The holidays are a time for families to come together and many will travel for the holidays to be near loved ones. As multiple generations gather around the table, there is a unique opportunity to broach a sensitive but important topic with your aging loved ones. It won’t be easy, but by communicating with them and understanding their wishes, you can help them plan for their future.
KEY PLANNING FOR AGING ADULTS
Understanding how the beloved older adults in your life feel about certain issues will allow you to provide much-needed support. You will want to learn, among other things, where they want to live and the type of care they would like to receive as they grow older. Discussing these matters prior to a crisis, allows your loved one to reflect on their life purpose and see the planning process as a positive experience. Waiting for a crisis before making these decisions can cause family discontent, broken relationships, unnecessary stress and overall bad feelings.
Meeting with an estate planning attorney is an important step. An experienced, compassionate estate planning attorney can guide your aging loved one through the decision-making process and ensure that their wishes are communicated and honored. If your loved one has not yet met with such an attorney, you can make the suggestion. Help them connect with a qualified elder law or estate planning attorney in their area.
Statistics show that two-thirds of people in America have not done any estate planning. See Caring.com’s 2023 Wills and Estate Planning Survey. Basic documents that should be included in your loved one’s plan include the following: a will, a power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, and, perhaps, an advance directive. In addition, a revocable living trust may be appropriate.
Estate planning is more than just making a will and determining who receives assets when we die. It is also an important part of preparing for aging well, as it can include determination of housing and planning for long-term care, financial planning, medical care, and insurance. The estate plan will act as your loved one’s road map for how they will age.
People of all ages benefit from this type of planning and talking to your loved ones about this can be the first step in helping them develop their plan so that they can maintain their autonomy into their old age.
WHAT TO DISCUSS WITH YOUR OLDER LOVED ONES
As the holidays get underway, prompt your family members to start thinking about their future. You may encourage them to consider the following topics and questions.
AARP reports that 77 percent of adults 50 and older want to age in place instead of moving into senior living. Yet remaining at home poses safety concerns for many families, according to the National Institute on Aging.
Older adults may eventually need help with activities of daily living (ADLs), household tasks, mobility, meals, health care, and transportation. Families may be able to provide caregiving or explore in-home services. Others may choose assisted living.
The following questions may help to spark meaningful discussions between you and your aging loved ones.
- Where do they want to live? Do they want to live at home as they get older, or would they prefer to reside in a senior living community?
- If they would like to stay at home, is the residence adaptable to any potential mobility difficulties they may face down the road?
- What kind of additional support might they need?
- Who will help with their activities of daily living and household chores such as preparing meals or cutting the grass?
HEALTH CARE PREFERENCES
Health challenges often accompany aging. According to the National Council on Aging, 95 percent of adults 60 and older have at least one chronic condition.
As the seventh leading cause of death worldwide, dementia affects many older adults, per the World Health Organization. The National Institute of Health reports that one in seven Americans age 71 and older have dementia.
Older adults should think about and communicate their health care wishes with their families before an adverse health event occurs. The following questions can help families begin these difficult discussions.
- Do they have a power of attorney or living will, or are they planning to create one?
- What would make life continue to be worthwhile for them if they were to become frail, ill, or develop dementia?
- Would they want medical care to prolong their life if they have a terminal, incurable illness?
- If they fell ill, would they prefer to pass away at home in hospice or in a medical setting?
Having a clear picture of what someone would value most at the end of their life can help families provide support. Erik Erickson’s stage theory of psychosocial development suggests that older adults living in line with their personal values may feel peace, wisdom, and acceptance.
Physical and cognitive decline associated with aging can jeopardize autonomy. This is why knowing your loved ones’ values and wishes can help you more effectively support their independence. They should have a plan in place for end-of-life decisions so that, if necessary, you or another surrogate decision-maker can make choices that reflect their wishes.
These questions present a good starting point.
- What does your loved one believe they will come to value most as they grow older?
- Is religious or community involvement important?
- What do they define as a good life?
- What do they feel would be most essential to them in their final years?
- What kind of funeral or memorial service would they envision for themselves?
- Have they thought about passing certain sentimental items, such as photo albums and jewelry, to certain family members?
CONSULT WITH AN ELDER LAW ATTORNEY
As you and your loved ones work together to begin addressing these topics, they might consider consulting with a local, qualified elder law or estate planning attorney. Contact our office today at (281) 665-3807 and schedule an appointment with our elder law and estate planning attorneys to discuss how we can help create the framework for autonomy in old age, working with the aging adult to develop a plan. We look forward to the opportunity to work with you.