Planning for senior care? The four questions you should ask

Planning for senior care? The four questions you should ask

I began my journey into senior care in 1996, going to all sorts of long-term care facilities, from assisted living to residential and everything in between. On every visit, I was wearing a uniform and often broke the speed limit to get there. You guessed it — I was a paramedic. From Iowa to Arizona to Denver, I’ve seen senior care across the country, and I’ve taken those experiences into my role as a financial planner today.

As a paramedic, I was a first responder. While I was not a doctor and could not provide patients with the extensive care a doctor can, I helped get patients to the place where they could receive that care.

We at Sound Stewardship are somewhat like first responders for the families we work with when it comes to the continuum of senior care. We can guide you to the professionals who can help. For example, we can’t make the ultimate legal decisions — that’s up to you and your legal professional — but we can point you in the right direction with the right resources.

Whether you’re considering how to best help loved ones with their senior care decisions, or examining options of your own, it’s hard to know where to begin. At Sound Stewardship, we’ve developed a handy way to begin the conversation about senior care. We call it the “Cornerstones of C.A.R.E.,” and this helps to identify the gaps in your senior care plan.

Whether you’re helping your parents plan or planning for yourself, these four areas encompass the many elements involved in senior care, and these are the areas you need to be aware of. Let’s get started:

C stands for COORDINATOR.

As we age, the coordinator of our care changes. Many seniors begin their golden years self-coordinating. This includes medical care needs, like coordinating doctor visits, picking up prescriptions, as well as home care and safety. But at some point, we may no longer be able to care for ourselves.

Family is often the next in line, helping out where needed. Sometimes, family is no longer able to coordinate; perhaps they live out of town, care for their own dependents or have a work schedule that leaves them unable to help on a regular basis.

We look to community next — fellow church members, neighbors or friends can step in. Ask this question: When I can no longer coordinate care for myself, who can I rely on next? It’s important to identify these individuals or groups sooner rather than later.

A stands for ADVOCATES.

As we age, it becomes more and more important to have trusted advocates by our side. Most of us start our senior years able to “self-advocate” and take care of most of our affairs independently. But as we age, we need more and more advocates by our side to help manage all the aspects of our lives.

Advocates come in lots of shapes and sizes. Who are your family and community advocates who can help in these areas?

  • Daily living  — think grocery shopping, cleaning house or lawn care
  • Financial advising
  • Insurance needs
  • Legal questions
  • Medical care

Who are your advocates that you can rely on to help you with all of these important areas of your life?

R stands for RESOURCES.

As you evaluate resources, think with the end in mind. Where do you want your belongings to go? How are your assets and other relevant belongings titled? Who owns what in the meantime? Have you left clear instructions in your estate plan for how you’d like your affairs to be handled? A few areas to consider as you identify gaps in your resources:

  • Estate planning: In general, two-thirds of Americans do not have an estate plan. Deciding what will happen with everything you own cannot be overlooked. Make it a priority to get the right documents in place with qualified professionals.
  • Net worth inventory: Very few people know where their assets are located and what value they have. “Net worth” is the total of what you own (every asset included), minus what you owe (debts or liabilities). This includes everything: property, cash on hand, investments, valuables, business ownership and much more. Maintaining an in-depth and up-to-date inventory is crucial as we age.
  • Insurance inventory: What policies do you have, and what are all the details of each? This includes not only health, home and auto insurance, but also long-term care, disability and life insurance.
  • Cash flow planning: Many people are somewhat aware of their current income, but unaware of how quickly accounts can be accessed for supplemental support. It’s important to plan what you need for a monthly budget, so retirement funds and investments can be drawn from or liquidated at the right time.
  • Digital inventory: These days, so much of our lives take place on the computer. Who will manage all these digital elements when you’re no longer able to? This includes online banking, email logins and passwords, files or photos stored in the cloud and even social media accounts like Facebook.
  • Next generation: For many seniors, this means sharing the details of your resources with your adult children. Financial conversations may not come easy, and choosing to discuss with your adult children or not is a personal decision. If you elect not to share with children, or need guidance on making these conversations run smoothly, it’s very important to get your financial advisor involved. Generations working together can make the senior care journey less stressful.

E stands for ENVIRONMENT.

Consider what environments you’d prefer to live in as you move along the continuum of care. What kinds of environments would you like to call home over time? Reflect on your options, including:

  • Staying in your current home, with possible remodeling and in-home care
  • Downsizing to a more manageable home
  • Senior living campus
  • Assisted living
  • Skilled nursing facility
  • Hospice preferences

Make sure you know what you would like to happen, and start talking with your next generation and your trusted advocates about your wishes. You’ll have a better quality of life when you take a team approach, and your physician can also be a trusted source as you scenario plan.

Senior care looks a little different for all of us, and as we age, our needs change. The Cornerstones of C.A.R.E. model is a helpful way to keep focused on what’s most important to you, and start building a team to support you. The key is to stay flexible as you move through the continuum of care, keeping your options open and communicating no matter what.

If you’re deciding how to serve loved ones in their senior care decisions, or exploring options of your own, it can be challenging to know where to start. At Sound Stewardship, we’re here to help. Contact us to begin the conversation.

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