Our Mother's Keeper: Part 1 - HECMWorld.com Skip to content

Our Mother’s Keeper: Part 1


A Resolution to Last All Year & Beyond

reverse mortgage newsWe all know how ephemeral New Year’s resolutions can be. With the best of intentions the first of January, you plan to join a health club, spend more time with your family, watch fewer ball games on the weekends… Whatever is on your checklist, chances are it’s relegated to the bottom of the to-do’s by February.

There’s one area that all reverse mortgage professionals can resolve to improve in 2016, however: situational awareness and action with the seniors with whom you interact.

Here’s a potent example:

Just before the holidays I watched an elderly man attempt to refill his prescription — at the meat counter in our local market. The young butcher explained that he needed to go to the pharmacy, about a mile away. I was concerned that a) the man was obviously confused and b) it was much too far for him to walk, especially in the dark. The deli worker told me not to worry. “We know him; he comes in here all the time. This is only the second time he’s asked about his medication, though,” he said, amused. When I reiterated that I was worried about him walking all the way to the pharmacy, and possibly getting lost or tired, the deli worker replied, “Oh, he has a car.”

What’s wrong with this picture? This is precisely the type of scenario where timely intervention can be crucial. While the gentleman in question may still be OK to drive, and only a little disoriented on occasion, what I witnessed could signal the beginning of a mental decline, or be a clue to some underlying health issue, or “simply” mixing up his medications — and is a red flag for a medical check-up and family awareness.

How can loan officers become more attuned to such health and safety issues?

  • When you make a home visit, look for telltale signs of a senior who may need help: uneaten food on the table, or prescription bottles scattered across the counter. The reverse mortgage professional may be the point person, perhaps even before a family member, who may gloss over what they see because they’re not ready to admit their loved one needs help — or because they visit so often, they’re accustomed to the disarray.It’s easy to become desensitized to what’s around us. I once insisted I smelled gas at a friend’s house where I was a frequent visitor. Finally, to humor me, he called the gas company, clarifying that although he didn’t think he had any leaks, his friend did. The next time I stopped by, to my amazement he said, “I’m a believer!” The gas technician found and fixed leaks in both the stove and wall heater. My friend didn’t suffer any ill effects, but imagine if this had been an elderly person, and the gas had been leaking for months or even years…
  • Take appropriate action. On a home visit, one loan officer noticed that the smoke alarm was “chirping”. The reverse mortgage client dismissed it casually, saying, “Oh, it’s been like that for months!” The savvy LO took it upon himself to go to the nearest hardware store, buy fresh batteries, come back to the client’s home and install them. Such small steps can make all the difference between someone being able to remain at home, or needing to go into assisted living — or perhaps being misdiagnosed with early-stage dementia when the truth is, they’ve been unknowingly breathing toxic fumes for months!
  • Communicate with discretion. If you’re already in communication with family members who are actively involved with your client’s care, it’s probably a good idea to gently mention what you’ve discovered. If this would be inappropriate, you can be a silent Samaritan — and make an extra effort to ensure this client or prospect is receiving the care and assistance they need.

With a resolution like this, you’ll not only be able to keep it, but will also improve the lives of the seniors you serve. Happy New Year!


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  1. Great suggestions, Amara, and right on target. As my mother aged, she failed to realize she had some new limitations, and I had to remind her not to go up her small step ladder or to over reach for items. My greatest fear was that she might fall. She was able to find a reliable handyman to do her fix-its. Small price for her safety.

  2. Amara, great article!! It is so true that we Reverse Mortgage lenders need to be concerned for the seniors. I feel we need to “go the extra mile” and help wherever we can to assist our Senior clients.

  3. Dick and Joyce,

    Thanks for your perceptive comments. As the daughter of an elderly parent myself, I am likewise concerned about the “over reaching,” both literally and figuratively. Few of us want to admit we can no longer do (or can, but should not do) what we once did, such as climbing a ladder or crawling under the sink. Willingness to both ask for and, more importantly, to accept assistance, is a sign of strength — and wisdom.

  4. We have found seniors without telephones and have helped them to find phones for a very low cost for local and 911 calls. We have found some without power leaving their food needing refrigeration with neighbors. It is interesting what many seniors accept as normal because of fear of total loss of monthly cash flow. Most of these people do not want or need cash as much as a little help to realize where to get help and then the push of making the call together with them.

    With some we have been able to help with a reverse mortgage and others we could not but one thing we have tried to do is help where we can.

    I am sure many of us have had similar circumstance. It is great to help these seniors but it is a shame no one had done this with them before.

    • Hi The Cynic,

      It is truly appalling in this age of plenty for an elder to lack basics such as refrigeration or a phone. Bless you for your awareness and for reaching out to help where you can.

      If we live long enough to one day be old, it’s likely many of us will need some sort of assistance, even if that’s “just” a listening heart.

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