By Kate Adams ’89
First of all, this is not easy. Collaboration, stubbornness, compromise, and love will all come into play. My strongest advice is to be proactive—there are many more choices that way. Getting help in the home, modifying a home, finding alternative transportation—initial safeguards are much easier than dealing with a fall down the stairs or a car accident. Start conversations early, keep a sense of humor, and make it clear that independence is important, but so is safety.
Things to do and talk about:
- Power of attorney, health care proxy, and advanced directives (available on most state websites). I also recommend the “Five Wishes” document—a legal document that combines a living will and a health care proxy. I think it’s best to use an elder law attorney, even for a few meetings, for documents and planning, because of their greater expertise in legal services for aging issues.
- Financial planning. Eight out of ten people will need long-term care. The average cost of home care is $32 an hour. Average monthly costs are high—assisted living: $5,400; memory care: $6,800; nursing home: $11,200.
- Long-term care insurance. Some policies cover home care, some do not. Some only cover nursing facilities. Some will pay family caregivers. Some have different daily limits for home care versus facility care. Most have a maximum daily amount and a maximum lifetime amount.
- If staying home is strongly desired, talk about a long-term plan. Living on one level? Yard maintenance? Trips to medical appointments? Ease of active lifestyle? (All research points to exercise as the best medicine for physical and cognitive health.)
- Consider hiring an aging life care expert for an assessment. A professional will look at the big picture: medical, social, financial, home safety, wellness, family dynamics, and formal and informal care providers.
- If independent or assisted living is part of the discussion, research, make visits, and get on waiting lists. Senior housing is in short supply. An aging life care expert can steer you in the right direction with that, too—they often know the pros and cons of most facilities in their region.
- Use these online resources: naela.org, aginglifecare.org, and the Area Agency on Aging for your county.
Kate Adams ’89 is owner of Aging Excellence.
This piece first appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of Bowdoin magazine.