By Sara Greene, VP of Trust Administration
Prior to helping to found Secured Futures, I was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of a guardianship agency in the Philadelphia area. Many of the proposed guardianships came from the Philadelphia Corporation for Aging, who discovered that many of our seniors had declined in health while still living at home. This was brought to their attention when workers would go out and visit these seniors to help with medication distribution or deliver food through the Meals on Wheels program. One of the most difficult parts of my job as a guardian was moving a senior out of the community and into a long-term care facility so someone could care for him or her 24/7. It was especially hard to move seniors from their homes if they had been married and the spouse had died. Often the deceased spouse’s belongings still remained in the home. Closets were still filled with clothing on hangers, and coats and hats were waiting to be used for an evening out on the town. It was simply too hard for them to say goodbye to the memories of yesterday.
Many homes I entered were beyond hoarding situations—they were both health and fire hazards. We spent hours sorting through these homes looking for the necessary paperwork to complete a Medical Assistance or VA Benefits application and set up a prepaid burial account. We hunted for birth certificates, a death certificate for the spouse, military discharge paperwork, bank account information, and life insurance policies. Then came the cleanout of the house and preparation for it to be listed for sale. This process often took weeks because we needed to determine which items were in good enough condition to send to the long-term care facility with our client, which items (like dishes or furniture) could be donated to an organization like The Salvation Army or Purple Heart, and lastly which items had to be trashed.
Today, we have better resources and therefore can do a better job in assisting our clients. Whether we’re dealing with guardianship cases or beneficiaries of a trust, we may be able to recognize when too much “stuff” is accumulating. Obviously, if we serve as guardian, we can be more involved in the process. However, as trustee, we can also recommend tools to help our beneficiaries begin to pare down their belongings and limit the number of new and possibly unnecessary items being purchased for their home.
Now I know we aren’t all minimalists who are ready to downsize to the point where we could join the Tiny House Nation, but we can take steps to simplify how we live and organize that which we need on a regular basis, which can only improve our knowledge and ability to serve the ones who have been entrusted to us.
If you encounter a client who is a hoarder, there are companies—like Matt Paxton’s Legacy Navigator—that help with those situations. You personally may be inspired by one of Marie Kondo’s books titled The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Ms. Kondo also has a show on Netflix called Tidying Up with Marie Kondo. There are also small local businesses that specialize in organization. No matter how you address the situations you face, when the organization is complete, there’s a definite sense of peace. A heaviness has been lifted because you’ll know where everything is and all of the “stuff” that has cluttered your closets and your mind will be gone. Finally, in the words of Marie Kondo, you will have “sparked joy” throughout your home.
Self-care is so important not only for our clients but also for those of us who work in this field. A clean and well-organized home goes a long way toward relieving stress, especially for those living with a physical or intellectual disability or mental health diagnosis. So be good to yourself and those you serve by saying goodbye to some of the “things” of yesterday. Happy cleaning!
If you’d like information on guardianship, money management for disabled or elderly loved ones, and other ways to provide the care they need, please contact Secured Futures today at 602-635-6674.