It’s time to address the elephant in the room surrounding aging: planning for the future. Everyone, young and old, has most likely had these questions enter their mind: “Will I be able to age at home?” “Who will help take care of me as I age?” “Will Medicare pay for my bills?”
Often a daunting concept, the future entails unknowns and unpredictability, making it a difficult subject of conversation. Wrapping our minds around what is to come can be overwhelming, but putting off planning for potential outcomes may only worsen these feelings. While sooner may be better, it is never too late to have these crucial discussions with family members, care providers, and others in your social circle. Planning for your healthcare wishes, housing, finances, and more empowers individuals to age well.
Whether you are an older adult seeking to discuss and share your preferences for your future, the family member of an aging individual wanting to help your loved one plan, or a person from a younger generation wanting to learn more about what to plan for, consider these topics to discuss:
Where do you see yourself spending the later years of your life? You may want to be surrounded by the comforts and memories of your home, or perhaps you may want to start a new chapter at a retirement community. No matter your preference, living in an accommodating environment that can adapt to your needs as you age is a top priority. If you want to age in place at your current home, start observing areas/rooms that may need modification. A few examples may be installing grab bars to a reinforced wall in a bathroom or widening doorways to accommodate assistive devices such as a walker or wheelchair. Become educated on potential insurance coverage for home modifications before starting the process.
On the other hand, if you wish to relocate to start fresh with opportunities to meet new people, make sure you take the time to find a community in which you can thrive. If it is a senior living community you are looking for, consider their goals, mission statements, staff first impressions, available activities, involvement and engagement of the residents, etc. Additionally, if you wish to have continued care as you age, this may mean finding a Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC), which may have options to add on care as it is needed in the form of Assisted Living and Memory Care. The takeaway is knowing your options if you wish to relocate. Retirement communities are not all the same and may offer different levels of care in the long term. Identify what makes you feel most at home, knowing your health and well-being are in good hands and you are in a healthy environment that promotes aging well. Consider working with an Aging Life Care Manager or Senior Living Advisor to ensure that the senior living community is accredited and that the move runs smoothly.
It’s now time to address the question we all think about with a tinge of uncertainty: “Who will help take care of me as I age?” While we would like to hope and assume that our family members or close friends will help care for us, the discussion of caregiving is essential. Sharing expectations, identifying gaps, and solidifying plans will help mitigate stress and worry for all parties involved. Discuss potential health outcomes and differing levels of care throughout the years. Even though plans may not pan out how we expect, having them in place can ensure better outcomes. Be patient and open-minded, as well as honest and understanding. These topics can be taxing as many different family dynamics and situations exist. It may be best to go into these conversations with your expectations at bay – this way, the aging individual and family members, friends, or others can work together to create a plan in which everyone is on board.
Additionally, speak with your healthcare provider about your health goals. He or she may provide insight into future care needs. If you feel more comfortable with backup support being present with you at the doctor’s office as you share your wishes and health goals, bring a family member or friend who can help advocate on your behalf. If you feel you have no advocates nearby, consider an Aging Life Care Manager who may serve as your advocate or fill-in family member. These professionals are experts in aging and can help to relay your wishes and desires and formulate a plan to ensure a high standard of care is met.
As healthcare costs can become astronomical, it is important to know the ins and outs of your insurance policies. Health insurance can be tricky to understand, so give yourself grace as you learn. If you want to learn more about what Medicare covers, the difference between Part A and Part B, etc., read more here: https://www.medicare.gov/what-medicare-covers. Be sure and seek out a qualified broker that understands the benefits of each supplemental plan so that one tailored to your specific needs is put in place.
Overall, one of the best ways to plan for your future health is by taking care of yourself by eating well and staying physically active. While health can take unexpected turns at any point in time due to unprecedented accidents or diagnoses, diet and exercise are the small ways we can control our health that make significant impacts.
Legal – Advance Care Planning
Advance care planning, which is making your wishes and desires for care and advocacy in case of an emergency known, is critical to have in place. Your Advance Directives include identifying your healthcare Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and a DNR or Do-Not-Resuscitate Order, each of which provides a detailed outline to your loved ones and healthcare providers about your wishes for care and advocates to speak on your behalf in the event of an emergency or regarding end-of-life care. Making your future arrangements for healthcare and identifying your advocates officially by law can ensure your wishes and desires are the top priority if you are unable to speak for yourself. The best time to plan is now.
Learn more about Advance Care Planning and what each element entails in detail here: https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/advance-care-planning-health-care-directives
Advance Care Planning can be challenging to understand, considering its many elements and legal steps. Five Wishes is an online national advance care planning program that can be your guide through the entire process, identifying what is most important to you. As well as meeting medical and legal criteria, Five Wishes addresses personal, emotional, and spiritual wishes.
Learn more here: https://www.fivewishes.org/
The Conversation Project is another resource that offers free guides for Advance Care Planning, including a Conversation Starter Guide, Guide to Choosing a Health Care Proxy, Guide to Being a Health Care Proxy, and a Guide for Talking with a Health Care Team.
Learn more here: https://theconversationproject.org/
If you have questions about advocacy or think an Aging Life Care Manager could be of assistance in your care planning journey, call us today at (760) 266-4700.