While each state, country, and hospital has its own rules and regulations, there are certain core tenets that each person needs to think about as they age. Planning for different outcomes in aging requires medical, legal, and financial preparation. It also involves other family members in addition to doctors. It can be confusing, which is why it is important to begin early. There are multiple steps to take, all of which have the unique challenges.
Step 1: Make a list of anticipated challenges.
Each individual is different and has different challenges they will meet. First, think about your health. What are your different health conditions? How well are they controlled? How likely is it that you will need to be hospitalized in the near future? Would you prefer to be cared for by a loved one, a caregiver in your home, or in a nursing facility? Although it may seem far in advance, many of the most common health problems in older age should be planned for. Your wants should be clearly spelled out to all family members who will be involved in your care.
Certain problems that are health-related are also related to legal issues. For example, people who lose their ability to make medical decisions must identify someone as a decision-maker, or the state will identify one for them based on the next-of-kin law. Advanced directives and medical power-of-attorney require physicians and attorneys, depending on what they involve. Identify any legal issues that you may have as you age.
Lastly, identifying financial challenges is key when formulating a plan for healthy aging. Obviously, finances shape your decisions. Make a list of any challenges, such as lack of life insurance, insufficient funds for nursing homes or caregivers, or whether you are the sole breadwinner. Additionally, financial abuse is a major issue in older adults. Make a list of people or organizations who may prey on your or your loved ones.
Step 2: Plan ahead to minimize future issues.
After making a list of the anticipated challenges to healthy aging, it is now time to actually begin formulating a plan. Certain websites, like PREPARE for your care and the American Bar Association’s Commission on Law and Aging offer resources that can help you in your planning. While these websites are fantastic resources, it is also important to involve professionals. Depending on the subject matter, the relevant professionals are typically doctors, lawyers, and possibly financial planners.
Step 3: Complete the necessary documents.
First, complete a durable power of attorney for healthcare and advance directive documents. These documents identify your wants as to end of life care, such as if you would like chest compressions or intubation in the event of cardiac arrest. They also identify a decision-maker in the event that you are no longer able to make decisions, either permanently or for a period of time. Typically, but not always, filling out these documents involves a physician. That way, you can ask all of the questions about your options before you complete the documents. The advance directive can be updated by filling out a new form.
Financial and legal documents are also very important in aging. A will is completed with a lawyer and specifies your desires upon your passing. While these are costlier to update, it is never too early to have a will. Second, it is important to identify a Power of Attorney. A legal power of attorney is different from the healthcare power of attorney. This POA involves the services of a lawyer to identify a person who is able to make legal and financial decisions if you are unable to do so. It is best to identify this person that you trust while you still have the capacity to do so.
Aging can seem simultaneously looming but also far away. Regardless of your age, it is important to start planning for different legal, financial, and medical outcomes. Identifying and planning for certain challenges associated with aging make it more likely that you receive the care that you want. Identifying possible challenges, planning using resources to mitigate those challenges, and completing the necessary documents are the three steps you need to complete in order to plan for your health and financial wellness as you age. At the Anti-Aging and Wellness Clinic, we can walk you through common issues and your options.