3 ways to plan for the (very) long term | Ari Wallach
Planning for Your Future
Aging happens naturally, but aging well takes careful planning. Take steps to ensure that your financial, living, and medical needs will be met in old age.
By Diana Rodriguez
Medically Reviewed by Pat F. Bass III, MD, MPH
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Aging is a time of transition. Many people start taking steps to eat better, get regular exercise, and manage stress to extend their healthy years. But it goes beyond that: Healthy aging should include thinking ahead to the financial, medical, and family issues that you could face in old age.
Your Personal Security Plan
Older adults face many decisions in the last decades of their lives. Taking some time to look at the issues ahead and plan accordingly can make the future easier and more enjoyable for both you and your family. Here are some areas to consider:
- Your money.Saving for retirement is important, and you want to make sure you have enough money to live on and enjoy life in your old age. You also want to make sure that money is protected, that you can get to it if you need it, and that you have enough to take care of yourself and your family. You should also make decisions about what should happen to that money when you die by preparing a will or trust document that spells out your wishes.
- Your health care.You may need more health care in old age than you did when you were younger. It’s important to make sure that you have health insurance coverage, possibly a second plan to cover costs not met by Medicare, and that you understand the coverage and have enough money on hand to cover what your plan doesn't. Keep your health and life insurance policy information stored in a safe but accessible place.
- Your life.The onset of a health emergency – such as a heart attack, stroke, major injury, or terminal illness – is not the best time to make key decisions. Preparing advance directives like a durable power of attorney, a living will, and other documents that state your end-of-life wishes can save you and your family from unneeded stress in a time of crisis.
- Your care.It's tough to think about not being able to take care of yourself, but that point may come. Friends and family members may not be able to give you the level of care that you need when living with a debilitating illness. While you're still healthy and able, make decisions about potential living arrangements, like a nursing home or assisted living facility, hospice care, home health care, and other available care options, depending on your condition. Choose which options you prefer in various situations, and consider how you will pay for them.
- Your home.Your home may be easy for you to navigate and comfortable for you now, but think about how that may change when you get older. A big house with lots of stairs to climb may present a serious challenge if you have health or physical problems. Take stock of your living arrangements to see if safety modifications or remodeling can be done now to provide for your health at home later.
Protecting Your Partner
It's never too early to start thinking about how you're going to handle and pay for your care in old age, especially if you’re the primary breadwinner in your household. A debilitating illness such Alzheimer's disease or a serious stroke can quickly deplete your financial resources. Consider your health, and the health of your spouse, partner, or family members. Make preparations and provisions and develop a plan to deal with these issues in the event one of you becomes sick.
Although financial assistance for senior health care is available, it's best to begin planning well in advance. Programs like Medicaid have strict rules and regulations, and may not cover enough of your medical expenses for you to maintain a comfortable standard of living. Start looking at your financial options early and consult with legal and financial professionals to ensure that you and your family are cared for in your old age.
Figuring Out What You Need as You Age
When you’re ready to start planning, there are people who can assist you in making the necessary arrangements. An elder care attorney can advise you and your spouse or partner on legal issues and financial arrangements and draw up legal documents.
Also, consider having a geriatric medical assessment done. This process can give you a picture of your overall health. The earlier health problems are identified, the more input you’ll be able to have in your future care and the care of your family. Your health care team can help develop a plan to make sure your living arrangements are safe and will serve your needs in the years ahead. An assessment is an especially good idea if you are already experiencing some health problems or signs of dementia.
Although no one likes to think about getting old, putting a plan in place earlier rather than later can help you maintain the lifestyle you want to have as you enter your later years.
Video: What is your future plan
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