Gayle Reeves' Blog

Planning for Aging

Gayle A. Reeves - Tuesday, September 02, 2014

We are all getting older.  It is an undeniable fact of life no matter how much we would like to think otherwise.  Everyone plans for a vacation, education for our children, and retirement.  But what about planning for aging?  Planning for aging simply means that we want to be certain that our wishes will be carried out in the event of deteriorating health, disability and death.  It also means that these wishes are communicated to our loved ones, so that they can make the “right” decision for us.  We can begin with some simple documents which I have previously discussed, such as the Healthcare Power of Attorney, Financial Power of Attorney and Will.  It is one thing to have these documents in place.  It is another thing to communicate our desires to the persons whom we have appointed to act on our behalf.

            Let’s take the Healthcare Power of Attorney.  In this document you name the person whom you wish to make end-of-life decisions for you in the event you are not able to make them for yourself.  But, have you actually communicated your wishes regarding end-of-life care to your agent?  This is an uncomfortable discussion, but a very necessary one.  Think about some medical situations that might occur so that you can help that person make decisions consistent with your wishes.  What if you had a stroke, Alzheimer’s, cancer?  Never hesitate to express your wishes.

            A Financial Power of Attorney seems pretty straightforward - someone pays your bills if you cannot do it for yourself.  But this document should be used to communicate what is important to you and what you want.  Do you want to remain in your home despite any worsening medical condition?  Do you want all of your money used on your care, or would you like to try to preserve some of your assets for the benefit of your loved ones?  Do you want family members to get paid for the things they do for you, even if it is the person handling your finances?  Open communication permits your agent to handle your finances in a manner consistent with your wishes.

            Assist your loved ones with making decisions regarding your long-term care by discussing some basic questions.  If you require care, where do you want to receive it; who do you want to provide it; how will you pay for it; what do you need to do to make sure that you can get the long-term care that you want.  If your long-term care wishes are not practical given your finances, look at ways to make it happen.  Possibly long-term care insurance, a reverse mortgage, or other types of financial planning will help you achieve your desires.

            Plan for your funeral and burial.  Meet with a funeral director to discuss what you would like to happen when you die.  This way you will get exactly what you want, and your family will not have to make difficult, and sometimes very expensive decisions, at a time when their grief is overwhelming.  I am not suggesting that you must prepay for the arrangements, although sometimes it is beneficial to do so, all I am saying is that there be a clear expression of your wishes.

            Lastly, make your wishes known to all of your loved ones.  A family meeting is a great way to let everyone know why you have chosen a particular person to make certain decisions for you, to discuss the practicality of your long-term care wishes, and to be open with your loved ones about your thoughts on end-of-life decisions.  Not only will this give you peace of mind knowing your wishes will be carried out, but it will give your loved ones the peace of mind knowing that they are doing exactly what you want.