by Peggy Martin, MSFS, ChFC, CASL
“Age is opportunity no less, Than youth itself, though in another dress, And as the evening twilight fades away, The sky is filled with stars, invisible by day.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, -Morituri Salutamus
My life has been surrounded by the blessings of having aging parents as role models and as a mirror for the future that I will be living (at least that is my desire).
I have been given meaningful lessons from my grandparents and parents: patience with a body that no longer performs at a command, enjoying a beautiful day, the importance of telling a life story from long ago, and the passionate desire that most of us have to live just one more day.
From my early beginnings I developed quality relationships with the Elder Generation. I learned respect for older folks from my grandma. She taught me the importance of giving up my seat on the bus to an elder or disabled person. I learned about story telling from my grandpa. He was born in 1882 and he saw the end of the horse & buggy era evolve into the American love affair with the automobile. He truly sparkled when talking about cars, although I do not believe he ever drove one.
I learned about care giving from both of my parents – especially my dad. Caregiving is not something that is done for just the elderly. My dad took care of my dying 39 year old uncle (I was five), my grandmother (my mom’s mom), his father, my mother, and my step-mother. Thanks, Dad.
I have also experienced the sadness of the loss of a parent (my mother) and a parent losing all memory of the current events of her life and eventually the loss of all memories to severe dementia (my step-mother). With these losses, there is also joy. My mother gave me life and an immense amount of love and my step-mother taught me just how much fun being a mom can be – she was a delight.
Having this background has been a real plus in our fee-only financial planning practice. I have empathy for clients who are experiencing aging concerns with their parents, other family members, and their own longevity.
Here are just a few tips for healthy aging:
Talk with your parent (or other family member): Knowing the concerns of the aging person before the accident or illness happens is critical. Having an emergency action plan in place assists with “peace of mind” and knowing what steps to take.
Review estate planning documents: If a trust or will exists, when was the last time it was updated? Advance Health Care Directives and General Durable Power of Attorney – do you know the wishes of your loved one? If no documents are in place, discuss with a qualified estate planning attorney.
Beneficiaries of IRAs, Qualified Plans, and Life Insurance: Are the named beneficiaries correct?
Cash Flow Management: What knowledge do you have about living expenses, gifts being made to family members, other gifts, and their investments? Sadly, we have been called on to provide guidance to elders and their family members after an Elder has already fallen victim to fraud.
Contact List (including phone numbers & e-mail addresses): Primary caregiver, family members, Financial Advisor, Attorney, Accountant, and bank information. Also, this list needs to include user names and passwords for websites used.
Introduction to Doctors: Knowing physicians in advance of a critical illness or accident is very beneficial. Have your parent or other family member introduce you – have on file with the physician’s office the Advance Health Care Directive. In taking care of my father, I have been able to get the assistance that I needed when it was needed.
Medical Insurance & Long Term Care: Know what coverages are currently in effect.
Medications: Know what they are, the prescribed dosage, and the number of times per day to be taken. Keep an updated list. When being admitted to any hospital or emergency room, a complete list of medications will be needed.
Nutrition & Exercise: What are their eating & exercise habits? How is their mobility? Do they prepare their own meals or does someone else?
Social Interaction: The aging process and lack of mobility can compromise social interaction . As humans, we are social – we do need the interaction. It can increase mental acuity as well as ward off loneliness and depression.
Home Safety: One of the biggest fears of aging is falling. The home, apartment, and other living areas need to be anti-falling safe.
We do believe that elder care planning is an integral part of the Family Wealth Plan. Working with qualified professionals, such as specialized fee-only financial planners, will assist in creating a map that will guide you and your family to the destination.
Do look for my upcoming elder segments: Aging and Living at Home; Resource Lists; How to choose an Independent or Assisted Living Facility.