It's the most wonderful time of the year again. Everyone's getting ready for the hustle and bustle of the holidays. While it can be a magical time filled with family and friends, it can also be a rather hectic time as things all seem to get crammed until the last minute.
In our practice, the holidays and leading into the rest of the winter season are typically the busiest times we face from a workload standpoint. And to us, it makes perfect sense: while families get to spend extra time together, it's often that these are the times when someone may begin to notice some elder family members starting to "slip."
It might be that grandma and grandpa's house isn't quite as clean as it typically is for Christmas Eve dinner. Or perhaps they decided not to put out most of their decorations and they chalked it up to running out of time. Maybe grandma's cooking doesn't taste as good as usual, or the cookes are all stale.
Or maybe you are seeing the first warning signs of what happens to all of us if we are fortunate enough to be around that long--Father Time is catching up to them. One thing seems clear though, they might start needing some help. Help could mean maintaining the house and daily chores. Or it could mean bringing in health aides to assist with daily functions, or possibly even exploring alternative senior living options.
We have had a lot of these conversations with families over the years. Some are in denial that anything is amiss. Others just had not realized their parents or loved ones were failing to get around as easily as they always had. And others still, recognize things are at a crisis level and changes need to be made, now.
This is why we get some many phone calls around the holidays from concerned family members wondering what they need to be doing, or what options they should start considering. If you notice one of your family members, particularly one that is at a higher age or alone in most instances, here is a list of 4 steps you need to start considering so you (and they) do not end up in an emergency situation without any guidance:
Conversation about Health and Finances - Have an open dialogue with your family member about his or her health risks. treatment wishes, and financial goals. Understand what specialists they see, where they bank, from which sources they receive monthly income. Discuss what they want to see done with assets they have saved. Not having a plan for these things hardly ever works out in your family's favor, especially with long-term care costs in our areas averaging upwards of $10,000 to $12,000 per month.
Essential Estate Planning Documents - Make sure your loved one has legal documents in place to have a foundational estate plan: advance health care directives (Medical Power of Attorney and Living Will); Financial Power of Attorney; Last Will & Testament. These document are imperative whether someone is 18 or 81! Failure to have proactive documents in place like powers of attorney can result in unwanted future problems like inability to access his or her funds, or make medical decisions, when necessary, or going through legal guardianship proceedings, which can be timely, expensive, and even embarrassing, because it is a public process.
Active Role in Regular Maintenance - Offer to drive him/her to the doctor's office and accompany him/her to appointments so you can build a relationship with his/her doctors, or just to get a full account of necessary measures, medications, dosages, etc. that your loved one should be taking. Little is more frustrating than asking your parent or grandparent about a treatment regiment they should be following, or medications they need to take, and them not knowing or being able to explain everything the doctor said. Be mindful you will likely need a Medical POA or HIPAA Release to speak with such professionals.
Speak with an Experienced Elder Care Attorney - Believe me, nothing can be more overwhelming than facing a health crisis all by yourself that leads to expensive care of your loved one. You will play the role of scheduler, receptionist, accountant, financer, advocate, medical assistant, chauffer, ... you get the idea of how much you will be doing for that elderly family member. An elder care law attorney worth his or her weight is going to have the answers and resources to take mountains of this weight off your shoulders. We can share with you the planning techniques we could implement to help explore benefits for paying for long-term care, protect assets if desired/applicable, etc., and likewise that attorney should have stacks of contacts in ancillary senior-focused services with whom they can introduce you. Personally, I make more referrals for my clients to senior placement advisors, home modification specialists, in-home care services, and social workers than any other types of referrals. These are the things people need every day! And these are the things that might actually help keep that family member independent for as long as possible.
Don't wait until it's too late and you're left trying to scramble when crisis knocks on your door. Give our office a call to schedule a complimentary consultation if you or a loved one find yourselves with similar concerns this holiday season.