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A Guide to Elder Planning

Book Review of: A Guide to Elder Planning

Everything You Need to Know to Protect Your Loved Ones and Yourself

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Review of A Guide to Elder Planning, by Steve Weisman (Softcover, 2013)

(You can print this review in landscape mode, if you want a hardcopy)


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 reviewed), 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.


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