I regularly advocate for being a Pro-Choice Senior. As we get older, it is important to be proactive and plan for our future needs. The better prepared we are, the more options we have to live the kind of life we want as opposed to what others choose for us. Thinking about what kind of care we may need in the future and how we can get it is an essential part of aging well. But what kind of details should our caregiving plan have and how can we create one?

Most caregivers are family members who fall into the role because they live the closest to the one in need or they are most able to take on those duties. However, they come into the role with no idea of all they may have to do and where to go for help for their loved one and themselves. There is no centralized up-to-date clearinghouse for governmental and nonprofit programs. Further, even when caregivers are given a list of resources by government agencies, social workers or healthcare professionals, no one helps them figure out which programs are best for them and that they would qualify for. The onus is on caregivers to figure it all out when they already have too much on their plate.

Providing more caregiver support is a challenge that we all must embrace. After all, we all will need this level of care at some point and hopefully, we recognize that it isn’t fair to put the whole burden on our family members. While the government clearly needs to step up, one thing we can do is develop a caregiving plan.

As part of that plan, it’s important to have appropriate legal documents including a will, living will, healthcare proxy and power of attorney. However, that’s only one part of the picture. We need to plan at the micro-level. What kind of care might we need? Who may be able to provide it? We cannot only think about the extreme situations –when we are totally incapacitated. Long before that, we may need help with a wide variety of tasks.

For example, would you prefer to age-in-place rather than move to a senior community or live with a family member? Assuming your home is suitable for aging in place or you can make it so, then consider who can handle all the responsibilities that come with remaining in your home. If you are not capable, who will take care of repairs, landscaping, snow removal, cooking, cleaning, laundry, etc. What if you need help with personal care – bathing, dressing, medication management, paying bills, shopping, transportation and other services? The more detailed you can be in thinking about your long-term aging needs, the better your life will be because you are the one who decided.

I am seeing more and more service providers and programs trying to address this type of planning. However, you need to be the one to get the process started. Think through your own plans and talk with your family about what you want. Also, meet with an elder law attorney who can handle the legal side as well as refer you to other experts who work with seniors. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

If you need assistance with your plan, contact me for a consultation.