Aging in Place: Make a Plan, Assemble your Team

“No matter what, please keep me out of a nursing home!” How often do people hear their parents say this, as the parents enter their most senior years. The reality is that aging in place is a complex but achievable endeavor for most people. Whether you are the person who hopes to “age in place,” or you are the person who will have responsibility to make it happen, you need a plan, and you will need a team. There are so many details to consider, and developing a general plan in advance can really help you and your family when the time comes that you really can’t do it all on your own.It’s crucial that you face the issues honestly and make practical choices.

This post uses “you” as the aging person/parent, but if you are already the power of attorney for them, you need to deal with these issues as well. I’ve included links to some businesses as examples, but I am not specifically endorsing them or vouching for them.

Legal matters: Meet with an elder law attorney. Make sure you have a Durable General Power of Attorney (POA), Health Care Proxy and a Last Will and Testament. Include everything necessary to customize your plan for the lifestyle you want. Discuss your family concerns confidentially with your lawyer so that your plan meets your particular needs and you can try to ward off potential fights among your family members. If you have been appointed to the job of POA, health care representative or Executor of the eventual estate, talk to a lawyer to get a thorough understanding of your responsibilities and the extent and limits of the authority you’ve been given.

Pick your first responder: Who will be the first responder in case of a medical emergency? Be practical. The most beloved eldest child who lives overseas may not be the sensible choice. Fill out HIPPA forms for your doctors and hospital so that your first responder can see the chart or call in for information.

Pick your trusted fiduciary: Who will manage your assets, hire caregivers and pay your bills if you develop dementia? Again, be practical. Being Power of Attorney is a JOB, so make sure the person you select is willing and capable of doing it.

How’s the home? This is the time to bring in someone to examine your premises and help you make all the necessary changes so that you can live safely  in your home over time. Some interior designers specialize in this kind of thing, and bring in the contractors for the necessary safety repairs. Geriatric care managers can also do the assessment and make suggestions. With increased physical frailty or confused thinking there is increased risk of falling, which can cascade into serious disability. Consider everything — Stairs;Railings; Worn out carpet; Hard doorknobs; Grab bars; Walk-in tubs; location of the washer & dryer.

Transportation: Who will take you to your doctors’ appointments?  Find out if any taxi services will  escort you between your door and their vehicle. Have a plan in case you cannot walk well or can’t manage your own wheelchair. How will you get yourself from the parking lot into the doctor’s office, Non-medical Home assistant services are available, and can accompany you to appointments and errands, but usually you have to book them ahead of time on a schedule with a 2-hour minimum per shift.  Often you can find volunteers  through your religious congregation as well.

Grocery shopping: In some locations there are stores that will assemble and deliver the order to your home every week. Otherwise, you need an arrangement with someone to do the shopping for you.

Prescriptions: You may want to use a local or mail order pharmacy that can get all your renewals onto a consolidated schedule and deliver everything to the home. This can take a few months to establish, but can go very far to make the whole medication issue more manageable and prevent medical problems. Some pharmacies will even create blisterpaks with pre-set pill combinations for each time of the day.

In-home services and someone to run your errands: Clothes and shoe shopping can be done on line, and you can often arrange for the returns to be picked up at the house.  Some dry cleaners will do pick-ups and drop-offs. Some hairdressers may make house calls. Some physical therapists will treat the patient in the home. The list goes on and on.

Tidy up and De-clutter: get someone in to help you go through all of the things you’ve accumulated during your long and wonderful life. Call the kids and grandkids and have a celebratory “take it, keep it, or recylce/pitch it out” event.

Careful planning can prevent a crisis. Making sure the home is safe  is crucial. Making sure your legal affairs are organized is crucial. Investigating all the in-betweens that a person needs help with, and making lists of services that you can call upon in a pinch, will make it easier in the event that you suddenly realize that you need help. Even a plan that is partially used is better than no plan at all.

For elder law advice on estate planning and planning for a good old age, call us at … 732-382-6070

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