“At least 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some long-term care services at some point in their lives.” – LongTermCare.gov
Those plan-ahead types may drive you crazy – or, you may consider yourselves one of those efficient elite. No matter where you stand, planning can be an onerous undertaking, depending on the circumstances for which you’re preparing.
But the one thing worse than the overwhelming dread of planning for something that may be years down the road, something that may never happen, something that may alter drastically at a moment’s notice?
When a crisis hits home, a family with no plan is likely to encounter a great deal more stress when it comes to quick decision-making and other high-pressure situations. But if you have a plan, the crisis becomes just a bit more manageable. Why? Because you’re not worrying about what to do at the same time as you’re worrying about the how, when, where, and to what extent.
Planning during a crisis is especially rough. Yet so many families find themselves in this exact predicament every day when it comes to elder care preparations.
- What’s your planning IQ? Take this quiz to find out.
We can’t help you predict the future. We can’t tell you what your elder’s needs may be. But we can help you take the first, second, and even 10th step toward devising an acceptable elder care plan – for yourself and for your loved ones.
And above all else, PLAN to be flexible. As life would have it, even the most carefully crafted plan can fall through or be rendered ineffective in a heartbeat, no matter how much time you put into its development. So just remember that you may have to adjust your plans…and that’s OK.
- Crisis, crisis, read all about it: The Two Types of Family Caregivers and The Need for Long Term Care Planning
- Hear what aging expert Dr. Ken Dychtwald has to say regarding misconceptions of long term care planning.
Elder Care Planning: The Basics
Short-term plans, emergency plans, long-term plans, ideal plan, back-up plan, flexible plans – while it’s not necessary to have one of each, it’s important to think of each aspect of the planning process and realize that there are stages to planning. The word “plan” itself has two functions: as a verb, it’s defined as “to decide on and arrange in advance” and as a noun, it means “a detailed proposal for doing or achieving something.”
Ultimately, the first step in elder care planning is a conversation.
Making a plan for someone without his or her knowledge is never a good idea, and not just in terms of elder care. So before you go any further, sit down at a table side-by-side/face-to-face with your loved one and other important family members and talk about your plans together.
It can be an awkward conversation to commence though, which is why many avoid it. Check out these helpful articles on “having the talk” with your aging parents or another older loved one:
- Talk to Elderly Parents about the Future from TalkEarlyTalkOften.com – An excellent piece referencing the “TEMPO” approach (timing, experience, motivation, place, and outcome) to elder care planning, recognizing that a discussion like this one cannot just happen on the fly (i.e., it takes planning to make planning).
- Planning Ahead: How to Talk to Your Aging Parents About Their Future – A great post from MSN.com on how to break the ice and what topics to cover in that initial and subsequent conversations about elder care planning.
- How to Talk to the Elderly – Helpful tips from Caring.com on how to bridge the communication gaps often caused by generational conflicts and other related issues.
- Elder Care – First Steps – A good primer from AgingParentsAndElderCare.com for knowing just when it’s time to have that conversation about care.
Building a Plan Begins with Knowing Your Options
In order to create a plan, you need some components to it, right?
Once you’ve had that all-important foundational conversation, the next step of elder care planning is research and data collection. Talk to friends. Talk to co-workers. Read books, websites, and newspaper articles on elder care. Watch educational programs and visit senior care facilities in the area to become familiar with the services available and how care is delivered. Hire a geriatric care manager. Make an appointment with an elder law attorney.
Immerse yourself in elder care so that you can fully understand (as much as possible) all the options before making a decision on a care plan. These excellent sites will give you plenty of fodder for plan development:
- National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information
- Long Term Care Link
- ElderCare Locator
- Care Scout
- Alzheimer’s Association Care Finder
- Caregivers’ Resources at USA.gov
- Administration on Aging’s Long-Term Care Planning
Elder Care Planning: Stages & Steps
You’ve talked about expectations, preferences, and possibilities. You’ve researched the options. Now, it’s time to organize and assimilate all the information into a formal plan (and everyone involved should receive a copy).
As there are many pieces to an elder care plan, coordination and integration are essential. These helpful articles will break down the process into several clearly defined categories, so that a. you don’t feel that you’re missing anything, b. you’re not duplicating decisions, or c. you don’t get bogged down in the sheer magnitude of the process itself.
- Guide to Long Term Care Planning
- The Seven Steps of the Planning Process
- Housing Options for Older Adults
Getting Professional Help: Keeping Everyone on the Same Page
At this stage, it may even be helpful to bring in a professional for assistance, not only in navigating these sometimes complex categories but also for keeping everyone on the same page. And, as decisions are made and the plan is shaped, family members and friends are likely to have differing opinions. When tensions flare and emotions run high, planning can quickly go off course. Don’t crash and burn in the midst of this crucial process.
It is not a sign of weakness to bring a professional into the mix. There are people who have been specially trained in care coordination and planning and they are ready and willing to help. Learn more about these professionals (from elder law attorneys to geriatric health care providers to reverse mortgage specialists and more), and find out how to contact them in these useful pieces:
- Knowing Who to Contact for Long Term Care
- Frequently Asked Questions about Geriatric Care Managers
- Elder Care Mediators: Business Booming as Boomers & Their Parents Collide
- What Can a Geriatric Care Manager Do for Me?
Respite: An Essential Component of the Elder Care Plan
A well-rounded elder care plan should include intentional preparations for respite care. It is highly probable that at some point in your loved one’s future, he or she will need a break from caring (if he ends up caring for a spouse), or you will need a break from caring (if you end up as Mom’s primary caregiver)…or both.
Remember what we said earlier about planning during a crisis? Not the best way to make decisions. Likewise, planning for respite when you’re in the midst of an intense caregiving situation is nearly impossible. Many people end up forgoing a much-needed break because they just can’t think about one more thing to do, even if it’s something good for them to do.
Caregiving is exhausting. You don’t need to see the future to know that fact. So be proactive about it. Plan ahead so that when you feel the toll of caregiving on your body, mind and soul, you won’t procrastinate or push aside the need for respite because it will already be integrated in your elder care plan.
As you plan your caregiving weeks, schedule regular date nights with your spouse. Set aside “girls/guys” nights with friends on a monthly basis. Lock in “just me” nights where you answer to no one and escape within the pages of a good book, or take a long, relaxing soak in the tub. Make a monthly recurring appointment at your favorite salon for a manicure/pedicure or massage. Take a legitimate vacation at least once a year – even if you don’t go far.
More resources for why you must make respite care a priority in your elder care planning:
- Stressed Out? Plan for Respite Care Now
- Short Term & Respite Care Options for Caregivers
- Respite Care: The Act of Looking Back
- National Respite Locator
A Glossary of Planning Resources
Here’s a round-up of some practical sites and articles – in a variety of categories – to guide you in your elder care planning efforts. Knowing the breadth and depth of all that is available online, this is not an exhaustive list and we certainly welcome your additions to it.
Alzheimer’s Care Plans
- Alzheimer’s Resource Guide
- Know Your Options & Plan Ahead for Alzheimer’s Care
- Planning Ahead After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Caregiving & Care Coordination Plans
- Lotsa Helping Hands
- Caregiving Resource Guide
- Practical Tools & Resources for Caregivers/Professionals
- Caring Connections: Advanced Directives
- AgingCare.com/End of Life & Hospice
- Aging with Dignity: Five Wishes
Senior Housing Plans
And in the spirit of these wise words from Winston Churchill, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”