by Carmen M. Verhosek, Esq.
Aging in place simply means that older individuals make a conscious decision to age in their current residence by adding the appropriate wrap-around services necessary in order to maintain their quality of life as they move along the aging continuum. This means planning early in regards to finances, estate plan, future health care needs and more.
But why plan? Simply put, it allows the aging individual to retain their independence and autonomy over their life as they continue to age.
Plan and plan early.
Often, conversations about aging and all that is associated with it are challenging and difficult to have with loved ones but are key in creating a plan that suits them.
- Talk about finances.
- Analyze the cost of care for their desired outcome and work backward. What does their retirement plan look like? Where will they like to live (current home, downsize, retirement community, etc.)? What is it going to cost? What if they need long-term care before expected? How does that change the plan?
- Talk about estate planning.
- Are their estate planning documents in order? Who has the authority to make decisions if they cannot make them for themselves? Consider the benefits of executing a healthcare power of attorney, living will, durable financial power of attorney, and last will and testament. If these documents already exist, ensure they are up-to-date.
- Talk about their long-term care wishes.
- Perhaps the most challenging conversation of the three, discussing your parents or loved one's long-term care wishes, is as important as it is difficult. Make sure you understand what they want should they become incapacitated. Talk about their wishes for end-of-life care.
Conduct life assessments.
- Engage with an elder law attorney who can help review and draft an estate plan for you, your parents and your loved ones. Use this opportunity to discuss long-term care options and costs.
- Engage with a geriatric care manager. These individuals will be able to identify potential health care needs, organize appropriate resources necessary for aging in place and can help your loved ones remain social and involved, should they choose to.
Assess their current living situation.
- Think about location. Will they become isolated in their home? Are their doctors, pharmacy and grocery stores in close proximity? How easily can they access what they need if they are no longer driving?
- Think about housing needs. Is their home functional or does it require remodeling, renovations and adaptive equipment? What will that cost in comparison to an assisted living community? Consider how a change in health will impact their housing needs.
- Think about safety. Note any safety concerns or hazardous conditions. Depending on your loved one, stairs may be a safety concern or, perhaps, an uneven sidewalk may be hazardous.
Everyone needs a support system. Think outside the box - beyond family and friends - and include community supports as well as hired supports.
- These are the family and friends that you and your loved one can rely on when in need.
- Consider what your loved one is involved in. Are there organizations or religious affiliations they are associated with? Do they offer resources or supports?
- Consider technology. There are some useful mobile apps available free of cost or at a low cost. These apps can help anywhere from providing de-stressing techniques to providing resources and education and anything in-between.
- Caring Village
- AARP Caregiving
- As mentioned above, geriatric care managers and elder law attorneys are an important tool when it comes to aging in place and can help you and your loved one determine additional needs and how to meet them.
Help your aging parents or loved ones by having these difficult conversations, analyzing their current and potential needs, and preparing for their future so that they may maintain the highest quality of life as they age in place.