For decades you have lived an amazing life. You have seen so many memorable things, and arguably, participated in writing history. You have lived a life that only others your age can truly appreciate, and a life the younger generations have yet to fully understand. However, in recent years you have found yourself slowing down. You are no longer as active in your travels as you once were. You are no longer as mobile, and may even require some level of ongoing support from your family or friends. Facing your own mortality may not be something that you want to think about, but you need to take the steps to prepare a plan. This is where developing a senior care transition plan with the right senior care team can make those final years as enjoyable as possible. In this article we will talk about some, not all, of the individuals you may want to consider adding to your senior care team when developing your senior care plan.
What is Senior Care Planning?
Senior Care Planning can be a difficult concept to wrap one’s mind around. Over the last fifteen years of working in financial planning, I have been told that planning for "the end” isn’t something my clients ever want to think about. Responses like “that is too morbid” or “I don’t want to think about the end, I want to focus on the present” are all too common. When faced with your own mortality, there is a sobering feeling of wanting to cling to the present. While it is common for some families to experience mortality rates in their late 70’s, or early 80’s, others will live into their 90’s. Therefore, how does someone plan for the unknown if they do not know when the unknown will happen?
When planning for future care it becomes important to understand what you are willing to live with and what you are willing to live without. To do this you will need to explore the resources, the living arrangements, and different support services available throughout the transition process. Then once you understand the people, facilities, and tools available you can begin to narrow down the options that meet your standards.
The Senior Care Team
As you begin to map out your desired living and care arrangements you might be wondering if there is anyone you should include in this process. When building your transition plan we strongly advise you to consider the following:
- Your family
Your estate/elder care attorney
- Your financial professional
A geriatric care manager
- Senior support services (i.e. home care and other adult support service companies)
A large component of becoming comfortable with this process is knowing your wishes will be carried out. In order to make sure your requests are honored, your family needs to know what you want, how you want to receive care, and the types of extenuating support services you want used to prolong your life. When the time comes to execute a senior care plan, the process of doing so becomes much easier if all family members are in agreement on what your final years will look like. Since it can be a very emotional process, it is never too early to begin a discussion with your family and share your thoughts on how you want to live out your final years.
The Estate Attorney
There is an adage “nothing in life is guaranteed except for death and taxes”. Whether or not you believe this to be true, there is one profession that can help plan for both - estate planning. Estate planning entails arranging your personal, financial, and medical affairs in order before incapacity or death, through the use of a set of legal documents such as a Will, Advanced Medical Directive, Living Will, Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, and in some cases a Trust.
Why then would you want to include this person on your senior care team? Well depending on your financial resources at the end of your life, you may want to consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in a subset of estate planning called Elder Care Planning. These individuals can provide you with the necessary legal advice to guide you in understanding how to protect your financial assets, and the legal allowable limits under Medicaid rules, should you need Medicaid services in the future. This way a couple can better plan how to divide their resources between the husband and wife in the event that one person needs care before the other. It is important to note that there are other benefits to using an Elder Care attorney, but the one many people cite is their knowledge related to building Medicaid into a senior care plan.
The Financial Professional
As you build your senior care plan, you will soon come to realize that it can become very expensive. You may come to wonder, pretty quickly, how you will pay for the various levels of care. To this end, we encourage everyone to layout their current expenses and project what additional expenses you might incur as you age. This will allow your financial professional to perform some calculations and determine how long your investment portfolio will last based on varying consumption rates. Furthermore, if your financial professional finds that you have a gap in your financial plan, then they can outline the necessary steps to take to fill your gap, or potential ways to reduce your expense projections. The last thing you want to do in your final years is be told you do not have enough money to remain in the place you originally planned to receive care.
The Geriatric Care Manager
In 2008 the New York Times ran an op-ed piece by Jane Gross that succinctly stated a geriatric care manager is “educated in various fields of human services such as social work, psychology, nursing, gerontology and trained to assess, plan, coordinate, monitor and provide services for the elderly and their families”. Second to your family, this individual can act as your advocate and help you, along with your family, navigate obstacles that may derail your senior care plan in your final years. Unfortunately, unlike those mentioned above, this person may not be an independent consultant, but a company. While that might not seem like a big distinction, it should be noted that the two previous professionals have probably spent a fair amount of time getting to know you and your situation. In the event that something were to happen financially, or legally, then the aforementioned individuals may still be your primary points of contact. However, with respect to a geriatric care manager, their time with a family is finite making their case load dependent on their client’s life expectancy. You may interview someone today whom you like, but when the day comes that you need care, they may have a full case load of families they are already working with. It is for this reason that we encourage our clients to interview more than one company, and to get to know their care managers in order to understand their philosophies and values.
Senior Support Services
Senior Support Services is a pretty broad category and can include, nurses, housekeepers, adult day care providers, and more. To learn more about the various support services in your area, it is recommended that you reach out to your state or county to learn about available aging programs and services. Alternatively, the geriatric care manager mentioned above may be connected to other organizations in your community, and may be able to direct you to additional resources.
Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.