Mom’s Still Healthy. Can Life-Care Planning Wait?
By Maureen Rulison
Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC
Your parents (or other loved ones) are getting older. Most of us at this stage – watching them enter their “golden years” while getting “up there” ourselves – try to assess “the damage” to see when it’s appropriate to make BIG DECISIONS. Can life-care planning wait a few more years?
While otherwise healthy, they’re showing some signs of aging. You may say to yourself:
- “Why would I upset them now with talk of end-of-life care?”
- “They’re still working. Shouldn’t we at least get to retirement first before the tough discussions?”
- “I assume their finances are in order.”
- Or worse, “Someone else should have this talk with them.”
They’re common thoughts. Understandable even. But they’re also misperceptions, rooted in assumptions, uncertainty and the fear of upsetting others. At best, they’re also wishful thinking – a very human tendency to hope for the best and avoid considering the worst.
So how long should you wait before starting the life-care planning process? If possible, the time is now! Don’t be among the two-thirds of American adults without a formal care plan.
Can Life-Care Planning Wait? No. Here’s Why
To truly have a LIFE WORTH LIVING, life-care planning must be done ASAP so you and your loved one can focus on the real joys of life. Get it out of the way early, while everyone’s thinking clearly, so everyone can move on and enjoy the remaining years without worry. Because here are some realities:
- Years pass quickly – with or without action
- Emotions get stronger closer to “the end”
- Decision-making only gets harder
- Legal & financial matters can take years to resolve
We’ve said before that a life-care plan usually has about 9 parts. But let’s break it down even more simply into 3 easy steps.
1. Honor Your Loved One’s Wishes
A life-care plan must be personalized. It’s your Mom’s plan, or your parents’ joint plan, or your cousin’s or aunt’s. No one else’s. While your parent or other aging loved one is still healthy, it’s essential to learn their preferences directly from them. (My life partner/care partner, Brian, who lives with dementia, made this video to his future care partners while he was still cognizant enough to advocate for his needs and wants.)
This gives the individual the opportunity to tell their own story while they still have the enthusiasm and mental capacity for it. Have them write it down or do a quick-and-easy video like Brian’s, or even say it into a recorder. Whatever works.
2. Build the Circle of Support
In our circle of support, it’s called the care-partner team. We prefer the person-centered term “care partner” to “caregiver” because even language requires a level playing field. “Caregiver” implies power over decision-making, while “care partner” implies an equal voice.
So let’s build the care-partner team. Your parent/aging loved one can choose those best suited to do individual jobs. It’s their choice, and it’s best to figure this part out early so the individuals involved can prepare. It’s in everyone’s best interest to have these conversations without grief or intense emotions.
3. Build the Care-Delivery Mechanism
With the team in place and the loved one’s wishes factored, now comes a series of vital questions about care delivery:
- How will care be delivered
- Who will deliver it?
- Where will it be delivered?
- How will it be paid for?
- What will happen in “the end”?
Determining all this early allows the team to have everything in place – from moving to assisted living to involving hospice to preparing financially and legally. Perhaps living happily and healthily at home is possible. Many times, it isn’t. Sometimes key members of the care-partner team can follow through on care promises. Sometimes their circumstances change. So it’s important to make the life-care plan a working document that’s flexible to change.
Can Life-Care Planning Wait? Not If You Want the Process To Run Smoothly
Even Type-A planners couldn’t reasonably be expected to work on a life-care plan while dealing with the emotional toll of an aging loved one. And eventually the aging individual may no longer participate meaningfully in the planning process. It benefits all parties to start having these conversations as soon as possible.
Caregiver Support and Resources, LLC helps the life-care planning process with a guiding and caring hand. Schedule your free consultation with me today. We want the same outcome as you: a LIFE WORTH LIVING for everyone involved.