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A Guide to Senior Life Planning

While caring for adults as they age can be a challenging responsibility for children and other family members, it's also a time to reflect on happy memories and plan for the future. Those with aging parents may be tasked with caregiving, housing, and even legal responsibilities. If you find yourself caring for an aging loved one, it's important to remember you're not alone.

As we age, caring for adults and parents is relatively common, and the demand for caregivers continues to increase. A study found that 41.8 million adults in the U.S. are caregivers to patients ages 50 and older. With the growing prevalence of senior caregiving across the nation, it is more than likely that you, or someone you know, will take the lead to help aging parents live comfortably and have peace of mind.

Whether your aging parent or loved one needs support for the first time or you're planning for the future, it's essential to be prepared. Below is a step-by-step guide to help you navigate senior life planning. Remember this will not happen all at once, so be patient and be prepared to do a lot of listening. This is their life and they deserve to life the life they want for as long as they are able. Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal is an invaluable resource on how to start and have the hard conversations with your loved ones about aging.

How to Talk to Aging Parents About Life Planning

Families and their aging parents don't always agree on what's best for them as they age. Discussing care options and wishes is vital to ensure everyone is on the same page in case decisions need to be made on an aging parent's behalf.

Start the Conversation Early

The earlier you begin the conversation around senior life planning, the better. This will ensure you have adequate time to carry out plans or make changes based on your aging parent's needs. Loop in any necessary parties or family members to ensure everyone is clear and comfortable with the decisions being made.

Create a Safe Environment

Discussing senior life planning can be challenging, and this can be an emotional discussion for your parents and yourself. Make sure to create a safe environment that encourages open dialogue and empowers your parents to express their thoughts, concerns, and wishes. Being patient and understanding can remove pressure around the subject and help everyone get the most out of the conversation.

Do Your Research

Before discussing life plans with aging adults, do your research (Read Being Mortal!). Come prepared with different housing, caregiving, and medical options so they know the range of different scenarios they may be facing. It would help if you also reviewed insurance policies and senior benefits to ensure your parents are enrolled in everything they need.

Take Notes

There is quite a lot to go over when it comes to senior planning, so remember to take notes during your conversation. If you feel note-taking could be a distraction, record the conversation to ensure you get all the important details.

Tasks to Consider When Caring for Aging Adults

When it comes to senior life planning for aging adults, there can be several important details to discuss. This checklist will ensure you and your loved ones remember all the key information.

Review Their Health and Medical Support Needs

A senior life plan begins with understanding your parents' health and medical needs. Even if they are in good health, it's essential that your parents' care and treatment preferences are stated in a living will and discussed with family members.

• Go over health needs, like medication and routine healthcare

• Gather important health/medical contacts

• Locate the nearest hospital or urgent care facility

• Establish a relationship with their primary care physician

• Discuss their latest check-up and help schedule upcoming appointments

• Review any chronic conditions

Discuss Options for Living Arrangements

When discussing aging plans with your parents, make sure to get their thoughts on how they'd like their finances handled if they can no longer make those decisions. Essential topics include home ownership, outstanding debts, savings, and retirement funds.

• Ask what financial accounts are open and where they are held

• Gather contact information for their advisors

• Make sure all accounts are titled correctly

• Educate yourself on Social Security benefits

• Ensure beneficiary designations are up to date

• Find ways to streamline bill paying, like setting up automatic payments

Create a Caregiving Plan

Help your aging parent create a plan so that there are no questions about the care needed down the line.

• Meet with their doctors to discuss any changes in their personal needs

• Familiarize yourself and your parent with different caregiving options

• Ask if they have any specific requirements to maintain their health and comfort

• If pets need to be cared for, create a plan for them as well

Gather Legal Documents

Taking care of legal issues while your parents are in good health can reduce stress brought on by the caregiving process. Discuss legal issues with your aging parent and make sure you know where to find their personal information and documents if you ever need them.

• Discuss where essential documents are stored

• Ask if there is a will and where it is located (do not put wills and other vital documents in safe deposit boxes which get sealed upon death)

• Check in to see if they have power of attorney for finances and health care, and if not, encourage them to do so

• Review their estate plan to ensure beneficiaries and responsibilities are up-to-date and listed correctly

Discuss Insurance Plans

Finally, make sure to go over your parents' insurance policies. It's important to know what policies they hold, if they're adequate, where any accounts are located, and if they're up to date. This can help prevent financial burdens in a medical emergency or accident.

• Make a list of all active insurance policies (auto, home, health, long-term care, etc.)

• Gather contact information for their insurance advisers

• Review homeowners, auto, and life insurance to make sure they are adequate and up to date

• Look over health insurance coverage and see if any policy changes need to be made based on your parent's current or future needs

Remember, caring for aging parents is an ongoing project, and their needs may evolve over time. Continue to work with your parents and have an ongoing conversation so that you can best understand their needs and wishes, even if they change.


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