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What We Wish We’d Known: Advice From Seasoned Caregivers

What We Wish We’d Known: Advice From Seasoned Caregivers
By Kristina James
Published by Ruby

Ruby helps you and your family work together to prepare and organize finances.

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They’ve walked a mile in your shoes.


Wherever you are in the journey of caring for an aging loved one, there is always someone who’s walked the path before you.

As we’ve been building Ruby, we’ve spoken with many seasoned caregivers about every aspect of the role. The topics of conversation that come up time and again are the things they wish they’d known when they were starting out – even before they identified as a caregiver.

So, from them to you… here are some words of wisdom, from the simple to the complicated.

Ask for help when you need it.

You can’t do this alone, and you don’t have to. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help when you need it – from family, from friends, and from professionals.

A support system has many different faces and it can feel less overwhelming if you know who’s on your team when you need them. Also, transparency among a group of family caregivers is important: everyone should be on the same page so there’s mutual trust.

Keep a sense of humor.

Caring for a loved one with dementia is hard – and within that “hard” there are days that seem impossible. Many caregivers told us that those impossible days are often made possible if you can maintain a sense of humor.

Of course, not everything is “LOL” funny, but there are so many things that can be survived if you can find the ability to laugh at them.

You gotta have a system - in fact, several of them.

1. A financial system

Firstly, you need a system in place to understand what financial activity is “normal”. By that we mean, what are the “usual” levels of cash flow coming in and out. Some examples are dates and amounts of:

  • regular utility bills
  • regular subscriptions
  • social security deposits
  • rent or mortgage payments, if any
  • any other income/savings that are regularly drawn from
  • amount spent on a standard trip to the grocery store or pharmacy

Next, get familiar with your loved one’s financial activity.


Look for patterns and trends.

Knowing the every day/week/month ebb and flow of your loved one’s finances makes it easier to spot patterns and trends. It’s then possible to notice when mistakes are made, or things fall through the cracks – which can be more common with dementia.

Knowing what’s “normal” means you can help them plan for the future, and use their finances in a safe way – and you can actively watch for activity that is NOT normal.


You need a system in place to watch for any unusual activity.

And you need to be able to check in on this system every week, if not every day.

Bank statements are monthly, but if your loved one fell for a scam, made a mistake, or has been the victim of credit card cloning of fraud, being able to catch it as quickly as possible is important. Catching it a month later can lead to a big mess of phone calls and paperwork in an attempt to fix the problem.

A lot of banks already have safeguards in place for credit card fraud, but knowing what spending is out-of-the-ordinary is still the best way to catch scams.


Financial wellbeing as a window into physical wellbeing.

Are there places your loved one visits regularly, like a local coffee shop or movie theater? Noticing these regular financial activities can also be a helpful indicator of your loved one’s mental and physical health: If visits to beloved places become less frequent, it might be an indication that they’re not doing so well.


2. An information system

All of the seasoned caregivers we spoke to said that keeping on top of vital information and documents could feel overwhelming – unless you had a simple system.

You need a plan in place to quickly and efficiently organize, store, and access your loved one’s documents.

“Simple” things like a list of allergies, medical records, or insurance information need to be easily available so you don’t have to scramble to find what you need, when you need it most.


Ruby can be your system for both

In fact, our platform was designed with exactly these two needs in mind. Here’s how…


Information station

With the Ruby Vault you have a digital safety deposit box, where you can store and organize all the important information our expert caregivers have told us they needed.

But, better than a physical safety deposit box, with the Vault you can access the information at any time, from anywhere through your computer or phone. No more scrambling to find the document you need for your loved one in a pinch.

And by adding trusted family members to your Circle, they have the information they need too. For example, if Mom goes to visit your brother in Colorado and needs to visit the ER, he can access her insurance card, allergies, and current medications within moments.


That extra pair of eyes

Seemingly small financial errors are often an early indicator of dementia.

By connecting your loved one’s bank accounts to Ruby we help you with the hard work of learning what is financially “normal”.

Every week you’ll get an email that gives you a summary of your loved one’s financial activity and compare it to normal behavior. Tracking regular cashflow patterns and trends, Ruby will help you and your family know that your loved ones money is safe, and going where it should be.


Even better!

It’s not just that we’ve built the systems, Ruby also acts as a guide to help you set up and keep the information up to date. Our caregiver advisors all felt unprepared when they began this journey. Using their expertise, Ruby will guide you through the information you need to have on hand – from bank accounts and credit cards, through keeping those beneficiaries up to date, to having the phone number of your loved one’s favorite neighbor.


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