As kids, we plan for what “we want to be when we grow up”. As we move through adolescence, our plans become more sophisticated and far-reaching. We think about looking for a job, going back to school, or traveling. We figure out when we can move out on our own. We think through the need to buy and insure a car or if we need to use public transportation for a while. We talk about and plan for marriages, families, saving for school for the kids, and saving for retirement.
Some of us even plan our memorial services, burial arrangements, and write our own obituaries. My Mom has a file at her home with all the information she thinks we should know. I was told that my sister, who lives near her, has a copy of that file “for when it’s needed”. That way no one will have to try and figure out who to contact or what to say, as we grieve her passing. It’s all in the plan!
What we fail to plan for is the inevitable…the time between retirement and death, you know the “Golden Years.” This is when you break that hip traveling the world or get diagnosed with a sudden illness or cancer. Then there’s the time when your spouse forgets the doctor’s appointment or can't remember where the car is parked….again. But these things aren’t going to happen to you, right? Wrong.
When this trying time for your family occurs, having a plan can result in less of a crisis or family in a severely disorganized situation.
Here are 7 important topics to get your planning process started:
- Think through and have conversation about your wishes: It’s difficult and can be anxiety-producing to think through a lot of “what if’s”. And, over time your wishes may change depending on your circumstances. However, using a good guide for discussion, such as “Five Wishes” can help you think through the challenges, talk with your family, and results in a completed document to give to your family and physicians.
- Complete Advance Directives: Whether you do this through an attorney, a document such as “Five Wishes”, or paperwork through your doctor, it's important to have these legally recognized documents in place for the state in which you live.
- Complete all needed legal documents: Make sure you have all the legal documents you may need, including POA-Finance, POA-Healthcare, Advance Directives, and a Will. Keep original documents in a safe place that your POA can access and give copies to those who need them.
- Have in-depth conversations, with updates, with your POA for Healthcare: As noted, you may change your mind about your wishes as circumstances change. Be sure to “open the door” and talk with your loved ones about what is important to you, what you do not want changed, and what latitude you extend for decision-making based on your best interests. Don't wait until a crisis when emotions are high to talk about and make these decisions.
- Tour and interview short-term and long-term healthcare facilities and hospitals. Make yourself knowledgeable about what types of care you want and where you want to receive it. This is your right, exercise it. You won’t regret this.
- List elder law attorneys, financial planners, doctors, and other professionals you have consulted: Let your POAs know the name, address, and phone number of each professional you have consulted along the way. Also, put together a list of insurance, long-term care, or other policy information, as well as how to contact those providers if needed.
- Know where to turn for Care Management services: Consider adding the name, address (including email address), and phone contact for your local Aging Life Care™ Manager. It’s a great idea, at least to have a free 30-minute consultation with an Aging Life Care Professional® to build rapport and decide who you would want contacted should your family not know which way to turn. Let your family know that Aging Life Care™ Managers help families discover a better road-map to address healthcare-related challenges and realize peace of mind. What an unexpected but welcomed gift to your family, if needed.
Once you start the conversation, you’ll figure out what else to cover as part of your “in-between” plan!
Written by Elaine Wilson, LCSW, CCM Director of Outreach
with Casey Rausin-Lane, RN, CCM Aging Life Care™ Program Manager