Short-Term and Long-Term Planning

Short Term and Long Term Planning

Often when people are in search of assisted living options, they are in the midst of a life changing event.  Not many people plan to have poor health or the sudden inability to live alone.  Most of us hope we will live out our lives in our current homes with good health and family and friends to offer the support we need.  Many older adults do not have plans in place to cover all the issues in the later years of life, either socially or financially.

The typical thought we all seem to carry is that we think if we have sufficient funds for retirement and a place to live we will be fine.  But there is no sure way to plan for the unexpected events that change the nature of our later years.  If we prepare for the long-term, it may not happen.  If we prepare only for the short-term, or the next step, we may find ourselves faced with great difficulties when we are least able to handle them.  All we can do is expect the unexpected.

It makes sense to prepare for the short-term first.  If you are unable to live alone or with your spouse in your own home, where would you consider living?  Would moving to an assisted living community be your first option?  What about home care or services to help you maintain your health or your house?  Is living with family an option?

Now is the time to plan.  Here is a list of some short-term planning questions to ask yourself:

  • If my desire is to stay at home can I make my home more senior friendly? Will minor remodeling make this house easier to live in?  Things like lowering cabinets in the kitchen, building ramps to replace stairs outside, and replacing tubs with walk in showers are just a few of the changes that will make it easier to stay at home.
  • If I want to stay in my home and I need health services or home maintenance, who will deliver that service?  Now is the time to shop for these services.  Don’t wait for a plumbing disaster or a wind storm to decide that you are unable to care for your home or yard.
  • Am I willing to accept the fact that staying at home may not be the best option?  If so, then now is the time to shop for assisted living.  There are many different types of senior living communities now.  Moving to one of them is not a decision that should be made in a hurry or without planning.  It will take time to visit and to decide.  You may focus your search by enlisting the help of a professional referral agent to assist you.
  • Do I have my finances in order?  Do I know how much I can afford and for how long?  What are these income sources?  Will I have access to them when I need them?  Should I enlist the help of a financial professional?
  • If I plan to sell my home when I move to assisted living, do I have a realtor?  Will my family members be involved?  Is someone I trust legally assigned to help me?
  • Do I have a living will, a durable power of attorney and a health care directive in place, in the event I am suddenly unable to make decisions for myself?  If I have these documents are they up-to-date and notarized? Should I secure the services of an elder law attorney to help me prepare these documents properly?

If you have answered these questions or completed any of the above tasks you are on your way to a smoother transition to your later years, whether at home or in assisted living.  But what about the long-term?  Many of the same questions will arise as you plan for the bigger picture.  Though none of us has a crystal ball to see into our future, we can be prepared for much of it.

Here are some additional things to consider for the long-term:

  • There may be some factors that would make it impossible to stay in your home.  Acute illness may require round-the-clock nursing care.  This may be difficult financially even if you can find a qualified practitioner.  You may need the advocacy of family living far away.  They may not be able to help you long distance.  You may have to move to supportive living.
  • If you are caring for a spouse, who will care for them if you pass away?  All too often the caregiver becomes ill due to stress.  This is a common scenario late in life.  Make a plan for care down the road, in your absence.
  • If you do outlive your nest egg what financial plans can you make to provide for your care and housing?  There are resources available from the state.  Though possibly confusing and a quite cumbersome, state funding is important to investigate before you need it.  But it doesn’t completely replace good planning.
  • You may lose your memory.  Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias are more common in those over 85.  Who will be responsible for making decisions for you, if you can’t?
  • Make end of life arrangements.  Will you want hospice if you are critically ill?  Do you have a funeral planned? Will you be buried or cremated?  If you have donated your body or your organs to science make certain your family knows and has access to the documents needed to carry out those wishes.
  • Make arrangements for the disposal of your personal possessions.  Have legal documents in place that will transfer ownership of your personal possessions and real estate to specific individuals or charities.

Making plans is never easy.  We all want to think we will live out our lives in good health living exactly where we want to and in the company of those we love.  Make a plan now for the later days of your life.  You may not need to implement all of your plans, but by planning, you won’t be taken by surprise.  Most importantly, you are making your own decisions and not leaving the decisions for your family or other responsible parties to make.