Dear Feeling Vulnerable
My wife and I are planners. We are only 60 and 63, living in our own home and working. We have no children and we aren’t close to any nephews or nieces. We’ve been thinking about what is going to be for us as we age. We can’t imagine who will be there to help us out. We wonder when we should move and to where. How do we figure all this out? Can you give us any information or guidance? When we think ahead, we feel vulnerable.
Dear Feeling Vulnerable,
It makes perfect sense that the two of you would be feeling out of sorts about your future. Aging has some of the most profound and positive opportunities to experience while it can also be a time of great uncertainty. Most of us want to have some idea where we are headed in our lives and to have some sense of what to plan for. It is all too often that others will say, “But how can you plan when you have no idea what is going to happen to you?” Many of those people are shying away from finding out more. Many don’t want to know. It is unfortunate because when the time comes, they may not have a chance to express their wishes.
I am here to assure you that without knowing the precise changes that each of us will experience, there is information that is most useful . As we age, we know from statistics, that three out of four of us are going to require hands on care prior to the end of our lives. You cannot get around that fact. So why not take charge of thinking ahead so that you can experience some comfort in knowing that under particular circumstances, you have a plan. That’s right, a plan. Actually, you will likely have two or three plans…contingency plans.
The first step is to meet with a clinically trained Elder Care Consultant, trained as a clinician with vast experience and an encyclopedic knowledge of services. It is with them that you need to talk about yourselves. You will be asked to think about what is important to you. How do you view the world? Do you tend to see the cup half full or empty? If in the future, you do not want others, including health care professionals, to decide how you are going to live, where you will live, how your money will be spent and to have your choices honored, you want to be sure that an expert is told. This expert will ask lots and lots of questions to be sure that they will be able to represent you, to advocate for you and to ensure that your wishes are recognized and are adhered to when the time comes. This is an extremely important relationship. You must be sure that you decide if this Consultant is the person that you will be comfortable with as the years go by. Do you feel that they are listening? Do you feel that they could represent you and your wishes? Do you trust them?
Information regarding housing, care and funding must be addressed. To learn about insurance and public and private programs. To know about Veteran’s benefits for housing and care, to hear about specialized care for changes in memory/cognition and for consideration given to requests related to diversity. It may be vital to you to live among others of similar or different race, faith, gender identity, age, etc.
You should be advised to take a second and third step: retaining an Elder Law Attorney and a Financial Planner. Taking the information that you have learned from your conversations with the Elder Care Consultant to these professionals will complete what I refer to as “the trusted triangle.” Once they are privy to your lifestyle wishes and financial profile , they will talk with you to create necessary Advance Directives, Estate Planning documents and Financial Plans.
These are your advisors going forward to ensure that neither of you will ever be out there in this world as an older person without a safety net. Any of the plans developed with this threesome can be called into action at any time. As you age and find yourself having further questions or require someone to be with you, literally by your side through thick and thin, you will have what you need.
Isn’t this reassuring?
Choices are what we all want. To have control is critical. Having our choices honored is not to be compromised.