Plan for the Middle Before the End of Life

Instructions to plan for the end-of-life is everywhere online. You speak with elder law firms, long-term care providers, and even financial advisors, they heavily promote the need to get our legal documents in order. But too often, planning for the middle care is rarely discussed and encouraged. However, these are the ones that the Elder Orphan Facebook group has the most challenges addressing.

When looking at our preferences on dying, professionals encourage older adults to select a health care proxy, an executor, and to share how you wish to die. Rarely do we hear, "you must prepare a care plan." To me, knowing how you want someone to care for you, who will do the caring, and where that care is given, are significant issues we fail to recognize and are unable to do anything about if an emergency happens.

The population of older adults continues to grow. Longevity and better medical care helps older people live longer. It's good news, but if an individual is not prepared for the middle part of long-term care, they'll suffer long before passing on.

Take for instance losing the ability and desire to cook, clean house, do maintenance, and shop. And what happens if you can't drive? Who will take you shopping, to the doctor's office, or sit with you during a medical test. I hear complaints about medical staff requiring a person to sit with the patient during a procedure or test. And if you don't have someone to help out, then you're out of luck. Hiring volunteer or Lyft is not permitted.

My advice, plan for the middle. I learned the strategy from Linda J. Camp at Turning Point Consulting. In her white paper - Solo Seniors and the Quest to Create a Backup Plan - she advises clients, when preparing for the in-between and selecting a person to oversee your care, they should embrace the following criteria:

  • Is ethical
  • Able to figure things out and ask questions
  • Have excellent communication skills
  • Has the stamina to advocate
  • Can be objectiveIs knowledgeable about death with dignity
  • Will not impose own personal beliefs, values on your decisions

Here are a few tips about taking charge:

Play the what if game, and come up with a few scenarios that question and urge critical thinking in different situations. For example, "Here's your situation now and what might happen in the future." By giving an example of what if and what can happen is eye-opening.

Look for practical solutions from experts you trust. For example, set up a plan that addresses how you will eat, bathe and dress, and even shop, if something should happen. These seem small but they're huge when you have no one to depend upon.

Start saving money now, because statistics tells us 45% of older adults (55+) have $10,000 or less saved for retirement.

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