149 The Accidental Safari with Richard Tizzano

Jason interviews Richard Tizzano about his new book, “The Accidental Safari”.

Richard became an attorney at the age of 42. He specializes in the field of Elder Law and Personal Healthcare Crisis Management, Strategic Health Cost Risk Mitigation and Sustainability of Care.

Richard learned about caregiving at an early age. When he was 12 years old, he accompanied his parents on an Accidental Safari. His mother, Grace, at 42 years of age, had a debilitating stroke, leaving her paralyzed on her right side.  She was confined to a wheelchair for the rest of her life. This face-to-face confrontation with the pain and suffering in the world changed the direction of his life. At that young age, he was determined to become a part of the answer to the pain in life, rather than a cause of the pain.

With his training, experience, compassion, and insight into the lives of so many families, he is uniquely qualified and humbled to write this book and share his years of experience with all of you.

In addition to his law degree, he has formal training in the areas of finance and pastoral ministry. This training has enhanced his experiences in serving the vulnerable.

Richard holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Vanguard University, Costa Mesa, CA and a Jurist Doctor from Seattle University, Seattle, WA. He is licensed to practice law in both California and Washington.

To learn more visit: www.accidentalsafari.com

Below is the full transcript:

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Announcer: Welcome back America to Sound Retirement Radio where we bring you content, ideas and strategies designed to help you achieve clarity, confidence and freedom as you prepare for and transition through retirement. And now, here is your host, Jason Parker.

Jason: America, welcome back to another round of Sound Retirement Radio. So glad to have you tuning in this morning. As you know, we like to get the morning started right here, and by the way, I’ve got a great guest lined up in studio for you. But before we get started, I will start by renewing our mind this morning, and this verse comes to use from Ephesians 2:10. “For we are God’s handiwork. Created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared us in advance to do.” That’s awesome.

 And then of course we want to share jokes. Something you can put on the grandkids face and especially with one of my favorites coming up around the corner here, Thanksgiving. Actually, before I do the joke, I think I’ll bring my guest on so I can share the joke with him. This morning’s my good fortune, many of you that have read my book Sound Retirement Planning know that I’ve got a chapter in there on estate planning. And so Richard Tizzano was one of the attorneys that I interviewed for that book. He has a new book coming out called The Accidental Safari, and it’s really important for our listeners, for people that are thinking about estate planning and elder, and just this transition into and through retirement.

 So with that, Richard Tizzano, welcome to Sound Retirement Radio.

Richard: Good morning. Thank you for having me.

Jason: Oh man, I’m glad to have you here. So, Richard, what smells the best at Thanksgiving?

Richard: The Turkey.

Jason: Your nose. Alright, Richard, I’m excited to have you here to talk about your new book. The launch date is right around the corner and so that’s why I wanted to have you as a guest this morning. The Accidental Safari, that’s kind of a weird name for a book about elder law. How did that come about?

Richard: Well, in my practice I focus on elder law and The Accidental Safari is what can happen to any of us, and unfortunately to many of us as we age. Life is going in a certain direction, you have your plan, your goal, and then all of a sudden, life happens. You break a hip or you have a stroke or some other issue comes up and man, you’re on a different course. You’re headed in a direction you never planned and you’re on this trip … I wouldn’t call it a vacation, but you’re on a trip that you just weren’t prepared for. You’re on a safari. And so you are the safari guide, I am.

Jason: Now, before we get into the nuts and bolts of the book, take us back in time to how it is that you became so passionate about this topic in the first place.

Richard: Well, I guess it started … Was one of those things I was being prepared for these good works in my life and didn’t even realize how the pieces fit together, but as a young man, 12 years old, my mom had a stroke and I was an only child in the home and she went off to the hospital and then came back some months later paralyzed and was in a wheelchair the rest of her life. And so I had the opportunity to learn to be a helper, be a servant. And I recognize the joy that’s in that. It really changed my life, if I was a self-centered young teenager and that’s where life was going to go focused around me and everything I wanted, and all of a sudden life took this turn, the safari started for my family and I was on the journey and I realized the … Not knowing, but I realized it just kind of happened in my life where there is this joy in serving and this opportunity to make life a little better.

 And I had this realization, gee, there’s pain the world and I can be part of the problem or I can be part of the answer. So that’s kind of what sowed the seeds, and then years later my dad when he was 88 years old, my mom had the stroke at 42 and she died at 62 and then my dad we kind of hung out together and … Through life. And I kind of looked after him and he died at 88 but I had some years before he started to fail physically. Looking after him and helping him. And that was really what turned the corner for me legally. I was an attorney and he was failing and needed to go into a nursing home and I just couldn’t figure out how this all worked. He didn’t have a lot of means and how do people pay for this. How does it all … What are the options. And it was just so distressing to me to see that it was so difficult to get this information.

 So that’s what started on the journey … Or turned me in my legal practice, which was pretty much focused on estate planning anyway, but I began to see how people have this need for consideration of these physical issues that affect their life. And how to prepare for those and … So that was about 20 years ago or so. And I was able to begin to incorporate that into my practice and as the great tsunami of older folks grew and grew, that part of my practice has grown.

Jason: Wow. You know, one of the great things about having Richard right here in the community is that he and I get to get together for breakfast several times a year and just talk. And Richard, I remember when you told me that story about caring for your dad and your daughter, and how you’d remember that day forever. Do you want to tell that story real quick?

Richard: Well, sure. My dad was in the nursing and I had a young daughter. She was less than … A few years old. She was still in diapers anyway. And so I was visiting my dad with her at the nursing home and the people in the nursing home were busy and my dad was having some issues and needed his diaper changed, so it wasn’t a big deal. So I took care of that and a few minutes later my daughter needed her diaper changed and I can remember thinking, wow this is quite an experience. I’m going to remember this experience the rest of my life. And I certainly have. Changing their diapers on the same day.

Jason: Man, that … None of us ever want to think that’s going to happen to us, Richard. In fact, a lot of people that I talk to … I just talked to a gentleman this weekend, and he was talking about suicide as an option to avoid ever putting his family in that kind of situation. And he was serious about it. And man, that’s a tough conversation to have with somebody when they start talking about ending their life. But they’re passionate. They’re passionate about not wanting to become a burden to their family physically or financially and so.

Richard: Well that is an issue and most people don’t want to become a burden. People want to be independent. We’re an independent lot here in America and people would rather be dead than be a burden, but I guess my perspective is you don’t really know how that’s going to play out in your life and you need to give God the opportunity to work in your life the way that your life needs to be played out. And both whether you’re the care receiver or the caregiver, it’s an opportunity in life to just kind of see what you’re made of and see how you can make life better for yourself or for the person who’s serving you.

 And you never really know. I have done hundreds and probably thousands of directive to physicians, in other states they call them living wills. Which talks about how you would like the end of life addressed and whether or not you would want a feeding tube or to want to be resuscitated. Or be on a respirator. Those kinds of things. And most people, I would say, are a little bit flippant about it. They say, oh no, no I wouldn’t want that. I wouldn’t want that if I was dying. Let me die. However, I have known a couple of men who … I would say they were spiritual men. They had a depth of faith and they both were dying of an ALS type disease and you’re kind of trapped in your body, your body has betrayed you, and my thought would be, gee if I was in that situation I would want out. And when they reached the point in their life when they were unable to take in enough calories, they were given the opportunity whether or not they would want a feeding tube. Now my thought, again, not being in that situation myself, my thought would be, oh sure this is the easy way out. I can’t take in enough calories, life is going to end here pretty quick and I get to move on.

 But both of those men surprised me and selected to have a feeding tube into their stomach. And their life was prolonged. In one case a couple of years. And the other one many months. And so it just spoke to me of the preciousness of life and really it turned out to be a blessing for people who were given the privilege of caring for those people. So you just never know. It’s easy … In the example you gave, somebody just say, eh oh well, how would I end my life or … I had one client say when I talked about long term care insurance, do you have long term care insurance, he says, yeah I have long term care insurances with Smith & Wesson.

Jason: That’s a horrible joke.

Richard: And I said well, that sounds good but when the time comes you might not have the strength to pull the trigger or even know where you kept the bullets but it’s kind of, again, flippant way to address a time in life when you just don’t know. You have to kind of wait and see and I think that’s a point where your faith becomes all important and your hope for the future. And not only the future in life but the future … The forever future. Because that’s really what this life here is all about is preparing our hearts and minds. Because our bodies betray us and our minds betray us. But our spirits they live forever.

Jason: That’s awesome. So if you could recommend, what age, what’s the right time that somebody should read your new book The Accidental Safari?

Richard: Well, I would say it’s probably geared for folks 45 and up. The younger end of that spectrum are folks who are looking for how to prepare for their parents or help their parents, perhaps, or they’re long term planners and there’s 65 and above is probably those who are real serious about planning for themselves. As you know, long term care insurance is a big deal and so the folks at the younger end of the spectrum should maybe read the book with that in mind. Are there some things I can begin to do right now that really would position me and my family in a place where long term care is not an issue because we’ve taken care of at least the financial part of that.

Jason: How do you see financial strain affecting families as you talk something like insurance? You see people actually having to pay these costs. How does that impact people?

Richard: The finances tend to drive a lot of the decision making. Or even the lack of decision making. I see a lot of folks frozen. These issues come up. They come up suddenly because you’re kidnapped on this safari and people are frozen because they’re afraid to make the wrong decision. There’s so many options out there. So many decision that have to be made. And because they’re a foreigner in a foreign land, they don’t know what the options are and so they don’t know, is this the right decision. Is there a better decision that I can make or I should make right around the corner. But they’re afraid that they don’t know what that might be and so they’re trying to make sense of all of these new options when they don’t even know what all the options are.

Jason: One of the things that I found a lot actually is there are a lot of people, Richard that never had children. A lot of couples that never had children. And so obviously this family structure becomes very important and … Like when my father-in-law was going through a long term care event, he had his family right here with him to help shepherd him through into that next phase. But for the people that don’t have that family support, how do you see them managing the decisions and who are they depending on, relying on?

Richard: Well, that’s a big issue and I have a chapter in the book on, I call them elder orphans, and as I was writing the chapter I realized this could be a whole book on that situation and ways to address that, and there’s no real easy answer. A lot has to do with what the goals are. Whether the folks ultimately want to see their assets go to charity and maybe the charities they love and have served, might be able to pay them forward and be … Participate in their life in their time of need.

 Or there are just people who have no family at this point and they’re okay with that. We tend to think, oh those poor people, but there are people who are introverts and they are comfortable with that and they want to live their life that way. They don’t feel like, oh poor me because I don’t have all these people around me, but ultimately, that becomes an issue or a problem. And I think, ultimately it’s the community that needs to rise up and recognize those people and reach out to those people. You know, the person who’s living next to you in the apartment or next door and we need to have these … I guess they’re called naturally occurring retirement groups, where you’re just concerned about your neighbor and, are things okay and … I know my aunt, she lives in an area where there’s a lot of houses close together and in the morning she’ll look … Open the blinds and look to see if her neighbors blinds are up and if things are okay over there. They help each other with the trash or somebody’s going to the store and they’ll call a couple of neighbors, do you need anything or help each other go to the doctor and it’s those kinds of things that really are going to make a difference in people’s lives who really have no close family connections.

Jason: And I’ll tell you, it’s really cool to see that take place, like you’re talking about with your aunt. We’ve seen that with my mother-in-law as well. She’s losing her vision. She can’t drive anymore. But she’s living in a community now where there’s other people that are retired, it’s a 62 plus community, and there’s a couple of other people there that will … They’ll go out to the movies together or there’s one lady in particular who’s really intentional about any time she’s going to the grocery store, inviting my mother-in-law to go along with her. There’s some resources in the community. Fortunately we live in a great community where we have resources like a bus, that if she schedules in advance, they’ll come by and pick her up and take her to the store. And of course Becky and I are close so we can help out with that as well.

 It’s an interesting transition, Richard. You’ve had the opportunity to walk this road, this journey if you will, this safari, and be people’s guides. If there were just one thing that you could encourage people to do, what’s the most important thing that they need to be thinking about as they’re preparing to make this transition into retirement? What would be the most important thing you’d tell them to consider?

Richard: Well, I would encourage people to take an interest and to spend a little time thinking about things that they might ordinarily think about and a good way is maybe to get a book. But something to trigger what the issues might be. Something that gets them thinking and talking about it. Another thing a book might do is maybe something to give your parent, to get them thinking and then the discussions you have can help make you familiar with the territory. And so that all of the trails are not foreign to you, you become comfortable.

 You know, one thing you might do is you might take your parent to dinner out at the local assisted living restaurant. They spend a lot of money advertising, trying to get you in the door. They’d be happy to give you a free meal and give you a tour. And so I kind of joke about that sometimes. Be sure after you take them to dinner there you take them home, you don’t leave them there.

 But just to take an interest. Most people will spend more time and money researching the new refrigerator they’re going to buy when they remodel their kitchen than they do with what their future years might look like if they do have a health issue or if they ultimately … If we all live long enough we’re going to be back in a place where we need somebody to hold us and feed us and change our diaper just like we did when we were born. So it’s something that is all too common, and so people need to spend a little time thinking about it.

Jason: So I brought my in laws to you to get their estate documents done. This was shortly after my father-in-law had been diagnosed with dementia. And he was still in really good shape. It showed for him is, he was having a hard time remembering how to … All of his strokes when he was playing golf. The guys around him thought he was just not counting all of his strokes, but he was actually not remembering all of the strokes and so … Strokes as in swinging the club. Not strokes as in, you know, cognitive issues.

 So anyways, we’re sitting there. I remember sitting at the table, and we knew that … I knew that he had dementia because my mother-in-law had told me. He hadn’t shared that with anybody yet but you knew coming into the room because she had talked to you about it as well. And you were able to start that conversation and you asked him a really important question, and it was really important for this reason because I was the power of attorney. And there can be some guilt associated with caring for people that you love. You want to make sure you’re doing the right thing for them. But the question you asked was, you know, Jerry, when you get to a place, how will your family know when it’s the right time to make a transition out of your own home and into a facility.

 And I’ll tell you, even though I’ve helped hundreds of people along the same journey, it’s a lot different when all of a sudden you’re sitting face to face. And I just know how comforting it was to be able to … When that time came, when those … Because my father in law was very specific. He said when I can’t do this and I can’t do that, that’s the time. And he had no problem going into any kind of facility. He said that’s what I want to have happen. So when we had to make that decision, it was just, you guys this is … This is what he told us he wanted, and it was very helpful.

 Are there any documents that people can use to help outline that for their kids where they actually write down the instructions, when I hit these kind of measures? When I can’t feed myself or when I can’t use the restroom on my own, or whatever the case may be.

Richard: Well, those benchmarks are much easier to identify when you see the safari approaching. And I only half-joking say, when you look down the tunnel and you see the light and you realize it is a train, and it’s not just the end of the tunnel, and so it’s easier for me to have that discussion with people because by the time they come to see me, oftentimes that’s what they’re thinking about. And so they’re ready to make those benchmarks, identify what they are and then those kinds of benchmarks should be included in their documents, power of attorney for healthcare or for financial and their directive to physicians which talks about who’s in charge, who can help, who has the responsibility to step up and what the expectation is.

 And when I do an estate plan for folks, I always invite them to include the people they’re naming either as their attorneys in fact or executors. And include them to come into the office or on a conference call so that they understand what their responsibilities are. We have that conversation. What the expectations are of my client for the people they’re naming. And what that does more than anything is it opens the door for continuing conversations and essentially of giving them a peak under the curtain. And so now they feel free to ask follow up questions so they can better understand where you’re at. Because those are the people you’re going to be leaning on if you’re fortunate enough to have those people in your life.

Jason: Richard, you’ve got a website that you set up specifically for your new book coming out. What’s the website domain? Where do people find that?

Richard: Accidentalsafari.com.

Jason: Accidentdalsafari.com. Folks, you’re listening to episode 149. Richard shared one of the things that they’re doing with the launch of the book which is right around the corner here, is they’re going to have the book on sale initially, and that way Richard’s going to be really serving his clients and his community and our listeners. So if you are interested in getting the book at the lower price when it first comes out because the price will be ratcheting up after the first two weeks or thereabout. So we want to encourage you to get the book while it’s at a discount. Maybe get a couple of copies. Get one for yourself. Get one for your in-laws. Get one for your parents. And just understand how this all works.

 I think one of the things that I really appreciate about Richard’s approach to the book is he’s not just coming at you with all the legalese. All the legal mumbo jumbo that’s so hard for people to wrap their minds around. But he’s sharing real stories. And then he’s also talking about the planning aspect of estate planning and so … Anything you want to add to that Richard?

Richard: Well, yeah. That’s what I tried to do in the book, was kind of weave my story and my clients’ issues and to illustrate each of the important issues as they come up. The information is there but it’s not just hard cold facts. There’s a lot of different stories that illustrate its … Trying to be entertaining and yet get the truth across.

Jason: That’s really good. So you know this has been a pretty heavy episode, I have to tell you. So I’ve got another joke for you. What did the turkey say before it was roasted? Gobble gobble me, I’m stuffed.

 Folks, you’re listening to episode 149. The website accidentalsafari.com, if you go to The Accidental Safari you can put your email address in so that you can be notified before the book launch it so you can get it a special price. Richard, we’re almost out of time but is there just maybe one last thing, last 30 seconds you want to share with our listeners?

Richard: Sure. I think the most important thing you can do when you’re in a situation like this you’re going to be on one side or the other. The care receiver or the caregiver. Do everything you can to maintain the relationship that you have there. And some people are gifted enough where they can do both. They can be the caregiver and they can be friend or the spouse or the loving daughter or son or whatever. And some people they don’t have the ability to do both. And recognize that, if you have a weakness. Get somebody else to help with the caregiving part of it, and find out what other resources might be available to get that done. But your primary role as the caregiver is to be … Maintain that loving, caring relationship. And your primary role as the care receiver is to be as appreciative as you can for the care that this loving person, or persons, are giving you.

Jason: Yeah. It is really a special time. It’s a hard time. But you learn a lot. You learn a lot.

Richard: There’s blessing there you don’t receive any other way but by giving and helping and loving.

Jason: With that we’re out of time folks. Episode 149. Find us online at soundretirementplanning.com. Richard Tizzano, thank you for being a guest this morning.

Richard: Thank you.

Announcer: Information and opinions expressed here are believed to be accurate and complete, for general information only, and should be construed as specific tax, legal or financial advice for any individual, and does not constitute a solicitation for any securities or insurance products. Please consult with your financial professional before taking action on anything discussed in this program. Parker Financial, its representatives or its affiliates have no liability for investment decisions or other actions taken or made by you based on the information provided in this program. All insurance-related discussions are subject to the claims paying ability of the company. Investing involves risk. Jason Parker is the president of Parker Financial, an independent, fee-based wealth managed firm, located at 9057 Washington Avenue Northwest, Silverdale, Washington. For additional information call 1-800-514-5046 or visit us online at soundretirementplanning.com

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