Will you grow old? Plan on it. Plan for it.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

By Suzanne Burke, CEO, Council on Aging of Southwestern Ohio

Medicare.  Medicaid.  Assisted Living.  Independent Living.  Living Will.  Long-term care.  We hear these terms - and others like them - and they all seem so complex, confusing and downright depressing.  We’d rather think about them later, at some vague, unnamed time. Or maybe, not at all!

Unfortunately, that is what is called “magical thinking.”  Reports and studies by the dozens have found that retirement is often seen as an extended vacation for active seniors when, in reality, 70 percent of us will need long-term care at some time during our older years.  In other words, we may escape the need for care as we age, but probably not.  Our increasing longevity is a medical marvel, but it has its costs.

Ironically, many of us are already caring for aging relatives and seeing these realities first hand.  If that older loved one has done little to no planning and if the family hasn’t discussed the person’s wishes and resources,  all the normal difficulties become even more complicated and stressful.

Of course we can’t predict the future, but we plan for vacations, weddings, even funerals. We insure against other things that might or might not happen. Why not also plan for the near-inevitability of long-term care?

Long-term care is the help you need when you’re not able to perform daily activities by yourself such as preparing food, dressing, bathing, managing medications or handling personal paperwork.  There are many related issues - finances, insurance, legal matters, housing – that can’t be dealt with properly in a crisis. And, you may find that options are limited if you haven’t planned ahead.

At Council on Aging, we often hear comments like this one from a woman whose father was diagnosed with early onset of Alzheimer’s disease. “It was an awful time,” she said. “We didn’t know about respite care or adult day centers or any of the services that are out there. We were making mistake after mistake, just floundering. A nursing home is not necessarily the answer. Planning ahead is the answer.”

To encourage people to plan for their future long-term care needs, Council on Aging holds an annual workshop called Own Your Future. It’s been a popular way for people to learn how to protect their assets, arrange legal matters, and understand what living options and services are available and how best to use them. The workshop is a “sales-free” environment where the only goal is education.

This year, Own Your Future will be presented on Saturday Sept. 21 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at LifeSpan, 1900 Fairgrove Ave., in Hamilton.

Participants will receive a toolkit of information, checklists, and resources designed to help them create a long-term care plan of their own. Space is limited and advance registration is required by Sept. 19.  Register online or by calling 513-345-3367. 

We know many people do want to do this planning and just need help getting started.  To put it in the most positive terms: planning is a gift to your loved ones and yourself.