and headed home to change out of swimsuits and immediately headed over to urgent care. I was pretty sure nothing was broken, but I thought it was possible she had a fracture or bad sprain or something and decided the injury justified medical attention.

We were at the urgent care for 3 hours (ugh!!!) and in the end, the doctor recommended against an x-ray. His rationale was that we don’t want to expose a young child to unnecessary radiation, and since we were pretty sure nothing was broken, the course of action for most of the remaining possibilities (strain, pulled muscle, bruised bone) would be the same:  a sling!

So he hooked Bailey up with a super-cool kids-sized sling and sent us on our way with instructions to keep a close eye on it and that if things hadn’t resolved within a week, that we should come back (or go to our primary care at that point).

Bailey was an excellent patient and has actually really enjoyed her sling. Within just the past couple days she’s already regained quite a bit of mobility. The arm is still sore and she needs some additional help with certain things (e.g., getting dressed has been hard one-handed), but she’s already on the mend.

Unfortunately, the injury basically blew all of the rest of our weekend plans!! Our preschool did their bi-annual Parent’s Night Out on Saturday evening, but at that point Bailey was still having a tough time even feeding herself and going to the bathroom (pulling down pants, getting toilet paper) and I just didn’t feel good about dropping them off with a ton of other kids and taking off for date night. Probably would’ve been okay if it was a babysitter in our own home, but the fact it would be a bunch of kids, etc. I just didn’t feel good about it.

And on Sunday we were supposed to go to another child’s birthday party, but the party was supposed to be at a local indoor trampoline park. That also seemed like a pretty bad idea for a child with an injured arm. We’ve been once before (for another party), and I knew that falling down was inevitable. No big deal most of the time, but I didn’t want to chance her falling on her arm, or falling and trying to instinctively catch herself with her hurt arm, etc. So that was that.

Our big, fun weekend plans turned into 3 hours at Urgent Care and spending the rest of the weekend taking it easy at the house. I like relaxing and taking it easy with the best of them, but it was a bit disappointing given our excitement over all the fun!

Soooooo, so much for our original plans. Isn’t that just life for ya?  I’m just thankful it wasn’t worse. I’m also thankful for health insurance and our flexible spending account with plenty of money in it to cover this expense. They didn’t charge us anything at the time (said they’d bill insurance), but I know we haven’t quite hit our deductible yet so I’m expecting a bill at some point. That being said, this incident might be enough to tip us over into having our deductible fully paid, which would be nice. So we’ll see what the financial implications are. Either way, I know we’ll be fine. I love that peace of mind!



Under Contract

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We are now officially under contract!!!

Not hubs & I (we still haven’t even started house-hunting, but plan to start in August!! Can’t wait!!!) – my dad’s Utah house!

After receiving a couple competing offers, we accepted one that we felt was more than fair (it’s actually over our listed asking-price). We’ve already completed inspection and all the requested repairs are super minor, so we’re paying a handyman to get it all fixed up.

At this point, the last hurdles are in regard to the buyer’s financing. Our realtor has been in contact with the lender and believes the loan will be funded without a problem. Given that the buying price is above the list price (and above the comparables our realtor pulled), we’re holding our breath and crossing our fingers that the appraisal comes in high enough to cover it. Fortunately, our realtor is a rock star and has made up a whole list of home improvements for the inspector and feels confident that the appraisal shouldn’t be a problem.

If all works out with buyer’s financing, we are set to close on August 15th! Super pumped!

Initially, we were thinking we wouldn’t make too much off the sale of this home. Remember, both my siblings were in favor of renting it instead of selling due to this reason.

But given our higher-than-expected sale price, we should stand to net nearly $100,000!!! Not too shabby!

The next question is what to do with the money.

My dad does have a decent-sized net worth but, to date, we’ve done next-to-nothing with his investments. Everything is still in the original investment accounts he selected and has not been touched. We want to be somewhat conservative because my dad is legally disabled and will never be able to work again (if interested, read more about his condition here). His physicians have said that his illness tends to have a life expectancy of 2-20 years. If he lives another 20 years, he could easily burn through all of his savings. He’s already in assisted living and his care is incredibly expensive. So we really need to be smart and manage his money wisely so that costs of his care don’t end up falling on the shoulders of my siblings and me.

I’m a fan of pretty boring investment strategies. Mutual funds and such. My brother has talked about perhaps investing in real estate back in the Austin area (which makes it less complicated and risky than an out-of-state rental). He’s even thrown out the idea of establishing an LLC for a rental property so my dad’s other assets are protected. Depending on cost, we could possibly pay for a rental with liquid cash without needing to withdraw from current investments (the alternative would be putting a large amount down and taking out a small mortgage).

I’m open to various ideas, but I’m also a fan of EASY. Taking over my dad’s affairs has been incredibly time-consuming and, frankly, none of us has time for it. Meeting with an investment advisor once or twice a year is infinitely easier than dealing with rentals and such. That being said, in the past year that we’ve been in charge of my dad’s finances, his investments really haven’t performed great. He’s averaged about a 4% rate of return. I’d like to see closer to an 8-10% return, if at all possible. At only a 4% rate of return, we’re eventually going to eat into his nest egg. Fortunately, he had enough cash in the bank that we haven’t touched any investments at this point but eventually the liquid money will dry up and we’ll have no other option but to raid his investments in order to pay for his care.

What do you all think? If you were charged with caring for a parent’s estate, what types of investments might you make? What are your thoughts of investing in mutual funds versus investing in real estate?

Another possibility is to still invest in IRAs. My dad technically has an “earned income” because he received a generous severance package from his previous employer before having to leave due to his health issues (it’s paid out monthly for another year still). So would it be better to actually fund a retirement account versus buying mutual funds? Or is it better to keep the money more liquid than in retirement or real estate? Something like mutual funds that are easier to sell and claim the cash?? My dad is 60, by the way. I’d value any and all input you may have!


Rain Cloud

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I feel like Eeyore, with the tiny rain cloud following me around. It’s not that I have a negative outlook on life (I like to think I’m a pretty positive person),  but I can’t shake these sad life “happenings” that seem like they’re going to persist…at least for the foreseeable future.

Let me back up. Guess where I am!!!

Hint – I’m not at home or work. I’m not even in the state of Arizona. I’m back in Texas. Flew in (on a $700 last-minute flight, no less) for a funeral. My maternal grandmother unexpectedly passed away. I should say “unexpected” in quotations because although we weren’t anticipating it, she has been in a nursing home for 4 years, is 84 years old and in only mediocre health, so these things don’t come entirely by surprise.

Her death comes right on the heels of Rocky’s death and the sting is real. Guess what else – Chris’ grandfather was just placed on hospice. So he may be making a last minute trip back to Texas for a funeral soon, too.

For a number of reasons, we decided we would each go back solo to attend our respective grandparents’ funeral. In addition to the funeral trips, we’re also planning a trip back up to Utah. For newer readers, my Dad used to live in Utah and still owns property there. When he was diagnosed with his incurable disease, we moved him to an assisted living facility in Texas closer to family. But his Draper home sits unoccupied. The goal is to go up, completely empty the thing out, and get it placed with a property management company that can take over its management and care. Originally we were going to sell the home, but when we actually looked at numbers we realized he didn’t have as much equity as we’d thought. After accounting for closing costs, etc., the house would probably just about break even or net a tiny amount of profits. I’ll outright say that I really wanted to get rid of this property simply for my own sanity – I don’t want to keep dealing with it!!! But I was outvoted amongst the siblings and I respect the group decision to keep it and hope to build up some equity as we get some renters in there paying all the bills and upkeep (plus extra for profits). It feels like a scary risk to me (what if the roof needs repair? the foundation cracks? some other huge $$$ disaster occurs?) but, again, not my decision.

So that’s what’s up on the old summer 2016 docket:  three deaths, two funerals, and a trip to Utah. Oh, and my brother is going through a horrific divorce, the likes of which I’ve only ever seen before in movies (I mean, it’s D.R.A.M.A.). So there’s that.

I don’t know why this little rain cloud won’t leave our family alone, but I’m totally over it. I’m really trying to refocus my priorities on work and family and to keep a positive outlook on life, making the best of even bad situations. On that note, I’m excited to see a couple cousins who will be flying into town today (my grandma’s funeral is tomorrow). We’re going to have a swim and pancake party tonight at my brother’s house and I can’t wait! Wish my kiddos were here (they’d love it!), but given all the circumstances I don’t regret the decision to fly back to Texas solo. I’m happy to spend time surrounded by extended family, love, support, and fun stories of our sweet Nana.

Financials…

I can’t just end this post without getting to the meat of the matter. Which is to say that I’ve taken another $700 from our emergency fund in order to cover the costs of this unexpected last-minute trip. I owe you lots of posts soon (May budget update; May debt update) to fully update you on our whole money situation. The Cliff’s Notes version is that our May debt updates were small, we had NO savings in May, and we ended up having to raid our EF to help cover the end-of-life expenses for our beloved dog. BUT (looking at the positive) – NO NEW DEBT and I was still able to make a little dent in our current debts, too. I have to call that a win with all things considered!

Let’s not dwell on the negatives. Tell me something POSITIVE about your summer:  some fun plans, exciting activities, new debt milestones or debt payoffs, etc. etc.  I’ll tell one of mine:  We took our girls up to Sabino Canyon last weekend and had SO MUCH FUN! We rode a little tram thing, hiked around, and “swam” (waded) in some bodies of water that result from the snow melting up on the mountain. Being the desert, we don’t have a lot of water in Tucson so it was a real treat to get to play in a natural body of water (not a swimming pool), and it was the girls’ first ever “hike” (a very light hike). I love making these types of memories with the kiddos!


April Budget Update

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Yikes! With how overdue this budget update is, I did consider just skipping it entirely. I forgot to post December’s budget and it was my first time to ever miss a month! I don’t want it to start becoming a pattern. So, instead of pushing it off any longer, here’s the extremely overdue budget:

Place Amount Spent
Rent 1200
Down Payment Savings 2000
Electricity 88
Water 55
Natural gas 60
Cell Phones (2 lines) 89
Cable/Internet 100
Trash 35
Preschool 1075
Restaurants 249
Entertainment 1
Kids Activities 82
Groceries 582
Gasoline 99
Household Goods 9
Clothing 75
Toddler Stuff 5
Work Expenses 50
Rainy Day Savings 2142 (minus deductions, see below)
Savings Goals 424 (minus deductions, see below)
Debt Payments 1521
Total Budgeted $9,941

 

Comments:

Down Payment Savings ($2000): This is right on track.” The goal is to get to $10,000 by mid-summer. That being said, I already know we won’t have the full $2,000 for this month (May). Initially, we were hoping to start house-hunting this month but we thought better and have pushed it back a bit. We are really hoping to have a closing in August/September, so we didn’t want to see something and fall in love too early when we really aren’t ready to be making offers and negotiating yet. Womp, womp! It’ll be here soon, though, and I’m still doing Zillow searches just-for-fun. 

Electricity ($88): Our electric bill has never been lower! But we’ve already been flirting with triple-digit temperatures and our A/C is back in the ON position! I already received the bill for May and, although it hasn’t jumped way high yet, it’s certainly higher than April’s bill.

Restaurants ($249) + Groceries ($582): I feel like you can’t consider one without knowledge of the other. Our grocery bill was pretty low this month (remember in months’ past where I was nearing the $700-mark for groceries!?), but the grocery bill is low because (1) we were on the cruise for one week of the months, and (2) our eating out budget was HUGE! Remember my post about blowing the restaurant/eating out budget early in the month? We aim to have this expense around $200 or less for our family of four. We blew this budget category early in the month and, honestly, the only reason it didn’t surpass $300+ is because we were gone the last full week of the month (longer, really, since hubs and the girls drove they added an extra week to their trip). All expenses while traveling were filed away in the “cruise” category, so they weren’t accounted for here.

Entertainment ($1): 99 cent song on iTunes.

Kids’ Activities ($82): This was our last month paying for the girls’ swim lessons. It was prorated since we only went for half the month. That being said, the girls did INCREDIBLE on our cruise! We spent a TON of time in the water (both in the pools on the ship and in the ocean at our docking places). I was so impressed with how their skills have improved and they seemed like little fishes splashing around in the water. It really made me want to re-start their swimming lessons so they can keep learning and improving. I’m waiting until the semester is over at school because the end-of-year time is crazy and our Saturday-midday swim class was far from ideal. When we start back again I’ll be looking for a weekday afternoon class time.

Household Goods ($9): I don’t remember if I mentioned it already, but I’ve deemed this year the year of buying holiday decorations on clearance to save for next year. In December/January I bought a bunch of Christmas decorations and in April I bought some Easter decorations. I go literally the day after the holiday, first thing in the morning, so I can try to find the best stock for cheapest. I know there can be great finds at garage sales, too, but those are so hit-and-miss that I’ve mostly relied on buying store stuff on clearance after the holiday has passed. The plan is to do this all year for all of the holidays. I’m pretty excited to finally start accumulating some holiday stuff here and there. We’ve always been very minimalistic when it comes to holiday decorations since we have typically moved every year (our current rental house is the longest we’ve ever stayed in a single place!!) I look forward to decorating for holidays with the girls as they grow!

Rainy Day Savings ($2142): I’d deposited $2142 into my various rainy day funds (though some money was also withdrawn from these accounts.) See below:

  • 3-6 Month EF: $1,000. The goal is to get to $5,000 and we currently have $3063.
  • Birthdays: $400. The girls’ birthday is on the horizon in June. To date, we’ve never had an actual birthday party for them, but we want to this year for the first time. It will still be simple (at our house, not another venue), but we’re going to start throwing a couple hundred a month toward this savings so we don’t get caught by surprise in June. This month I’ve over-saved because I’m anticipating that May will be a lower month.
  • Car Repairs: $50. I also withdrew $182 to finally fix the car part that broke 2 weeks after I paid it off. This leaves $73 still in the car repair account. I’ll need to pad it pretty heavily in the next couple of months, as we know we’ve got some routine maintenance stuff coming up on our vehicles and it feels like every time we go to the shop its at least a thousand dollars! Cringe! At least we have time to anticipate and save for it instead of being caught by surprise.
  • Health/Dental/Vision: $542. This gets auto-deducted from my paychecks so we can pay for healthcare out of pre-tax money. It’s sitting in a flexible spending account earmarked for health-care related expenses.
  • Annual Fees: $100. Need to slowly start building this back up. The total current balance is $250 but we have a few annual (or semi-annual) fees coming up within the next couple months (e.g., Costco membership and county pet registration are two that come immediately to mind).
  • Girls’ College Savings: $50. We save $25/each (x 2 girls) for college that’s automatically transferred monthly to designated 529 accounts.

Savings Goals ($424): $424 was deposited but there were also withdrawals. See below:

  • Savings for 2015 Roth IRA: $424. I also cleared out this savings in its entirety prior to filing taxes so I could make a contribution crediting tax year 2015.
  • No other savings this month, but I wanted to report that I also withdrew all of the cruise money from its account (and have subsequently closed the Capital One 360 savings account). At the end of the trip, we were left with an extra $800 over and above what we’d spent. I ended up re-categorizing this money as income for May. That way it’s put in with our normal income rather than being viewed as a separate pot of money. This will be particularly helpful because I don’t get paid from my part-time job this month.

Debt:  I gave a full debt update here.

 

Final Thoughts:

We put a little less toward debt this month than I’d hoped (I’d originally planned to put $2,000 toward debt). Instead, we put a bit more toward savings, particularly in some categories where we know upcoming spending is imminent (e.g., birthdays, annual fees). In May, I’ll kind of trade-off. Our savings will probably be a little lower and our debt payments will be a little higher. One big thing to note:  I don’t get paid in the months of May or August from my part-time job. Instead, my summer pay is split into two lump sums arriving in June and July. I’m trying to anticipate the lower income months and to spread the pay out when we have the higher income months. Also, I haven’t commented on our tax return yet. We had a return of $540 that hit my bank account just in the last week or so. Like our unspent cruise savings, I’ve simply categorized this as “Income for May” in our YNAB budget. Again – May will be a bit lower income month (given that I don’t get my part-time pay), so I’m hoping this will help pad our income a bit so we can keep up with the hefty debt payments that are planned this month.

Have a great month, all!


This and That

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day, friends!

My kids have Spring Break this week (yes, apparently even preschoolers are out), so I’ve been spending a lot of time with them this week and soaking up every moment since I haven’t had so much one-on-one time since I started back to work full-time. I’m lucky that it’s also my university’s Spring Break so I’m not expected to be on campus (I’m told that the syncing up of the Spring Breaks is super rare so I should be extra grateful that it worked out this way!)

This morning started out with some green chocolate chip pancakes in celebration of St. Pat’s

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followed by some painting. The girls worked on their rainbows and we talked about leprechauns and the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, etc.

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Fun little St. Patrick’s Day theme.

Truth be told, though, this week has been HORRIFIC. Seriously, one of the worst of my life. I’ve mentioned before about how, with my Dad’s dementia, we’ve had a couple minor emergencies before. This week we experienced one that took the cake and is going to cause some drastic changes to our lives.

In a nutshell….due to my Dad’s bizarre behavior (a classic symptom of his FTD), someone in the medical field thought he was suffering psychosis. They involuntarily admitted him to an absolute hell-hole state ran mental health facility. He was there for 3 days before we even knew where he was. When we finally found out his whereabouts it was through another patient’s family (meaning, no one from the facility EVER tried to contact us). There were various hang-ups and red tape to prove that the man does NOT have mental illness but, instead, has a rare form of dementia. In all, he spent 6 days in the facility. During this time he never once was allowed to shower or change his clothes, he was only fed at odd intervals, and he was doped up on all kinds of drugs (not to mention he was NOT receiving his prescribed medication which he is supposed to receive daily).

When my sister was finally able to free him from his prison (yes, it felt like a straight jail), he had THESE MARKS all over his body. Not just his arms, but across his back as well. We thought they were restraint marks…but on his back? The best part? He has NO RECOLLECTION of how they occurred. None. This is not from the dementia, folks. He hasn’t just lost full days and events at this point yet. That’s due to being doped up on something.

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We took him immediately to a doctor who documented all the injuries and ran a full chem panel (still awaiting results). We’ve reported the facility to the appropriate powers that be and are seeking legal counsel. To say it’s been a nightmare is a major understatement.

So there’s that.

My brother is flying to Utah next week to meet a realtor, do some housework, and get the Utah home on the market. But now we’re faced with moving my Dad immediately to an assisted living facility where he has more oversight. He would still be safe living alone otherwise, but since his bizarre behaviors can be misinterpreted as psychotic episodes, we do NOT want to experience any other similar situations. Having him live somewhere where the staff is aware of his limitations and can help protect him is vital. We’re heartbroken over what he’s experienced and it has been a major setback to his functioning.

So there are more financial implications to come. Retaining counsel, possible lawsuit, selling the second property, and placing him in an assisted living. Lots of money flying around. It’s a very scary thing. I’ve mentioned before that he had done a decent job of saving for his retirement, but money can go QUICKLY when you’re dealing with lawyers or paying $7k/month for assisted living. We’re definitely nervous about all that, but also feel a moral obligation (not just to our father, but for other patients of this facility) to hold them accountable for what they’re doing to others. I won’t say the name of the place, but from reading their Google reviews, Yelp reviews, and Facebook reviews, we are not alone. Every single review was one-star. Every single review had a horrific story attached. It makes me feel sick to my stomach.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week. Plus trying to sneak in some work time here and there. The cruise is coming up quickly and I really need to get ahead so I can be away for a week and have everything set to run on auto-pilot. Wish me luck!


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