Even after you’ve made a conscious decision to start planning ahead—for your future and your future care needs—it can be difficult to know where to start. But don’t let yourself get bogged down. If you and your loved ones put off thinking about future care, for whatever reason, you run the risk of being financially or mentally unprepared when the need arises.
Just like if you had avoided putting money into a retirement account in your 20s, 30s and 40s you would probably have been in a world of financial hurt come age 70, if you don’t have a clear plan in place for a move to assisted care, you run the risk of losing control of decisions.
You may find yourself at the mercy of a limited budget, your family members’ decisions for you, or even state guidelines for senior care (if you are relying solely on Medicare to carry you through). You might find yourself in a community that is not of your choosing, at a time that is not of your choosing.
Worst case, if you put off accepting help in your advanced years because you feel afraid of losing control, or due to personal pride, you could place yourself at greater risk of life-threatening injury or illness.
Think about what steps you can take on your own.
If you’re stuck at where to start, here’s a list of first steps you can take to get your planning on track:
- Talk with your loved ones and start making plans. The sooner the better.
- You may want to talk to a financial planner and get help allocating your portfolio’s assets or setting aside income to cover the costs of assisted care in your future years.
- It’s always a good idea to involve your primary care team in any discussions about potential health needs whenever it is possible to do so. With a skilled medical professional onboard, you don’t have to worry about planning for every eventuality. Working together with a healthcare expert who knows your medical history and can give you an idea of what to expect in the future will ensure that the decisions you’re making now are medically appropriate.
- Record your preferences for care in a living will.
- Make sure you have your medical and financial power of attorney documentation in place, designating your approved representatives, in case you ever become unable to communicate your wishes.
- Take exploratory visits to retirement communities in your area and see which ones you may be interested in, if and when the time comes when you cannot live safely by yourself. Retirement communities welcome this; moreover, you could meet residents there and enjoy some quality visiting time getting to know your potentially new and interesting neighbors.
When all else fails, get an expert opinion.
When you run into roadblocks, don’t just stop planning—get an outside perspective. From elder law practices to investment firms that specialize in retirement planning, there are plenty of professionals out there who can provide expert insight into what to expect in the future. But, when it comes to your options for future care, your best resource may be a geriatric care manager.
Geriatric care management, a specialized field in the senior care industry, has one purpose: to help seniors make choices that maximize the health and quality of life.
Professionals in this industry have a working knowledge of the system and of geriatric healthcare and are able to offer suggestions for feasible long-term care solutions based on the dynamics of your particular situation, family connections and available social services.
The Bottom Line
By planning ahead and maintaining a clear line of communication with those who will be helping you make decisions, you can take some of the uncertainty out of future care. And you can ensure you’ll be in a retirement community or assisted living in which you will feel comfortable and happy.