2022 Annual Newsletter

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The Aging Process

by | Jun 2, 2022 | Estate Planning

As I continue to age along with all of my clients I find myself paying more and more attention to articles on aging and the tolls of aging. Yes, I am a card carrying member of AARP. As I review the AARP literature, I start to notice articles on topics that are perfectly tied into what I “preach” to my clients.

In particular, a recent article talked about the number of individuals that will require some level of care as they age. Statistically, women need care for an average of approximately 3.7 years whereas men need care for an average of 2.2 years. Many people live life with the assumption they will just die in their sleep and care giving issues will not apply to them. With that mind set they never plan ahead for dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, a stroke or other debilitating illness. I find that more people spend time planning a long vacation or the remodel of their kitchen than they do on their future aging care needs.

Statistics show that in 2020, 26% of the care givers were tending to someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. This percentage is up since 2015. The problem with care giving for a family member is that many of the care givers are not trained to handle the level of care needed, they are not retired and finding the time to work and care for a loved one is overwhelming and, on top of all of that, the care giver lacks the necessary information that goes along with caring for someone else.

What do I mean by, “lacks the necessary information”? From an estate planning standpoint, one of the most important documents that you can have, well in advance of needing it, is a medical advocate/medical power of attorney/advanced directive. This document gives someone that you trust permission to make medical decisions for you when you cannot. The document also allows the advocate to have conversations with your doctors, pharmacists or specialists (HIPAA powers) and it also provided your advocate with your wishes regarding life-support or end of life issues.

Completing an estate planning document such as the patient advocate is just step one. Keeping this document up to date is step two. Up to date means making sure the person you nominated is still willing, competent or conveniently located to truly be helpful. In addition to having the Patient Advocate/Medical Power of Attorney document up to date, there are additional steps that each client needs to take above and beyond that step.

For example, does your patient advocate know who your doctor is? Do they know what pharmacy you use? Do they know what medications you are on and what those medications are for? What would your patient advocate do in the in the event of an emergency? These are just some basic things that you need to provide your patient advocate with, along with a copy of the actual document. But the information sharing does not stop there.

Do you have a long-term care policy? If so, what company is the policy with and do you have a local agent they can contact? If there is no local agent, who will your patient advocate need to contact to activate that policy? Do you have any benefits through work, if you are still working? Who would your patient advocate contact at work to apply for short term or long term disability? Have you already looked into home care or community services? Do you have an idea of where you would want to be placed or what home care services are the best for your needs if there are funds to hire outside care?

As you can see, getting and keeping the Medical Power of Attorney up to date is step one, but it does not and should not stop there.