Becoming increasingly dependent on others for the normal activities of daily life can be a harsh reality. It can be even harder to admit needing help. Creating a plan for how you, your family and your medical professionals will handle that possible scenario can alleviate misunderstanding and confusion when a crisis arises. Here are six tips to help you prepare:
- Pick a point of contact. One sibling or other close relative should be in charge of communicating with doctors. This person should have a health care power of attorney for you.
- Find a family-friendly primary doctor. You likely receive care from multiple specialists. Decide on or find one doctor to be the primary medical resource for your family. Make sure reports from specialists are being sent to the primary doctor. If you live a distance from your family, consider asking your doctor if he or she is willing to communicate via email.
- Create a central storage place for vital documents, including medical records, your Social Security number and health insurance policy information. In an emergency, you or your family don’t want to be digging through decades of files to find what you need. Hard copies should be duplicated and stored in at least two fire- and water-proof locations. Digital imaging and storage services offer a convenient place to access files remotely.
- Talk to your family about long-term care insurance. Nursing home costs continue to rise faster than inflation and can quickly deplete your savings. Generally, long-term care premiums increase as you age, and you may not be approved for coverage at all if you wait to acquire the insurance.
- Create a care circle. Particularly if you live more than an hour or two away from your family, a network of neighbors, church members and friends can give you some reassurance that others will be keeping in touch with you regularly and know how to contact your family in an emergency.
- Discuss finances. The point-of-contact relative, or another relative equipped to deal with financial matters, should have a financial power of attorney. This person should know the location of your key accounts and policies, and the names and phone numbers for your key advisors.
A final word of advice: Don’t ask your family to make promises they can’t keep, like withholding information from other family members or vowing not to place you in a nursing facility. Discussing such issues ahead of time can help you and your family avoid these situations. If you would like help in creating a plan for those times when you are unable to care for yourself, contact your financial professional. Most are happy to include your family and your other professional advisors, including your attorney and accountant, in discussions.