If you don’t know the future, can you plan for it?
The answer is yes, according to Chandelle Martel, Manager of the Bethesda Care Management Program, and a Certified Geriatric Care Manager. She advises senior adults to start early before decisions are made for them instead of with their input. “You may not know all the specific details, but you can anticipate some of the physical, financial and social changes that come with aging, and be part of the preparation process,” she says.
Step One: Accept Change
The best time for seniors to begin creating a care plan is when their health is relatively good and they are not rushed into decisions by a worsening condition, sudden illness, or accident.
“Some of my residents who have successfully handled the care plan process looked well ahead and moved into one of our Bethesda independent living communities with other couples they knew,” says Chandelle. While still in good health, the couples enjoyed each others’ company and engaged in the activities of the community where they lived, for years before additional care services were needed.
Unfortunately, many seniors don’t want to think about losing their physical or cognitive abilities. As Chandelle points out, they still can go up and down the stairs of their home, so they don’t want to think about a time when they aren’t able to do so. They can still drive, and don’t want to anticipate having to relinquish the car keys.
Some future needs are more predictable than others. For example, seniors who receive an early diagnosis of dementia or Parkinson’s disease know they will eventually need a long-term care community that can provide a progressive continuum of care.
The key is to recognize that lifestyle adjustments will need to be made. “When you are willing to accept changes and the fact that you have to take steps ahead of time, you can stay in control of your life by making provisions for the future,” says Chandelle.
Step Two: Know What to Consider
What are some of the things for you as a senior to think about when forming a care plan?
- Money: What are your anticipated costs and financial resources?
- Healthcare: Older adults will almost always need more medical care as they age. Will your current healthcare coverage be adequate? Is a second plan needed in addition to Medicare?
- Home: What changes will need to be made in your home to make it safe for you to age in place? What will the cost be? Who will maintain the property if you cannot take care of it by yourself? Does it make sense to consider a retirement community?
- Family: What role will family members play in providing care? Their ability to provide support will help determine your future, as in the professional in-home services you will need and your eventual ability to remain in your home.
Also, having an advanced directive that identifies who will make your medical decisions if you are unable to do so and what you want in terms of end-of-life medical care is important.
Step Three: Seek Information
To construct an effective care plan, seniors and caregivers need as much good information as they can get. And there are a lot of questions to answer:
- What are the financial, medical, and family issues that they could face as they age?
- What benefits are they entitled to?
- Will they be able to live in their home for a while longer?
- What kind of in-home services are available or should they move to a retirement community, and how do they know which community will best meet their needs?
Geriatric Care Managers (GCM) like Chandelle can make decisions easier. “I conduct assessments when I meet with seniors living in their home,” she says. “What do we need to change within the house or should we look at a senior living community?” she says.
GCMs are versed in benefit programs, in-home service offerings, and can help with placement decisions in independent senior living, assisted living or skilled nursing communities if required, as well as help with family issues.
“A GCM can provide information on communities that truly promote senior health and wellness and those that don’t,” she says. Also matching the senior’s hobbies and interests with those provided by the communities is important.
“If the senior walks, is there a walking group within the community? If they like to go places, what activities outside the community are offered?” says Chandelle. If transportation services in the community are offered, how far will they transport residents?
The decisions are many and complex, making a GCM a valuable resource when putting together a care plan.
Step Four: Understand Your Care Plan May Change
Yes, you can plan for an unknown future. In fact, preparing for the future will make it a much better place to be. Things do change—unexpected illnesses, accidents, changes in financial status — and new information will always require adjustments. “But even if you have some cognitive issues later on, you can live an independent life longer if you have planned ahead,” says Chandelle.
As things change, review your plan. “You can always adjust a care plan,” says Chandelle. “They aren’t set in stone. But having a plan in place is far better than having no plan when life suddenly hands you a series of difficult situations.”
If you are ready to start planning for your future with a care plan, contact Bethesda’s Care Management Team today. Our experts will create a customized care plan that fits your needs.