BOSTON (CBS) – CRS. This disease begins around age 40 and every adult suffers with it. And it certainly does worsen with age.

You can easily self-diagnose this one. No need to goggle WebMD. You walk into a room and this odd feeling comes over you. Starts with your head, you are lightheaded and then it works its way down to your gut. You utter the words “What am I here after?” You have CRS. You “Can’t Remember Stuff!”

Just think what it is like if you are 75! So a gift you can give mom is to help her sort through all of the stuff she has been saving for years and help get it organized. There is a method to my madness here for at the same time you can begin to search for her important papers and get them in a file easily accessible.

If you can get her stuff organized, her life and probably yours will be so much easier. Every mom I know has stuff she has been saving for years. Once the paperwork is organized it will be simpler.  And the bonus is if you need to help mom from a distance it will be so much easier!

As you start, remember this is her stuff and if she has saved it she perceives there is a value. You may not think much of that tool box you made in Shop but she does!

This is a process. It will take more than a Sunday afternoon. Put on her favorite music (even if it is Frank Sinatra!) as background and work on this together. Use humor here if you find tax returns from the 80s and 90s.

Don’t just dump stuff! Spend the time to evaluate what you do find. Make 3 piles. Pile one gets shredded or tossed, the second is a maybe pile, and the third is “let’s keep this in a safe place” pile.

Hopefully there is a filing cabinet, if not pick up a couple of crate-a-files at the stationary store. Set up a filing system that mom can access easily and print out any labels in large block letters so she can read them.

Now start to collect the stuff from the various places that mom has stashed them. All of the really safe places she has been keeping her stuff.

Does she have a safety deposit box? Whose name is on it? Ask if you can go with her and take inventory of the contents. Ask about adding your name to the box.

Start making lists, lots of lists. Make sure you leave a copy for mom and you should have a copy as well.

  • Professional/Personal directory – basically her data base
  • Social Security number
  • Investments with account numbers
  • Pin numbers
  • Inventory of the safe deposit box
  • Important papers and where they can be located such as birth certificates, marriage license, deeds, titles to the cars
  • Insurance policies
  • Regular monthly bills such as the telephone, electric, gas, rent.
  • Credit cards numbers and the balances if any
  • Tax returns for the last 6 years
  • Estate planning documents
  • Prescriptions she is taking and why; check for drug interactions
  • Inventory of the home’s contents

Helping her get organized will ease some of her stress and will help you when the time comes that you may need to be more involved with her finances.

Head to my website and print out a copy of the Document Locator and fill it out. Keep a copy for you and give a copy to mom.

Just opening the mail and organizing bills for an older person can become overwhelming. If they live nearby, ask them if they would like you to come by and help with the bill paying. They will sign the checks but you will balance the checkbook and take care of the paperwork for them. Emphasize that they are still in control. You are just the bookkeeper. If they live far away, consider hiring someone to help them.

One more thing:  AARP, the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons, recently published a list of essential documents that we all should have in regard to our personal health history.

They included:

  • Emergency contacts, including phone numbers and email addresses
  • Physician contacts, including specialists and dentists
  • Health insurance information
  • Health Care Proxy
  • Organ-donor authorization, if any
  • Current medications and dosages
  • Significant illnesses and surgeries, with dates
  • Immunizations and their dates
  • Allergies, or other sensitivities
  • Results from most recent physical
  • Test results and eye and dental records
  • Family health history
  • Opinions of specialists
  • Correspondence with providers

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