Be Your Own Geriatric Care Manager

Clients often consult attorneys to proactively prepare for upcoming transitions in their lives. This is certainly the case when they need a will, estate plan, living will, or powers of attorney.

More often than not, though, people assume that transitional periods are off in the future and that they have plenty of time to take care of business before they become infirm or incapacitated. The reality is that most people die without a will or eldercare plan.

Even worse, the majority of Americans admit they haven't talked to family members about providing for their care. They believe that a family member will just "be there" to care for them when the time comes. How does that "magically" occur if you don’t discuss it? This question continues to linger throughout our lives, especially for those without children.

If you want to ensure you’ll be cared for in the way that you prefer, then I encourage you to take steps now — while you’re feeling strong and healthy — to manage your late-life care.

Mobilize social assets

Aging parents should consider their children as social assets, family who’ll step up to help manage your care and your affairs when you’re no longer able. But relatives are not the only social assets. Friends or neighbors can be your spokesperson and carry out your wishes. You can plan on paid caregivers to be brought in.

During a major transition the goal is to enable as much family, friends, and caregiver involvement as possible in order to share new and unanticipated burdens of care the social assets may find themselves faced with. 

When managing the needs for your aging-care requires bringing in help, you’ll want to have a process in place that clearly defines and outlines duties and expectations for all concerned. However many social assets you have, to be effective they’ll need to cooperate toward a common goal: the care plan that you’ve chosen for yourself.

Having a clear, written directive is essential, and creating this is best done pre-crisis, because emotions during a crisis add an additional layer of complexity for caregivers.

Get your affairs in order

When wills, powers of attorney, living trusts, conservators, POLSTs, and fiduciaries are signed and in hand, that's when affairs are in order. Make sure all needed signatures are in place and written requests to release medical records are provided to surrogate decision makers.

Remind those mentioned in all documents to have a copy of the signed documents and ask them to keep them ready to present at each doctor or hospital visit. This includes being prepared to fax or email the documents too.

Encourage your social assets to keep out-of-the-area people in the loop in the event of a crisis. It’s also a good idea to provide your team with any medical and medication changes. You may even want to provide succinct conversation notes to summarize decisions each time you meet.

Assume everyone, even the doctor, wants to help, so look for ways to empower all involved. Create “round robin” reporting if the condition becomes chronic, and look for ways to keep the team involved in a “share the care” way of offering support.

Refer to community services when available and call a professional care manager to maintain focus on goals, to simplify the process, and to assess needs along the way.

Finally, ensuring your estate and late-life care is in order is essential. I suggest you consider an ethical will; a meaningful way to pass along your values and life lessons to those you love.