It would be nice if we could choose how our final years will play out, but that isn't quite how life works. Will you need memory care assistance? Will you be sick or injured and require long-term care? Or will you shuffle off this mortal coil quickly and quietly? Will you live to be 65 or 105?
Planning for this chapter of life sure would be a lot simpler if you had a crystal ball!
But since good fortune tellers are tough to find, as you enter your senior years, you need to be sure you have the right team in place to help you prepare for the many unknowns of your future. Who should be on that team? Here are some recommendations:
A financial planner
An experienced adviser can objectively analyze your financial situation to provide guidance on what senior living arrangements are within your budget. They can also offer suggestions and recommend financing options for long-term care, possibly including long-term care insurance. Keep in mind that while Medicare will pay for some in-home care, it covers only limited skilled institutional nursing and will not pay for long-term custodial or unskilled care.
A seasoned attorney is valuable in numerous situations throughout life, but as you approach your senior years, you should have a lawyer well-versed in senior care issues to draw up the appropriate documents designating an adult child or other trusted adviser as your power of attorney in the event you become mentally or physically disabled. A power of attorney will allow that designee to make medical decisions and pay bills, among other tasks. And if you don't already have a will (or it could stand to be updated), a lawyer can help you with that crucial task as well.
Your primary care practitioner is able to assess your overall mental and physical health to help you determine your safest, most-appropriate living situation. A gerontologist–a physician who specializes in working with aging patients and their related health issues–can be a particularly helpful advocate and adviser for seniors, and can refer you to other medical specialists if warranted. They can also provide valuable senior fitness advice and other senior life tips.
Family and friends
No major life decision should be made without first consulting with friends and family, and that holds true when seniors are making important choices about their future. Plan as a family, after all, the entire family is impacted by these decisions. Discuss what would be your ideal senior living situation, but also be prepared to discuss how you will alter your course as circumstances evolve, be it a financial change or a mental or physical health issue.
Another option: an elder care expert
If you prefer a more streamlined team for planning your senior living situation, you could simply hire an elder care expert, also known as an aging life care professional. You can learn more from the Aging Life Care Association, but in short, these experts are uniquely qualified to provide counsel on aging-related issues, possessing degrees and experience in human services, including social work, psychology, gerontology, or nursing. They are specially trained to evaluate, first and foremost, health and safety, but also have expertise on issues related to financial status, disability, and housing choices, including continuing care retirement communities(CCRCs) and ccrc types.
An elder care expert will work not only with the senior but will also consult with the person's family in order to provide guidance and help make sensible decisions. This type of professional will typically charge an initial assessment fee between $400 and $800, and then will work hourly beyond that for $100 to $200 per hour, depending on the region of the country you live in. (The Northeast and Midwest are more expensive than the South and West.)
So who is on your team? Who will help you put an appropriate and effective plan in place for the many unknowns of your senior years?
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