A Guide to Elder Planning, by Steve Weisman (Softcover, 2013)|
(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you
want a hardcopy)
Reviewer: Mark Lamendola, author of over 6,000 articles.
This is yet another good book by Weisman. I previously reviewed his
50 Ways to Protect Your Identity,
which I also found useful. In that other book, Weisman underpromised and
overdelivered, something that we typically see in reverse. In this book, it
seems he went a bit too far trying to do the same thing. Adding a dash of nutmeg
to a plain vanilla ice cream cone produces a pleasant surprise, but dipping it
in chocolate first is going a bit too overboard in the "here's more than you
asked for" department.
I'll discuss this more, in a bit. My sister and I have been dealing with
the eldercare thing for a few years now, and fortunately for me she's been
carrying most of the water there. The many ways things can go wrong and the
lack of easy access to information are both astounding. This book can help
children of the elderly avoid the many pitfalls that, like economic IEDs,
await them along the journey of eldercare.
The number one cause of death in America is "hospital errors." The
esteemed Atul Gawande wrote about this is his 2007 book (which I also
Better. The average death toll is about 780,000 per year and in 2012 the
death toll was significantly higher than that. According to Dr. Gawande,
most of the "errors" amount to staff not washing their hands before touching
patients. Of course, these deaths are the ones not plausibly deniable by (mis)attributing
them to something else and they do not include patients like my father who
died later of hospital errors rather than in the hospital. The actual number
is far higher than what's reported.
Against this backdrop, we children of the elderly are supposed to somehow
trust the institutions like hospitals, insurance companies, and (what poses
as) the federal government, plus various state and county agencies, to
provide a reasonably humane exit from this world for our parents. And we're
somehow, during Obama's debt-fueled Depression, supposed to be able to pay
for all of this. And while grieving over a dead parent, we're on the hook
for cremation costs (a funeral is out of the question, due to price tags
starting at around 10 grand).
Yes, and we realize we are next in line. In twenty years, it'll probably
be our turn. But the resource picture will be far different and not in a
good way. Can you say "stress?"
A book like this is an essential part of anyone's library, because the
issues faced are overwhelming even when you do have the basics down. I'm
very glad Weisman took on this topic and covered this topic so thoroughly. I
can also attest that his coverage is accurate, at least on the issues I am
also familiar with. Given that, and my experience with his previous book, I
believe the reader can trust every bit of advice in this book. And should
heed it as well.
Back to the overdoing it thing. Weisman took on what is often a dry
subject. And he injected a little humor, which is nice. But I think he
overdid it and in several instances it became an unnecessary diversion into
the irrelevant. Trimming this back a bit would improve the book. Another way
he overdid it was by spending too much time on topics not related to
eldercare/elder planning issues. The first chapter was mostly a primer on
what you should do to protect your personal assets. Great information, yes.
But halfway into the first chapter, I began to wonder whether the book was
about elder planning at all.
One solution would be to put all of the non-elder information into an
Appendix. Another solution would be to write another of these amazingly
informative books for that purpose and just refer to that book. But the way
this was done, it was like watching a two hour movie with the first half
hour devoted to the background story. Let us start with the action, please.
Weisman does correctly take digs at the extremely poor job done by what
poses as the US Congress. No quality control there, as those folks really
are apathetic about anything to do with governance. Those digs might seem
like the diversions I referred to earlier, but the extremely poor job done
by an extremely overpaid CONgress (the opposite of progress) is why we have
the mess we have. People need to remember that at "election" time, when they
think that somehow it's a "choice" to give their vote to the Gambinos or the
Genoveses, er, I mean the Republicans or the Democrats. That kind of willful
ignorance and non-thinking will only encourage more of the very bad
situation we now have for the elderly (and the very bad situation we have in
other ways also, such as the Pentagon Acquisition System that gets fieldable
weapons from only 5% of the $21 million an hour of taxpayer money it spends;
the other 95% is diverted to corporations for no benefit to the taxpayer).
Maybe Weisman will treat us to a book about how to deal with CONgress and
maybe get them to do something useful for a change.
He also took digs at the world's most hated organization. They are
typically referred to by a three-letter abbreviation that I expand to
"Institute of Reprobates and Sociopaths." As they don't follow the law or
provide anything of value to society, there's nothing really that can be
said about how to deal with them except try to give them what they want and
hope they take you off their list of people to abuse. If we had a
responsible Congress, this particular problem would be solved by simply
eliminating this lawless agency.
The text of this guide to elder planning consists of 17 chapters running
317 pages. It also has a nice resource section and an extensive index. I
don't think Weisman wrote this book to be a "keeper," I think he wrote it to
be something you use up until it's dog-eared and falling apart. For that,
Mr. Weisman, you have my gratitude.