Planning for the Future
Whether you’re 39 or 99, it’s never too early to start planning.
For most of us, the majority of our older years are spent healthy and active. However, many people experience an eventual need for assistance due to acquired disability, aging-related conditions and/or other illnesses. If services and supports are arranged, most of us can continue to live in, contribute to and stay connected to our communities.
Exploring and discussing legal and financial affairs with a lawyer and/or financial advisor, as well as preferences in terms of care and living arrangements with your family and physician will help you and your loved ones plan and make practical decisions for affordable services, approaches to care and supports, living arrangements, transportation needs, living wills and end-of-life care.
Choices That Support Independence: Medical Care and Other Options to Consider
Most of us prefer to stay in our homes or communities of choice as we age. When planning for your future care and independence, it is important to discuss your preferences with your doctor and loved ones and document your preferences. Knowing options in your community and having the opportunity to ask questions and voice concerns is important. Topics you may want to cover include: care and supportive services, residential preferences, medical treatments/approaches, transportation and end-of-life decisions.
When choosing services and care, assessing individual preferences, needs, capabilities and financial status will help determine which services best fit your needs. When assessing strengths and abilities, it’s important to address issues such as mental and physical health, dressing and eating abilities, transportation skills and medical needs.
A wide range of home and community-based services are available for people of all levels of need:
In-Home Care and Services provide people with chronic health conditions and/or occasional acute health crises care and support in the comfort of their home. The goal of these in-home services is to assist you and/or your loved one as they strive to stay in the community and living arrangement of their choice. In-home care can range from light housekeeping and meal preparation to personal and/or medical care, such as nursing or therapy.
Adult Day Services provide a coordinated program of professional and compassionate services for older adults and adults with intellectual or developmental disabilities in a community-based group setting. Services are designed to provide meaningful experiences and engagement as well as social and some health services to adults who need supervised care in a safe place outside the home -- primarily offered during the day.
Rehabilitation Programs include occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech and language pathology, audiology, early intervention and other therapies that teach people the skills they need to live, learn, work and play in their communities.
Hospice and Palliative Care is end of life care that provides comfort, support and high-quality care for persons with life limiting conditions and their families, through a team of caring professionals and paraprofessionals. This service is usually provided in an individual’s home or place of residence. The focus of hospice care is comfort as opposed to cure. Hospice uses expert pain and symptom management to make individuals comfortable and relieve their symptoms and pain for the duration of their illness.
Proactively planning for mobility needs is a key component in planning for your loved one’s future.
Family members and caregivers play significant roles in meeting the mobility needs of their loved ones. A wide variety of transportation options such as buses, vans, taxis, or even volunteer drivers from human service organizations will be vital to consider in the planning process -- as well as to both explore and promote in your communities.
Although many older adults do require transportation support to stay involved and connected to their communities, older adults are also an invaluable resource in roles such as volunteer drivers or caregivers providing rides and/or accompanying others during their trips.
There are a variety of organizations that can assist you in learning about the options available in your community or in driver training and support, such as your local Area Agency on Aging, Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC), Indian Tribal Organization, AAA (formerly the American Automobile Association), and the National Center on Senior Transportation (NCST) which offers numerous resources, including Transportation Solutions for Caregivers.
Legal and Financial Planning
Dealing with financial and legal issues can be burdensome and overwhelming. Taking time and planning for your future preferences and needs will put you in the driver’s seat on these issues. Here are some steps and items to consider:
Assessing your situation and finances is an important step when planning for your future. Having an accurate assessment of your finances allows you to make decisions on what types of care you can afford.
- Develop an inventory of all assets, including insurance policies and retirement plans.
- Closely review insurance coverage and government benefits, as some insurance policies might cover physical therapy or other services in addition to providing monthly disability payments.