If you have aging loved ones, you might be thinking about what they may need you to do to help them as they get older. You might know nothing concrete about their financial picture, including their assets, debts, investments, accounts, pensions, retirement or other benefits. If they cannot make or communicate their decisions or take care of themselves, due to injury or illness, how will you figure out the bills you need to pay, find their checkbooks, discover who is supposed to be paying them benefits or income and other necessary information?
If you could go back and sit down with them to ask them these questions, it would make your task much easier. When should you start eldercare planning?
The Best Time is Now
Wondering when to plan for eldercare is like wondering when is the best time to write a will or take out life insurance. The time to write a will or buy life insurance is before you need them. The ideal time to begin eldercare planning is before there is a crisis. In the real world, however, many people do not engage in elder care planning, until they absolutely must, such as when a senior has suffered a stroke or heart attack.
How to Start the Eldercare Planning Process
The AARP says that the most important thing is to start (and complete) the process, regardless of whether the ideal time was well in the past. The AARP suggests a five-step approach to eldercare planning:
- Prepare to have the conversation. The talk should initially focus on the senior’s outlook for the future. Explore her goals for the coming years and what factors, such as independence, financial security and being close to family, are essential to her. Ask about the activities she wants to pursue.
- Decide who will be on your loved one’s family caregiving team. These teams usually consist of family members and close friends. Be careful not to “take over” or treat the senior like a child. His input is the most crucial facet of the plan.
- Assess your loved one’s needs – both current and future. Determine areas of need, such as personal care, transportation, financial matters, home maintenance and modifications, medical care, insurance, adaptive devices like walkers or wheelchairs, the schedule of caregiving visits and her living situation. As part of this stage of planning, get all of your loved one’s relevant documents, healthcare provider contact information and medical and financial information.
- Make the plan. The plan can be a simple, handwritten outline that contains the general guidelines, decisions, and agreements. Write this draft while the team is still together to make sure there are no misunderstandings or disagreements.
- Put the plan into action. Depending on the facts of your situation, you might need to implement some or all aspects of the plan right away, or you might put it away in a file cabinet until circumstances make it necessary.
This posting is about the general law, and laws vary from one state to another. Talk with an elder lawyer near you to protect your rights.
AARP. “Prepare to Care: A Planning Guide for Families.” (accessed January 31, 2018) https://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/articles/foundation/aa66r2_care.pdf
MarketWatch. “A simple but thorough checklist to help aging parents.” (accessed January 31, 2018) https://www.marketwatch.com/story/a-simple-but-thorough-checklist-to-help-aging-parents-2014-10-30