We all should be aiming to grow our pennies to help us live richer lives.
You may not have thought about it but making plans for your own care later in life or figuring out how to provide for an elderly parent or other loved one is an important step in this process.
Unfortunately, until you have experienced the unique challenges that can unexpectedly arise in old age it can be very difficult to know what questions to ask and what arrangements to make. To help in that regard, here are four tips from those who have “been there, done that” when it comes to elder care.
1) Include Alzheimer’s Planning
First of all, prepare for the possibility that the senior will suffer from debilitating memory loss and confusion related to Alzheimer’s or dementia. One out of every three seniors will die of Alzheimer’s or other forms of dementia and the presence of that disease can radically complicate elder care. That’s why it is prudent to assume that it may be a real possibility – otherwise your carefully crafted plans could be upended and rendered obsolete by the onset of dementia and all the problems it brings.
People afflicted by this disease become unable to cognitively manage their own affairs. They may experience symptoms including fear and panic-inducing confusion, short term memory loss that impairs their ability to take care of themselves, or outright psychotic breaks from reality. The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease is growing as the population ages, and it is estimated that within the next 10-12 years, the number of Americans with Alzheimer’s will exceed seven million. That’s a 40% increase from where we are today, so if you are doing prudent planning you must take these statistics into consideration.
2) Get Your Documents Sorted Out
To ensure adequate care, you need an adequate plan and that includes health insurance, retirement savings, life insurance to provide for your family and documents such as a Last Will and a Health Care Power of Attorney. Sadly, less than half of all Americans have an estate plan.
The implementation of a comprehensive plan can be legally and financially complicated, so do yourself a favor and start early. Keep in mind that these days most people have digital assets including things like important email accounts, smart phone accounts, digital scrapbooks, bank accounts, brokerage accounts, and online businesses. Make an inventory of all significant digital or online assets along with passwords, and keep that valuable information in a safe, secure place.
3) Seek Out Geriatric Specialists
One of the things family members caring for seniors frequently learn the hard way is that there is a world of difference between ordinary health care and geriatric care. Many seniors complain that they cannot even get appointments with doctors and dentists because once the receptionist finds out that they are in their 80s the doctor’s calendar mysteriously fills up. After all, it can be more challenging to treat the elderly and they may represent a greater liability for health care providers who aren’t experts at working with older people.
Treating a patient with Alzheimer’s also exponentially complicates the situation. A simple dental checkup or appointment with an eye doctor to get a new pair of glasses can be fraught with drama and difficulty. The solution is to enlist the help of health care providers in all the various fields and medical specialties who have additional credentials as geriatric specialists. They are trained to work with the elderly and they know how to deal with the complexities while providing that extra dose of comfort, reassurance, and respect.
It’s also important to note that women are generally healthier than men, but they should not interpret that statistic as an excuse to skip this step. In fact, the opposite applies because women usually live significantly longer than men, which increases the need to shop for doctors experienced in geriatrics.
4) Shop for a Continuum of Care
Last, but not least, when doing research into retirement or assisted living facilities, think long term. Many seniors spend extraordinary amounts of time and money to find an appropriate place to live, but they overlook the fact that the majority of retirement homes and similar facilities do not offer a complete continuum of care. The key question you need to always ask is “If I live in that kind of facility and get sick, what happens then?”
There are quite a few facilities that specialize in Alzheimer’s care, for example, but they do not, however, have the resources to care for people who need skilled nurses. Once a person requires help to get out of bed, for instance, whether it’s because of a broken hip or recovery from some kind of surgery, they may no longer be able to live in a facility. That will require starting all over again to find a new place to live that offers skilled nursing services, and nobody wants to deal with the challenge of that kind of project plus the subsequent move – maybe to a completely different town – at a time like that. The solution is to buy into a facility that offers all three levels of living arrangements – independent living, assisted living, and skilled nursing.
Tom Kerr writes for CompareCards.com in addition to others. He has been an avid writer for years, even winning awards for work he’s done.