Become Your Own Advocate
It is easier to plan for tomorrow when you are well informed today. Get started on creating an aging plan.
Thinking about aging might be daunting, but as Yogi Berra famously said, “The future ain’t what it used to be” and that is thanks to the extended array of new options available to us, with the benefits of technology being one of them.
We compiled this guide totouch on major areas to consider as you put together an aging plan. Such a plan needs to address longevity, health care and end-of-life moments that matter for you, your family and your finances.
You will notice that we list some currently available services and technologies that you might want to research but please note that we are not making any endorsements and this list is not all-inclusive. It is intended to give you an idea of what services exist and to get the conversation started.
Living Arrangements As You Age
It is important to understand what your wishes and your needs are. Think about where you would like to live and what activities you enjoy currently but also plan for potential changes as you age:
- What if you are no longer able to live in your own home?
- What types of activities do you need help with?
- What option is the most cost-effective?
- What if you lose mobility?
Research home and facility care options prior to the need for care.
Most of us will prefer to remain in our current home as we age. However, functional losses that come with aging might threaten our ability to remain at home. Fortunately, early planning and the sharing economy can help.
The first thing to consider about aging in place is safety and planning for potential changes later. Is your house currently safe and could it be dementia-proofed if needed? It might make sense to request a home safety evaluation. Do you need home care? What type of services are available to you should you require it? What is your preference? Here are some safety tips from the Mayo Clinic.
Examine technologies and services that can be leveraged to remain in your house, including:
- Voice-activated technology can help by setting reminders, making calls, checking the weather, turning lights on, listening to music, refilling orders, and more. Check out: Google Home; Sonos One; Google Assistant; Apple’s Siri; and Amazon’s Echo & Alexa.
- Medical alert systems are wearable devices that can provide increased independence for loved ones and peace of mind for family caregivers. Some of the features available include fall detection, medical monitoring, GPS location, emergency calling, daily check-ins, pill reminders, and activity tracking. The device you select should be based on your needs: MedCoach Medisafe, Pillboxie, Medminder, GreatCall, Philips Line Solutions, Medical Guardian, Bay Alarm, and Mobile Help.
- Telemedicine services provide medical advice without leaving home.
- Activity tracking: Fitbit, Apple watch, Dexcom G5 mobile
- Help around the house for tasks such as laundry, dry-cleaning, home improvement, household chores can be provided through services such as Hello Alfred, Task Rabbit, Thumbtack, Angie’s List, Delivery.com, and Handy.
- Meals/food/grocery delivery services. Whether it is meal prep kits, specialized menus, restaurant deliveries or just groceries, there are a number of options available to you: Instacart, Peapod, Hello Fresh, Shipt, Amazon Fresh, Blue Apron, Mom’s meals, Homestyle direct, BistroMd, Fresh’n Lean, Silver Cuisine, Sun Basket, Meals on Wheels, Doordash, Seamless, Grub Hub, and Uber Eats
- Apps and websites to stay connected with friends and family include: Facetime, Instagram, Zoom, Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn and senior dating sites
- Staying mentally active to continue growing in your area of expertise or try something completely new: Coursera, podcasts, EdX, Khan Academy, Lynda.com, Youtube videos, and Udacity.
Assisted living is designed for people who need various levels of medical and personal care. The services offered by assisted living communities vary but may include meals, monitoring of medication, personal care, housekeeping, laundry, and recreational activities. Some types of assisted living facilities are also specialized to deal with seniors with dementia or memory care. Research and more research will be key.
A nursing home is best suited for seniors in need of a high level of medical care. There are resources that can help you find and research assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Check with your primary care physician about different choices and conduct independent research to identify the best option for you. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Use this checklist from Medicare to prepare your questions and make sure you’ve covered key points. Medicare also provides a guide to nursing homes and other long-term services. Or you may want to check out A Place for Mom.
Driving And Aging
Driving represents freedom, control and independence, but as we age there might be a few reasons why we cannot have this privilege anymore. Occupational therapists help identify whether it is safe for us or our loved ones to continue driving.
The good news is there are now plenty of options to reach places safely without driving. Low-cost transportation options include:
- Ride booking apps, i.e., Uber, Lyft, etc.
- Gogograndparent – arrange rides via an 800 number
Financial Decision Making & Aging
Simplify, simplify, simplify! Switch bills to online pay and set electronic payments for credit cards.
Make sure beneficiaries for investment accounts and insurance policies are up to date and inform your power of attorney about all assets, bills, etc.
Identify someone to have a durable power of attorney to manage your finances, including bills, legal issues, taxes, etc., should you become incapacitated. This could be a family member, a friend (someone you trust), or it could be a corporate trustee.
Create a Will to set forth your wishes regarding the distribution of your property and care of minor children when you pass. It designates an executor who will carry out the provisions of the will. If you do not have a Will, your assets will be disbursed according to state statutes, which may not be the same as your wishes.
Will someone be available to help with money management for things like paying the bills, filling out forms, getting the mail? You could consider using a daily money manager (DMM) which would provide these types of services to older adults for a fee.
Health Care Decisions
Make sure you understand the Medicare “alphabet soup.” This national health insurance program for U.S citizens age 65 and over has four parts:
- Part A covers the costs of hospitalizations. When you enroll in Medicare, you receive part A automatically.
- Part B covers a long list of medical services including doctor’s visits, medical equipment and tests.
- Part C is also known as Medicare Advantage and it is typically administered by private insurance companies. Coverage will typically include all of Parts A & B, plus the prescription drug plan (part D). This is an alternative way to have traditional Medicare coverage which might help cover costs that are not covered by Medicare. Do research on the plans available to you.
- Part D is the prescription drug coverage
Medigap is an insurance policy that supplements Medicare and can also help cover some of the bills that are not covered by Medicare. It is also important to research policies available to you.
Create advance directives. These are legal documents that allow you to plan and communicate your end of life wishes. They also help answer the questions about which person will make sure you are cared for and make medical decisions when you are no longer capable of doing so. There are two types:
- Living wills guide your family and team of doctors as to what medical treatment you want to receive if you are not able to communicate your wishes. For example, it will address whether you want to be put on life support or if you want life-prolonging interventions. Instructions for organ or tissue donation can also be included.
- Medical power of attorney allows you to select a person to make decisions about your medical care if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. In this document you can specify what kinds of decisions the agent could make for you.
We hope this guide can serve as a starting point as you embark on this new journey and create an aging plan for yourself or your loved ones. It is important to include your team of trusted advisors to create a plan specific to your situation.