Help Aging Parents–and Us! PINs & Passwords

Essential Aging Parent Information

Picture this: Our with-it aging father banks online and has a smart phone. But we don’t know his PINS (personal identification numbers), passwords or where–or even if–there’s a list of them somewhere. This didn’t trouble us when we bragged about his ability to use new technology, but it becomes a gigantic problem when a health event that affects his memory occurs–namely: he can’t remember his PINS or passwords and we don’t know where to find them.

We know where he banks; have the list of emergency and professional people to contact; and know where to find necessary documents. But how do we pay his bills online, get into iTunes, update Adobe,  or access other things that require PINs or passwords?

When someone is hospitalized, we don’t think about the above. We may forget to check that his/her technology is updated or even look at his or her cell phone or computer. We have other priorities.

For example: Gramp banks online. He uses a Mac, but doesn’t regularly update. Now he’s hospitalized, his memory has been impacted by medications and surgery and someone needs to pay his ordinary bills. He asks his adult child to pay his bills online, like he does, on his Mac.

Once logged in, an email from Gramp’s bank says users should update their browser. Adult child immediately updates browser and bills are paid online. No problem. Two weeks later, however, “update browser” messages keep appearing, online banking isn’t working. Phone call to bank’s technical support reveals some major browser changes are  being made; unfortunately, temporarily, only two browsers work–one (not Safari) for Apple products, plus another. While the bank is trying to remedy the problem there’s no guarantee how long it will take. Therefore, simply download the browser that works. It’s downloaded. Result: still locked out of online banking.

Apple is contacted. It seems Gramp’s Mac doesn’t have the latest–now necessary–update. While it’s free from the App Store, Gramp’s Apple ID, now needed, is nowhere to be found. No way to update. Gramp’s bills must be paid by check and mailed.  How time-consuming and frustrating is that–especially when we’re worried about–and attending to– Gramp’s recovery..

Is it denial? Laziness? Are our parents too busy? Do we fail to recognize that memory can be affected by things other than death? Yes, it takes time to record PINs and passwords. Perhaps we can help with this chore. Case made.

To double-check that we have all aging parents’ essential information, click the link below from my updated 2014 post. It can help mitigate problems later on.


Check out “
Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.


To Help Parents Age Well: US News & World Report: Best Hospitals 2014-2015

U.S. News Ranks Best Hospitals 2014-15

Again this year US News & World Report has published its Best Hospitals issue. Of the 17 hospitals to make the 2014-15 Honor Roll, top honors in Geriatrics are earned by Mayo Clinic in Rochester, followed by Mt. Sinai in New York, UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, and Massachusetts General in Boston. Click above link for Geriatrics honor roll.

For difficult and out-of-the ordinary diagnoses and procedures the best hospitals are most likely to have the most experience, so aren’t we’re also talking about best doctors here? It makes sense to have the above list should especially worrisome health issues arise.

For more “garden-variety” health issues there are many fine regional hospitals which are recognized in the US News and World report. To find the one(s) near you or aging parents, here’s the map of the best regional hospitals. 

Also know that the several changes were made to the ranking methodology this year. They may account for some of the changes from last year’s rankings. Check out the details at: 

Lastly, for a quickie snapshot and information about the 17 best hospitals, take the “photo tour.”

To help parents age well–(or for all challenges it would seem)–the more good, solid information we have beforehand, the better prepared we are. And isn’t this especially true when it comes to health issues.






Checklists for: Aging Parents’ Legal, Financial, Health, PINs and Passwords etc. Where to find–ie. Valuables, Important Contacts, Housing, Respite

I’ve combined my September 3, 2010 checklist with several others, updated yearly, and deleted redundancies to produce the most comprehensive list I can.

To begin–a must: Know where legal documents are kept: power of attorney, health care proxy, living will and will. I give this no numerical # because having this information will save endless time and frustration as our parents age….it really is a must.

Also know:  hospitals, for example, accept faxes of power of attorney and health care proxies so it’s wise to have extra copies handy in case of a health–or other– emergency. Sr. Advisor RHW, Esq. says parents, as well as their lawyer, should have these documents, if you’re unable to find them.

I was a far-away-living child so my parents’ documents were emailed to me as attachments and kept on my computer. I could view or print as necessary while my parents were alive. My husband’s and mine are at home in a file, but they too should be on my computer in case they’re needed when we’re traveling.

RHW, Esq. further explains that if parents used a lawyer in a law firm to draw up documents, the firm should have copies whether or not the lawyer who drew them up is still there.  If an individual practicing lawyer (not part of a firm) drew them up and has moved around, s/he and the documents could be harder to locate.


1. IDENTIFICATION to be kept in one place and up-to-date
–parent’s legal name
–phone/mobile number(s)
–birth date
–social security number
–PINs, Passwords (computer, airlines, utility companies, credit cards, Apple ID–)

–grandmother’s maiden name, mother’s maiden name: necessary for many  companies   in order to legitimize communication  with you (eg. for shutting off services, paying bills, Medicare).
–Legal state of residence (if more than one home)

2. LOCATIONS: knowing where to find things
–names, phone/mobile/fax numbers/email addresses of significant professionals: attorney, physician(s), financial advisor, emergency contact(s), parent’s close friends–as well as people who help in a variety of ways (cleaning person, companion, veterinarian (should pet need care or boarding).

–bank account(s)
–bills and checkbook
–birth, marriage certificates, divorce decree(s) eg.: You will need marriage certificate for proof of marriage if receiving any of spouse’s pension
–citizenship and military papers
–deeds, ownership records, car titles
–hiding place of valuables
–insurance policies
–keys (identifying what they open)
–letters of instruction to be read after death
–safety deposit box(es) and keys
— 3 previous years’ income tax records-
*PINS and passwords  click:  Aging Parents–Pins and Passwords (2016) for specifics.

–if caregiving at home, keep calendar of doctor’s appointments in a prominent place
–also keep a booklet to record observations, vital signs, food and water intake–anything else a doctor wants–on a daily basis
–maintain up-to-date list of medications and their dosage.
–maintain allergy list if applicable
–up-to-date emergency contact list (2 names minimum) for supervisor or employer if parents work (paid or volunteer)–More important than you might think
–have ambulance service phone # handy. Know when it’s necessary to have ambulance transport to hospital as opposed to your driving  (eg. if an old person falls, it almost always preferable NOT to move him or her).
–know which siblings or friends you can call in emergencies; have their contact numbers handy. Stressful situations can cause us to forget numbers, especially as we age.

4.  *HOUSING (*links to additional good information on same subject)
–is parent’s current home satisfactory?
–have you discussed this, as well as a “PLAN B” if a change is necessary?
–are you familiar with housing options: remaining home with care; moving in with a family member; assisted living, continuing care retirement communities, senior apartments, nursing home?

–is your parent a veteran, entitled to benefits?–Know how to contact VA
–does parent have insurance? health, long-term care, life, auto, homeowner’s, liability, other?
–is there enough money from savings, dividends, interest to maintain lifestyle?
— is there a mortgage on home?
–are there credit card, other debts?
–should adult child’s name be added to accounts? Dad took me to the bank and brokerage firm to meet the “guys” and add my name to his accounts several years before he died. I learned a great deal and ultimately helped writing checks–didn’t want to do this electronically as he still needed to–and could–be in charge. Result: I didn’t feel as overwhelmed by money matters when he died.
–if money could be or is in short supply, a family meeting way ahead of time, can give an idea as to how members can–or can’t–help.

6.  RESPITE: (to give you time for yourself)
–adult day care options for elders
–some hospitals and some senior living communities offer respite as a temporary “break” for caregivers. (If you dad is like mine,  you need to know I’ve never seen such adamant refusal as the weekend respite suggestion…I think he thought he might be stuck there.)
–family member or loyal friend who can help you out when needed. (They don’t have ESP; you must initiate–there will no doubt be a time when you’re “in need.”)
family member or loyal friend for pick up at airport, should you be away when emergency strikes. (I lived far away. My brother and a male friend, since elementary school, were called upon at different times. Invaluable. Click link preceding this sentence.)

As said many times, when we help parents age well, we also help ourselves.

Related: Net Worth Calculation Sheet
Caregivers’ Library excellent resource, many worksheets and checklists
Aging Parents and Elder Care –eldercare checklists and more.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities. respected professionals and selected publications–to help parents age well.
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Caring for an Aging Parent Checklist


New Year’s resolutions often breed lists and, of course, there are many kinds of lists. I do have a paper resolution list for 2014. But I always start with a list in my head and accomplish that before moving to THE list. This first week of the new year it includes getting rid of some of the stuff taking up needless memory on my computer.

Tedious as it is, because I make a point of glancing at each item before sentencing it to the great unknown, I was rewarded today.  I found a favorite “Caring for an Aging Parent Checklist,” originally accessible by a link in my 2010 post, but no longer working.

In 2010 a reader asked about checklists for aging parents…taking into consideration what grown children need to know when parents are home and when they travel.  I created one–the first I ever saw that mentioned parents’ PINS and passwords. Then, after reading an overdose of checklists thanks to Google, found and linked to the no-longer-working checklist link that included some areas I didn’t cover.

Just spoke with the company that provided the link, gained permission to add a few of their items to my checklist, and am updating and expanding all to create the most comprehensive checklist. Watch for it………see below.

Here’s the link to the most comprehensive checklist post:
1/9/14– Help!Aging Parents: A Comprehensive Aging-Parent Checklist

Check out “Newsworthy” top right.Timely links to research and information from top universities,
plus some fun stuff to help parents age well.


Aging: Life Can Change in an Instant. Are We Prepared? cont. 7 “To-Do’s”

RHW’s wife, in essence, had neither control nor a Plan B.  She stepped back, relying on her husband’s good judgment, accepting the fact that he was going to consult one other specialist, then proceed as he thought best. All worked out well, but not without stress and worry. A pre-thought-out/pre-discussed plan for such emergencies would have–no doubt– made decisions easier.

Perhaps businesses do better in this regard when they require employees’ emergency information and keep it on file. A friend’s sister, (a widow on Medicare) had a seizure while at work. Her first ever seizure. 911 was called immediately and she was taken to the nearest hospital for stabilization and evaluation.

What about her emergency information? She listed just one person to call in an emergency. A MISTAKE– list at least 3 people if possible. 1st person was her adult son, a teacher. He couldn’t be reached–his class was on a field trip, scheduled to return after school hours. Her granddaughter (from another country) was in the US for the summer, working nearby; she was young; clueless about making health care decisions. The initial major decision: which (of 3) hospitals’ neurological centers should her grandmother be taken to. Evidently 911 responders made the decision. Several hours later the adult son made the decision to have his mother  transferred to a different hospital for further treatment. It was a good decision, made under tough circumstances.

7 “To-Do’s” can help us prepare as well as possible 

1.  Make time to sit down with aging parents, discuss and prioritize whom to put on an emergency contact list, their relationship or reason for being on the list. Include a person knowledgeable about healthcare management in the event others on the list aren’t available. Know what hospital(s) they prefer–or their doctors are affiliated with–should there be an emergency.

2. Make the contact list (3 people). Keep it in an easy-to-find place. 

3. Two additional lists–medications (dosage and frequency) as well as list of allergies and medical issues–keep with the contact list.

4. If parents have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) directive, it’s essential that 911 responders (if called) have–or can easily find– the DNR (otherwise they must do all they can to save a life).

5.  When elders have a good mind and want to participate in–or dictate– actions taken for their care, we need to ask ourselves “what’s the goal” (as did RHW’s wife); then decide how involved we need to be.

6. For elders still working, it’s important that their emergency contact information at work stays updated.

7. US News’ Best Hospitals yearly publication in July is an invaluable resource and good conversation-starter. This link from CBS News about the 2013-2014 publication contains a video with excellent additional advice–including having an “electronic healthcare buddy.” Don’t miss it. 

Yet, with our busy lives, will we set aside time for the 7 to-do’s? We know, intellectually, that being prepared saves time. In our situations it can help parents age well–or at least better–and save us some additional stress

12 Key Pieces of Information Children of Aging Parents Should Have

Pat writes:
Is there a list somewhere of all the important information you should have as your parents age?  Like where they keep their will, where the household papers are, etc. Thanks.
Dear Pat,
The list below highlights 12 important pieces of information children of aging parents should have when trying to help parents age well. Some may be immediately useful; some help in emergencies, and some enable an easier transition at the end of life.
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This list was compiled with the help of my senior advisors including an attorney and 86-year-old Arline, since I know of no existing list. It should save a great deal of stress at critical times when trying to help aging parents.
Specifically children should know:
1.  Where legal documents: power of attorney, health care proxy, living will, and will are kept.  Our senior advisor attorney points out the lawyer–as well as parents– should have these documents. He explains that if parents have used a lawyer who’s in a law firm, that firm should have copies of the documents whether or not the lawyer who drew them up is still there. An individual practicing lawyer may have moved around and could be harder to locate. Then ditto for the documents.
2.  Location of bank account(s)
3.  Location of safety deposit box(es) and key(s)
4. Location of other keys
5.  Hiding place of any valuables
6.  Names/phone #’s,/ fax #’s of significant professionals: attorney, physician(s), financial advisor, parents’ close friends as well as people who help in a variety of ways (ie. cleaning person, companion). Our attorney points out that hospitals, for example, accept faxes of powers of attorney, health care proxies etc., if a scanner is not practical and you don’t bring the document in on your own.
7.  PIN and Passwords in order to communicate with any company that requires them in order to communicate with you (think bills, Medicare).
8.  Where computer passwords are kept
9.  Where checkbook and bills are kept
10. Medication list–up-to-date (Tuesday’s post). Note: a reader e-mailed “A very good idea about laminating your meds.  Every time I go to a doctor’s office, they always ask me for my meds and dosages and I’ll be darned if I can remember….”
11.  Veterinarian (should pet need care or boarding).
12.  Parents’ wishes regarding end of life (funeral, final resting place)
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We can help aging parents and make it easier for ourselves when we have these 12 key pieces of information.

Check out “Newsworthy” (right sidebar). Links to timely tips, information and research from top universities and respected professionals–to help parents age well.