Long Term Planning: When to Start and What to Consider

When it comes to making a long-term plan for how and where to live as we age, you’d be hard pressed to find many who don’t see the value in thinking through such an important issue.

But according to a survey from The Conversation Project, while ninety percent of Americans say that talking to loved ones about end-of-life care is important, only twenty-seven percent have actually done it.

Indeed – no one likes to think about not being able to live the way they want, but the reality is, people who take the time to make a long-term plan are less likely to die in a hospital or burden relatives with tough medical decisions. In the end, while starting discussion of  long term care planning may be difficult, the relief you’ll feel when it’s finished will free you up to enjoy the years ahead.

Long Term Planning

Let’s take a look at the essentials of a proper long-term care plan and the key advisors you’ll need to have in place:

Retirement Planning.

One of the staples of long-term financial planning is outlining your transition from work to retirement. Proper financial planning for your retirement can set you up for success when it’s time to trade in your briefcase for a suitcase and live life on your terms and schedule. A solid retirement plan should include things like:

Power of Attorney.

A Power of attorney document is a legal form that gives the authority to make decisions on your behalf to someone you trust like a child, sibling or other trusted family member or friend. It must be signed while you are mentally competent to be valid and is an essential part of managing your financial and healthcare affairs in the event that you can’t do it on your own.

Health Care Preferences.

Making medical decisions for a loved one is among the most difficult issues facing those caring for an aging parent. But by planning ahead, you can outline your wishes for the medical care you want and help relieve your caregivers of the burden of making difficult decisions. Living wills and other advanced directives are written, legal instructions that outline your desires for medical care in the event that you can’t make decisions for yourself. Advanced directives give guidance to doctors and caregivers if you’re terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the late stages of dementia or near the end of life.

Living Preferences.

Another of the most challenging decisions facing seniors and children of aging parents is finding suitable living arrangements that provide a vibrant living environment, independence, and the proper amount of care. Questions such as: Should I live with my children? Is in-home care a possibility? Can I afford a senior living community? All come into play when considering where to live. Thinking through these questions before the decision is imminent will reduce anxiety and help everyone prepare for if and when a change in living arrangements is necessary.

End of Life Decisions.

Another decision no one likes to think about is what happens at the end of life. By outlining your preferences such as Do Not Resuscitate (DNR), Do Not Intubate (DNI), and Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST) ahead of time, you’ll ensure you’ll receive the care you desire and relieve doctors and caregivers the burden of making difficult decisions in times of crisis.

Estate Planning.

It may not be pleasant to document who will inherit the fruits of your labor when you no longer need them, but don’t short-change the relief that comes from having this important issue taken care of. Estate planning can also relieve your heirs of mountains of paperwork, reduce taxes on the assets you leave behind, avoid weeks or months of legal entanglements, and avoid family disagreements and arguments.

How to get started.

Whether you’re considering a long-term plan for yourself or you’re the child of an aging adult concerned about how to navigate the future, you may be unsure about where to start. For most people, it begins with a conversation.

If you’re considering your own long-term plan, start by asking yourself some questions like:

  • What do I need to think about or do before I feel ready to have the conversation?
  • What particular concerns do I want to be sure to bring up?
  • What matters to me at the end of life is …
  • Who should be part of the discussion?
  • When would be a good time to talk?
  • Where would you feel comfortable talking?

Such questions can prepare you for a satisfying and heart-felt conversation that, in the end, will leave everyone relieved that your wishes are known and that your desires are communicated.

If you’re the child of an aging parent, start the conversation by:

  • Talking about your own plans for if something were to happen to you
  • Sharing your feelings about making decisions for your parent
  • Mentioning a friend or family member who is in a similar situation

These are just a few of the many ways to begin the conversation about a long-term plan and all of the topics that are important to address. The important thing is to start talking before a crisis arises.

Big Decisions. Immense Relief.

While the idea of thinking about and discussing your or your loved one’s long term plan may feel daunting, it will be dwarfed by the relief you feel for having everyone’s desires clearly communicated and discussed. These conversations are often rich and intimate leaving all parties involved feeling closer and more connected. It is a gift that costs nothing with priceless rewards.

If you’re looking for a senior living community that supports your long-term plan, use our community locator tool to find one in a location you love.

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