The Impacts of Aging | The Importance of Having a Plan
As financial advisors, we have seen what happens when people have not planned for older age and the challenges that come with it.
We often meet the children or spouse of someone who has significant medical issues, like Alzheimer's disease, parkinson's, Dementia, or other chronic illnesses--that have led them to substantial diminished capacity-- physically, mentally or both. They come to us at their wit's end, trying to scramble to put together a plan, when, in many cases, only very little can be done to ease the burden.
When we meet with these families and try to assist them, it is a constant reminder of why, even when we begin a relationship with people who are still in their careers, we discuss the plans for aging, and provide a strategy--should people not age as gracefully as we all would hope to.
When caring for an elderly parent, spouse or family member who is suffering from Alzheimer's, dementia or another disease that has led to diminished capacity, one can often feel overwhelmed emotionally, physically, and financially. Perhaps it is not even your own finances which have you concerned, but handling the finances of someone who requires more and more care and does not necessarily have the right plans in place to get the help they need. This type of predicament can be too much to bear the burden of on your own.
This article is a call to action to be proactive about your choices and plans for how you will age and what will be needed for your care and your financial management. For those who have older spouses and parents who have not yet begun to have these types of discussions, we hope that the following recommendations will help you frame your approach to opening the lines of communication.
Planning for later years has become a part of our process with all of our clients and is an essential part of a comprehensive life long plan. It is important to handle these things early, especially with regard to your estate, so that, in the event that you aren't able to make those decisions on your own, your wishes have been communicated regarding how you would like your estate handled. If you wait too long those documents could become invalid.
As you age, it is important to make sure that you have considered the changes that will occur in terms of health, stability, your expenses versus your income, and your ability to get around as independently as you would like. Taking into consideration even the minor details of your daily routine can have a tremendous impact on the decisions that you should make about your living arrangements. They can be affected by:
- The location of your doctors and their distance from your home
- How close you live to grocery stores/restaurants
- Whether your home has been/can be made aging friendly
- Who will be available to assist you with shopping, cleaning and other daily household activities
- Who will help you manage general financial matters
In addition to these practical elements it is important to consider what your daily activity level will be as well as what social interaction would be like as you age. Even for those who are married, having social encounters is important for improved cognitive function and emotional well-being. It is also worth mentioning that studies have shown that those with more physical and social activity as they age are less likely to have as many medical issues both related to cognitive function and otherwise.
Long Term Care
It is important for you to have a fundamental awareness of the fact that, at some point in your life, you will probably need long term care. Planning ahead for long term care is a crucial part of any successful financial plan and having the conversation does not always lead to buying an insurance product. Having a conversation helps to establish expectations and come to an agreement on what a stable and secure long term care strategy will be for your unique family situation. Doing this type of planning while of sound mind makes the implementation of a strategy that much easier if, and when, it should ever be needed.
When you begin to age to the point that you are not capable to lead a fully independent life it is not just you who is affected by this transition. Family members, spouses and caregivers all must be considered in a holistic plan to aging. For many who are already in the throws of cognitive decline, the rationality necessary to make these decisions in a manner that accounts for all parties and factors simply is not there. And the rest of the team is not just handling the care for their loved one and patient, but managing the stress of trying to reason with a person who has lost their capacity to do so.
The Wisdom of Forethought
If you do not yet have a plan for how you will age and no sense of how it might affect your living situation, your finances, or the impact that it will have on the people closest to you, then it might be time to begin the conversation. In many cases, the hardest part is talking about it. Then it's real, right?
We all age. Some of us stay in our homes until the day we die and will have little need for extra assistance. Some people go through periods of needing assistance due to a fall, surgery or other ailment, and then get back to living largely independent lives. Some people need a bit of help getting around and have a family member close by with the time and means to lend a helping hand. Some people need extensive care, beyond the capabilities of most family members and spouses. Planning for the possibilities of what aging may or may not bring will help you and your loved ones live more secure and less stressful lives.
As financial planning professionals with extensive experience helping families plan for their unique needs, we have, too often, seen what can happen to when a loved one hasn't planned properly for the financial, emotional and logistical aspects of aging. As fiduciary advisors, we help our clients plan for the future. In some cases that means something exciting and in other cases it is for something that is hard to discuss. Whatever the circumstance, we pride ourselves as being an unbiased coach to our clients to help them define their goals and needs, and to provide them with choices that are in their very best interest.
If you or a loved one has not yet taken the first steps in creating an elder care plan, do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a discovery session.