Five Ways You Can Prepare Yourself or a Loved One for Advanced Aging
Tips to plan ahead for advanced aging and the challenges it can sometimes bring.
Thinking about the future, a future where you, your spouse, or your parents, have a significant medical condition or chronic illness’ like Dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson's is difficult.
Age-related medical conditions that long term arrangements are challenging for all involved. Having a plan in place before these unfortunate circumstances arise can unburden families who are already having to deal with the emotional impact of a loved one's diminishing health whether physically or mentally.
We’ve all witnessed someone with these conditions either as the caretaker or the one who needs care. We also know that while it can be uncomfortable to have conversations about this type of future retirement planning, it is also imperative to do so. This is because, whether we have the talks or not, life happens. We’ve all encountered people caught unawares by unforeseen life events. They are often ill-prepared, financially over-burdened and mentally at their wit's end. Not having a plan leaves you scrambling with few options in a difficult situation. Currently, only 40% of Americans have a will and 17% have a trust in place.[i] That leaves a lot of people in a precarious position if something unexpected happened.
Start Planning Early
As life happens fast, it’s vital that conversations about long-term care in the face of poor health, chronic illness, or diminished mental capacities need to be happening long before you retire. While people are still working, planning for retirement and saving, talks about the future and specifically the future of elderly parents or how to handle the unexpected can stave off a lot of stress and heartache if the unthinkable happened.
It’s much easier to plan, discuss, and have frank conversations before a challenging life event occurs. Laying groundwork with ailing parents, talking through plans, touring facilities, and arranging finances in advance will significantly ease difficult situations. We insure our homes and vehicles to protect our future and assets and having conversations about health and elder-care should fall into the same category. Preparing for the future will provide peace of mind during some of the hardest times in life.
How do you get started? The first step is planning your estate. It is important to get your house in order as far as creating a will, having a designated power of attorney, plans as far as medical care and that all of your wishes are properly and legally documented. Share your wishes with your family. If, down the line, you were unable to make choices for yourself, what’s sometimes called not “having the legal capacity”[ii], you want to have your estate prepared with clear instructions regarding a power of attorney for finances, a living trust, arrangements for minors, property, funerary arrangements. Retaining a lawyer and an estate planner may help with the more complicated aspects of the process and remove the burden from family.
Where Will You Live?
Taking the time to consider your living arrangements as you age can make a big difference as far as the long-term quality of life goes. 87% of seniors plan to retire and spend their later years at home. [iii] Think about your home, are there ways to make your home safer and more aging-friendly? The majority of frail seniors would prefer to live at home, but their homes and needs may not make that the best option.[iv] Simple steps such as moving furniture, relocating bedrooms to first floors, adding bars to bathrooms and removing tripping hazards can make all the difference. Ask yourself: Are your doctors, grocery stores, pharmacies, and restaurants close? If you were unable to drive, do you have access to public transportation or car service? Making sure you have outlets to socialize and exercise are also very important, as they have been shown to improve cognitive and overall health.[v] Considering who will be able to help you manage your shopping, cleaning and general finances in advance will also have a large impact on the quality of life going forward. We don't like thinking about a time where we need help, but planning ahead can remove some of the discomforts.
Even with everything arranged for living at home, life sometimes intervenes. In fact, 70 percent of Americans older than the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point.[vi] What that means, is that as you are planning your estate and your home life, you should also be planning for a scenario where you may need to go into long-term care. Since every situation and family is different, having that discussion early and making plans for those eventualities will make it much easier down the line.
Aging and health declines do not just affect an individual, it’s a family affair, and as such the more communicative we are about our plans and desires in advance the better off everyone is. Because over 30% of elder fraud was actually committed by someone with power of attorney [vii], Talk to your financial institutions, lawyers, or a financial advisor and document your wishes thoroughly. Having trusted powers of attorney to protect you and your assets in a scenario where you may be unable to make decisions can provide peace of mind looking toward your future. Keeping yourself financially and legally trusted and making choices regarding power of attorney while mentally competent to do so if the best defense against elder fraud and abuse.
Peace of Mind
If you haven’t started thinking about your long-term plans, now is the time. Investing in your future and making sure that you spent your later retirement years safe and secure, and most importantly on your own terms is an invaluable gift to yourself. It’s a challenging and emotional topic to bring up with your family, but better to do it when you can, and you can make your wishes known. No one can know what the future holds, but having plans for what your later years look like, can take some of the weight and worry off both you and your family. Staying in your home, comfortable and safe, and knowing if the unthinkable happened that you would be protected and cared for is a relief worth a few uncomfortable conversations.
About the Author
As a Co-Founder, Craig brings years of hands on experience helping clients make informed investment and financial planning decisions. Craig takes great care in understanding his clients near and long term goals and implements an investment strategy around those goals.