If you’re putting off planning for continuing care, you’re not alone, but may want to get a move on.
Karen Hanson, the community service manager for Home Instead Senior Care, said it’s easier for seniors to plan their own funerals than to budget and plan for assisted living.
According to Home Instead’s research, only about 12 percent to 13 percent of seniors made plans for continuing care, while nearly 40 percent had already made funeral plans.
"I think … the thought that they might not be able to care for themselves is frightening," Hanson said. "You know that death is going to happen. But you don’t know what you’re going to go through on the way there."
Hanson’s mother developed Alzheimer’s disease, which got worse "basically overnight," forcing her to move to assisted living.
"She just woke up one morning (and) couldn’t open her medication and take it," Hanson said. "She couldn’t process opening the medicine dispenser up, picking them up, and putting them in her mouth. … It was scary."
Finances were a concern. Although Hanson’s family would have liked to have hired someone to stay in the house with her mother, they could only afford to do so for a limited number of hours per day.
Hanson’s mother was organized. She’d designated which child had power of attorney and had a living will in place.
She moved from a house to an assisted-living apartment, and the family arranged for help.
"Were we 100 percent prepared for it? No," Hanson said. "We had talked about it with her a lot, we knew what she wanted, but making that final decision is hard."
Plenty of families come to Home Instead in crisis mode, she said. The children of seniors often avoid the necessary discussions as well.
"Your parents always took care of you and told you what to do, and that role-reversal can be very uncomfortable," Hanson said.
Uncomfortable, but necessary.
Bill Radio, a Home Instead client based in Sioux Falls, S.D., said his family was ready for the transition to assisted living long before his parents began living in Rochester about a year ago.
"People planning for their later years need to include the family while they’re all still able to make decisions, while everyone has their full faculties," he said.
That meant having conversations about finances — his father’s IBM benefits and pension, and what that could cover — as well as meeting with the attorney who drew up both parents’ wills.
There was another part of planning, though, which he "found to be a special time."
It was funeral planning.
Both of Radio’s parents are strong Catholics, and they chose music and scripture readings with him.
"We spent a number of days visiting about that and talking through different readings," he said. "They told me stories that I’d never heard before, that they shared with me."
Although his parents struggled with the decision to move out of their family home, Radio said it was the best decision for everyone.
"One of the best pieces of advice we ever got came from our financial planner," he said. "He said, ‘You should move to a senior living place while you’re still able to make memories there together.’"
And now that Radio and his siblings are in their 60s, they’re realizing that they may want to do their own planning.
"It’s been a lot more manageable for us children to deal with their needs because of the planning that they did," he said. "We want it to be the same for our children.
Home Instead created a tool called Compose Life Song, which helps families plan ahead (have you checked off everything on your bucket list? Do you have a living will?) in case worst comes to worst.
It’s non-threatening, Hanson said, and get the ball rolling on tough conversations, like what levels of care is affordable and, yes, funeral planning.
"There is power in not being afraid, and recognizing that it can happen to you," Hanson said.
How to begin planning for care late in life • Decide on power of attorney and make a living will, minimum.
Hanson said those two steps are absolutely essential. Bringing in a
spiritual adviser can help, she added. • Protect your resources. Radio said his parents’ are now paying
for their care and allowing them to live relatively
How to begin planning for care late in life
• Decide on power of attorney and make a living will, minimum. Hanson said those two steps are absolutely essential. Bringing in a spiritual adviser can help, she added.
• Protect your resources. Radio said his parents’ are now paying for their care and allowing them to live relatively independently.