If I live long enough, I will need help. – Dana Lambert
The most surprising and compelling patterns of over two decades of social work is the universal absence of planning or even thinking about our later years of life.
In 2010, this issue and the heartbreak I observed families experience around this issue compelled me to concentrate my entire practice to helping seniors and their families.
I saw how a few, relatively simple and inexpensive documents (e.g. power of attorney for healthcare decisions, simple legal will) and a few well structured conversations with trusted family and friends would prevent 95% of the conflict, heartbreak, and shocking legal and medical costs.
Our business has thrived in the years since. Perhaps unfortunately, because so many families need to be rescued from their lack of planning.
The shocking truth about my business is that people refuse to address the first statement of this article, “If I live long enough, I will need help”.
The hardest to convince are the educated, the wealthy, the successful, the people with loving families and thriving social support groups. If you haven’t already decided you don’t need to read an article on this topic, I suspect you are telling yourself right now that you are good to go.
Think about this:
Suppose next Thanksgiving your family all got a quiz about you with questions like:
When/how should they suggest you not drive for yourself?
When should they remove life support for you if you, if you could not communicate your pain to them?
How much of your life savings should be spent on prolonging your life vs. supporting your surviving spouse?
Who do you want to talk to doctors on your behalf if you are not able to?
There is a chance you don’t even know the answers to these questions.
There is a larger chance that your closest loved ones will disagree on these answers and will have significant conflict when you eventually need them to know. There is a very good chance that even if you are the rare person who has thought about it and has shared it with loved ones, it won’t matter if you haven’t written it down formally/legally and a strange judge or doctor will make the decision for you based on their values at triple the cost to your family.
The ironic twist is the independence seniors seek by thinking they won’t need help actually dooms them to get what they fear the most…loss of control. This denial system robs them of the independence they crave so much by stealing their ability to make decisions for themselves.
The only way to insure a senior can have control over their living and dying is:
1. to know what they would want if circumstances change,
2. take steps to make sure those wishes will be honored.
A common example:
If living in my own home is my priority, then I better have a plan for how to make that a reality in the event I lose physical or mental ability.
If I lose ability, you can bet someone will try to step in and take care of me, and if I have not already chosen someone who knows my wishes and will do their dead level best to honor them, then what will happen to me is truly a crap shoot.
You never know who will rise to the top of a crisis situation to try to take care of me. And if the situation gets sticky enough that a judge has to decide who will make decisions for me, well, hold on to your hats, because that fight alone has already cost me tens of thousands of dollars and the person the judge chose may not be who I would have wanted.
Trust me when I say, that by this time, the situation has caused rifts in the relationships of people I care about, and my care has already suffered in the process.
With planning – this scenario is avoidable.
Once again: If I live long enough, I will need help.
If I want a say in:
- how that help comes,
- who it comes from,
- and how it will be paid for,
…then I need to make sure the legal documents are in place that will insure I get what I want, and I need to do it now, long before I ever need help.
And secondly, I need to be very explicit with those I have chosen to speak on my behalf, so they know very clearly:
- what my wishes are for care,
- where I want to live,
- and how to pay for it,
…so I have not put them in a position of having to guess.
AgeWise is here to be a guide, to walk you through the decision-making.
We offer consultation and expertise to insure you create a plan for your future that addresses the inevitabilities of aging and the unknowns. Consider contacting us for a consultation before going to an attorney, to discuss your individual family and loved one situation and to make sure those you designate as decision-makers are truly the best choices.
We can guide you on how to talk with them about your preferences and wishes as well.