Ask an Expert: How Do I Prepare for My Own Future?

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Ask an Expert: How Do I Prepare for My Own Future?

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Denise,

As the number of single seniors and baby boomers, primarily women, continues to grow, the need for caregivers will, too.  Today I was talking with my very senior neighbor living alone who is independently sharp.  We were discussing what to do if illness occurred requiring care and help. I immediately thought of you. What suggestions can you offer?

Hi,

Great question! This actually is a great question we should all ask, regardless of marital status or proximity of relatives who can help. We can ask ourselves:

1. If I am too ill to live on my own, where can I live? For instance, your neighbor can learn about housing options in her community, research and visit them, and then make a decision as to where she would like to live if she must move. Her local Area Agency on Aging can be a terrific resource; the staff can provide information about housing options in her area. She can call the ElderCare Locator for a referral: (800) 677-1116.

2. How would I like to die? Choosing how we want to die is as important as choosing how we want to live. Who do we want with us? What will our environment look like? Flowers, music, pets, photos? Then, once we die, what services and arrangements would we like?

3. Who will make decisions for me relating to my health care and my finances if I can't? What decisions do I want made relating to my health care? It's so important to choose a Power of Attorney for health care and finances. Your neighbor can make an appointment with an elderlaw attorney to create this very, very important document. A Power of Attorney for health care and finances can make health care decisions and pay bills when we cannot. To find an elderlaw attorney, visit here: http://www.naela.org/

4. How do I want my estate divided after my death? CNN has a helpful series of articles about estate planning: https://money.cnn.com/retirement/guide/EstatePlanning/

5. Who should know about my wishes? Your neighbor may entrust you with access to her information (housing wishes, her attorney, her banker, her closest family member). She may also share all her details with her attorney and banker, as well as any family members.

There's a great handbook called Five Wishes to help document answers to more questions like these. Aging with Dignity, which developed the book, says Five Wishes is a legally-valid tool you can use to ensure your wishes and those of your loved ones will be respected even if you can't speak for yourself. Here's the website: http://www.agingwithdignity.org

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