Elder Care: Preparing for Your Future as you Age

by | Aug 26, 2022

Many of us are never really ready to plan or make preparations for the additional support we will require as we age. Throughout our lives, we look forward to adolescence, adulthood, the years of family and careers, and retirement, but we certainly don’t look forward to those final years when our health is declining. Things like declining mobility, disease, or the loss of a spouse often lead to drastic and unexpected changes in how seniors live.

We talked with a few older adults about what they have learned as they are aging and the experiences that they’ve had as they make decisions for their own care.

This is the first part of a two-part series that looks at individuals’ experiences in planning and coordinating elder care. Today we are sharing information from seniors who are planning for this transition. (Our next blog post will be from those providing support and caregiving for those receiving elder care.)


Lillian’s Experiences

  1. What has your experience been in finding support and services to assist you in your daily life? Have you found them easily, or has it been a challenge?

    In my case, I have wise children that I have discussed my needs with and they have been very helpful and supportive as I planned for my elder years’ needs. I have already pre-purchased a funeral plan and cemetery lots, and they have been with me to the lawyer to prepare a will.
  2. What are some preparations you made that you are glad you did? (Environment changes/modifications, financial planning, etc.)

    I applied for Social Security a year before I actually retired from work. I then put my entire work earnings into savings to see if I could live off of just the Social Security checks for the year before I retired. (I could.) I budgeted well and did not do unnecessary “shopping”. I had a handicap ramp installed before I needed it. I bought an SUV that rides “higher”, so I don’t feel like I’m crawling up out of a groundhog hole when I get out of the car. I had already downsized my furniture and belongings twice. I am comfortable with where I stand with God, so I’m not afraid to die.
  3. What type of support has been difficult to find resources and information for?

    It’s difficult to find a financial advisor who has your best interests in mind. We needed advice on estate planning. My daughter and I made an appointment with someone who was well-advertised, only for us to show up and him be an hour away in Valparaiso, wasting our valuable time. It was maddening! We had no idea he had another office in Valpo, where he double-booked appointments. (Note to others: Pick someone LOCAL!)
  4. What are some things you wish you’d done differently or planned for more?

    This acknowledgment of “old age” sneaks up on you rapidly, before you are ready to admit it. Ask more questions. “Do I have to make this decision right now, or can it wait?” The number of decisions that have to be made after the sudden death of a spouse can be overwhelming. I’m glad my children stepped in and helped me because my mind was one big blur at the time. I do have some lingering questions and regrets about my decisions at that time.
  5. What advice would you give others on planning for their care/support as they age?

    My advice would be to downsize your furniture and belongings once your children have “left the nest”. Living in the same house for 50+ years tends to accumulate a lot of “stuff”. Keepsakes are important mementos of the past, but for goodness sake, learn to get rid of what you don’t NEED. (Note: “Getting rid of everything” is not the answer either. I have selectively chosen a few keepsakes that I can’t bear to part with.) Too many of us “senior citizens” don’t want to move away from the two-story, too-big house we raised the kids in, even though we can’t get up the stairs or use the bathtub anymore. Too many don’t want to throw out “perfectly good items that someone can use.”

    There are plenty of people less fortunate than us who would be happy with items donated or purchased at garage sale prices. Don’t wait until you die… the kids will likely go through and throw away 90% of it anyway. You might as well see with your own eyes how your “treasures” end up. A smaller place, all on one floor, will be much easier to take care of as you age, and will be more affordable than taking care of that big family home you’ve maintained for so long!

Elaine’s Experiences

  1. What has your experience been in finding support and services to assist you in your daily life? Have you found them easily, or has it been a challenge?

    I am so grateful to still be in my home of 66 years. I have been widowed for 7 years. I have good children and grandchildren who help me as they can. I have assistance with cleaning every two weeks. I have meals on wheels 5 days a week. My children and in-laws come frequently to help me with my appointments since I don’t drive anymore at 88 years old. My pastor comes frequently for visits also.
  2. What are some preparations you made that you are glad you did? (Environment changes/modifications, financial planning, etc.)

    Getting a bed rail for my bed. I didn’t make financial preparations.
  3. What type of support has been difficult to find resources and information for?

    I was in a nursing home for 8 weeks after I fell three times in 24 hours. This was very expensive and impacted the money I had been able to save.
  4. What are some things you wish you’d done differently or planned for more?

    I miss being able to drive and it is hard to get transportation assistance. I have learned more patience when dealing with this.

    I wish I had planned for old age and had a savings account for our health issues as we age. We had some insurance, but our health issues have been expensive and eat up savings very quickly.
  5. What advice would you give others on planning for their care/support as they age?

    Plan for those rainy days that come to us all. I lived with my dad’s parents growing up as my Dad farmed with my Grandpa. My dad was the youngest son of 9 children and he lived on the farm to help grandpa. My grandpa lived to 102 years old and went blind in his later years. My dad was grandpa’s nurse and took care of him as he needed.

    I feel most of us prefer to live in our own homes and not nursing homes. They are fine if one can’t care for themselves, but our homes help us to be happier. It is quiet and we don’t hear all the noises there are in the nursing home. I like my independence and I’m happier at home than I was in the nursing home. I can work on my hobbies, rest whenever I want, and I can take naps without interruption.

Alice’s Experiences

  1. What has your experience been in finding support and services to assist you in your daily life? Have you found them easily, or has it been a challenge?

    I have been very lucky, I have had to travel for radiation for 6 weeks. Even though I don’t live in the county I’m traveling to for treatment, that county’s transportation came after me, took me to my appointment, and brought me home free of charge. The county where I live wanted $40 a day to take me to those radiation appointments. We’ve also been able to get staffing coverage for our special needs son who lives with us with the help of his waiver provider and our staff.

    It has been difficult to find a good residential placement for our son. Our family is in this area so want to keep him here so that when he finds a placement we can visit easier.
  2. What are some preparations you made that you are glad you did? (Environment changes/modifications, financial planning, etc.)

    We have made our will and named person/s to make decisions for our son’s care after we are gone. We have also put in a ramp for us to use. I fell coming in from chemotherapy, and it helps my husband who has been diagnosed with Parkinson’s.
  3. What type of support has been difficult to find resources and information for?

    Finding a caring residential placement for our son, as he has no siblings to help with his care. Our case manager has been working on it, but there are not enough caring people that want to work.
  4. What are some things you wish you’d done differently or planned for more?

    I wish we had started earlier on placement for our son so that it won’t be a traumatic separation for him and, yes, for us too.
  5. What advice would you give others on planning for their care/support as they age?

    Make sure final arrangements are done or at least what your wishes are.

    For caregivers, be sure to take time out for yourself. Check with churches to see if they have someone that could take over for you to get away for a short time.

TAKEAWAYS

There is a lot of great advice these individuals have been gracious enough to share with us. Everyone’s experience, preparation, health, and finances are different and there is not a single right or wrong path for anyone. Through this journey, you’ll be faced with making decisions for yourself based on your own values and priorities.

There are the top 5 takeaways I saw from these experiences:

  1. Plan wherever, and whenever, you can. Some of the biggest decisions you need to make will likely need to be acted on before they NEED to happen. Having things in place before they need to happen is an approach that will save you and your family a lot of stress, and it will make difficult transitions more bearable. Planning and setting your priorities are important but unforeseen circumstances may mean you have to make some compromises. Flexibility is just as important.
  2. Choose family members or friends that you trust to help you in times when you have difficulty making decisions or are overwhelmed with life’s challenges. These relationships are natural supports that can help you find the right fit for your future.
  3. Consider determining what you will earn from social security before your retirement and living off that anticipated income for a year before you retire from work. Anything you earn beyond that anticipated social security income can be put into savings and that is a win-win! You can build your savings and ease into living on retirement income while still having a safety net. It will undoubtedly help you understand what other adjustments you’ll need to make to keep yourself comfortable.
  4. Find local planners and resources to help you understand these processes and your options. Local planners and resources can be more available and responsive, and they will likely have a good understanding of what is available within your community.
  5. Saving where you can is crucial. Medical expenses and in-home care are expensive and can drain a savings account very quickly. Talk to a financial planner and see what the best options are for you.

If you are interested in talking to someone who can help you find resources or guide you through elder care benefits, services, and supports, please consider reaching out to Advocacy Link’s Resource Connections. (You can call and leave a message at 888-537-5733 or send an email to info@advocacy-links.com.)

You and your family don’t have to figure it all out on your own from scratch, and we have professionals that can help you find and navigate resources to address your individual set of priorities, challenges, and circumstances.

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