Planning ahead for elder care: 4 key things to consider

As you age, like many seniors, you may be seriously considering what you want your golden years to look like. How do you want your children or other caregivers to care for you? What decisions would you like them to make on your behalf? As you’re managing basic estate planning tasks, make sure that you include provision for elder care in your plans and take these vital elements into consideration. 

1. Who should hold medical power of attorney if you cannot make decisions for yourself?

Generally, the hospital will ask your spouse to make medical decisions on your behalf if you can no longer make them for yourself. However, you should carefully consider whether your spouse can effectively make those decisions and fulfill your wishes. If you need a child to act as a health care proxy, you will need to consider which child can best handle those decisions. Also consider:

  • Do your children live close to you? Medical decisions may need to be made quickly, so you may want to make sure that you give healthcare proxy to someone close by. 
  • Does the person you want to assign as a health care proxy have some understanding of medical procedures and what they could mean?
  • Will the person you want to assign as a health care proxy adhere to your wishes?

Assigning a family member to be a health care proxy can be a big decision, so make sure you pick the right one. 

2. How do you want your care handled if you face an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis?

Carefully consider how you would like your family to choose a nursing home or what type of unit you would like to stay in. What criteria are important to you? Ideally, you should make some of these decisions before receiving those diagnoses. If you do receive an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, however, you should make decisions about your care as early as possible. Make sure that you outline your wishes legally so that your family will know exactly what you want in the event of that type of diagnosis. 

3. How do you want your finances handled if you can no longer handle them yourself?

You may want to assign financial power of attorney to a different party than your health care proxy, or you may want it to be the same person. Choose someone who:

  • Is trustworthy and will make responsible decisions with your finances.
  • Understands your wishes and how you want your finances to be handled.
  • Has the time necessary to handle that task. 

Carefully lay out any decisions about your finances and how you would like them to be made. For example, you may want to consider how you want to handle selling your home: should it be sold only as a last resort, if you no longer have the funds to pay for nursing home care or needed medical treatment, or can it be sold once you no longer plan to live in it? 

4. Hire an attorney to make sure that your elder care plans are legal

Elder care brings with it a number of potential challenges including legal pitfalls that could prevent your wishes from being followed. An attorney can help ensure that you have all the paperwork you need in place to navigate your senior years while still having your wishes carried out, even if you cannot necessarily make those decisions for yourself.

Setting up a senior care plan is a critical part of aging according to your personal wishes. By setting things up legally, you can help ensure that your needs and desires will be met as you age.

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