’Tis the Season . . . to Help Your Loved One Get Rid of Junk Mail

14647948773_937193ed72Catalogues, holiday sales coupons, advertisements, appeal letters from every non-profit under the sun—this time of year, our mail is swamped with unsolicited enticements to spend money and hundreds of requests for donations before December 31.

For most, sorting the mail is a matter of tossing 95 percent into the circular file and saving only what’s relevant: invoices (if you still get them via snail mail), magazines and other publications, and the rare, precious personal letter.

But for older adults who are losing the ability to manage their personal affairs due to memory loss or other cognitive challenges, the onslaught of holiday mail only makes an already messy situation even messier. An individual with dementia may not want to throw anything away, for fear of missing something important. But the outcome can be just the opposite.

Somewhere under that stack of junk mail are invoices that need to be paid. A missed gas bill could mean the heat gets cut off. A missed phone bill could result in severed communications. Meanwhile, a small, well-intentioned donation to a non-profit spawns even more appeal letters, as the donor’s contact information goes into mailing list data bases.

More mail, more piles, more chances that the really important stuff gets lost.

Then there’s the problem of junk email. For anyone who spends time online, unwanted email can clutter up an inbox even faster than snail mail can pile up on the kitchen table.

Here are some tips to help you and your loved one take charge of junk mail—paper or electronic:

1) Place your loved one on “do not mail” lists.

Many retailers ask for zip codes at the check-out counter. But those zip codes are a key to finding your address and placing you or your loved on a mailing list, not only for that store. Lists are rented to affiliated retailers for their own marketing.

Remember—you don’t need to give a zip code to make a purchase.

To get off those lists, sign up for these free services:

Used together, these online services will help to keep personal addresses off affiliate retailer’s lists. In addition, if your loved one has given her zip code to a store, you’ll need to contact that retailer directly and ask for her contact information to be removed from their list.

2) Set up a post office box for your loved one’s mail.

If your loved one is no longer capable of managing any decisions about mail, you can have it forwarded to a post office box. You collect the mail once or twice a week, toss the junk and deliver what’s important.

3) Un-enroll from unwanted emails.

Streamline your loved one’s emails (Gmail, Outlook, Yahoo, AOL, iCloud) with a free app that organizes all newsletters and promotions into one daily digest. This service, Unroll.Me, also unsubscribes your loved one from spam and other nuisance emails.

4) Unsubscribe and block junk emails.

This is the most time-consuming effort, but worth it in the long run. Go through your loved one’s emails and unsubscribe, company by company. It usually takes at least a week to get a name and contact information off an email list. Pair this with filters that block domain names from companies that send a lot of junk email.

President of Deborah Fins Associates, PC, since 1995, Deborah Liss Fins is a licensed independent clinical social worker and certified Aging Life Care™ manager. Drawing on more than 30 years of professional experience in aging life care management, DFA offers comprehensive assessments and planning, guidance in selecting appropriate care, help identifying resources for financial support and professional consulting. Please contact us to set up a complimentary initial telephone consultation.

For more on coping with aging, follow us on Twitter: @DeborahFinsALCM.

Image Credit: Judith E. Bell

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