No matter how old we get, most of us still feel young inside. It’s hard to imagine that, if we or our parents live long enough, some body parts will start to wear out, and we or they will need help doing at least some of the daily tasks that now seem easy for us.
Research shows that one out of two North Dakotans will need additional care sometime during their lives. The risk that eventually you or your spouse will need care that you or other family members can’t provide is 65 percent. If you or a loved one suddenly needs care without prior notice or planning, many difficult decisions will have to be made quickly under duress.
Many people don’t realize that helpful options and many decisions can be worked out in advance, providing a plan of action when your situation changes and helping you and everyone in your family to feel more secure before the need for additional care arises. You may already have some of the knowledge you need to make informed decisions. For example, if one of you has a condition such as diabetes that could become debilitating, you can ask your doctor what lies ahead and what care might be required.
My Personal Experience with Planning Ahead
I guess you could say that I and my family were lucky that my husband had a definitive diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia several years before he could no longer care for himself. Even though it was difficult for him to come to terms with his diagnosis being accurate, we began immediately to make plans for the days ahead. Most of the things we did would be smart for anyone to do in advance of the needs that could result from normal aging:
- Counseling for us and our children regarding nature of the disease and how it might progress
- Caregiver Stress Busting workshop offered by the Dept. of Neurology at our local university
- Making our home safer by adding bars in showers and by toilets, removing throw rugs, taping down cords, keeping lights on at night, widening a door to be wheelchair accessible, etc.
- Meeting with our investment counselor and an attorney specializing in family law, resulting in changes to how our investments were managed, advance directives on our personal health wishes (Living Will, Healthcare Power of Attorney, Financial Power of Attorney), a Family Trust and which of our children would be the executor(s) of our estate, especially if I should die first.
- Deciding with our children who will handle our finances should I become unable to do so, and where their dad could live and who would have the time and means to care for him, if I could no longer keep him at home but he didn’t need to be in an assisted living facility
- Having ongoing discussions on how much to help and how much to allow him to do or he could do for himself, especially when it came to driving, cooking, or managing his medications
- How to continue making happy memories with him; how to explain to the grandchildren what his new limitations were
- What we could help him do to slow the progression of the disease: diet, exercise, medication
Plan Ahead for Help from Outside Your Home
Once when doctors suddenly decided to release my father from the hospital, I had only four hours to find a rehab center for him. No matter how well you, your spouse or your parents may be now, it’s never too soon to make yourselves aware of what help is available in your community on several levels.
To be ready for the time where one of you will need more help than family members can provide, make yourselves and other family members aware of the services provided by home health agencies, rehab centers, assisted living facilities and/or nursing homes in your area that come highly recommended. Because I write for Dakota Home Care, I was already aware of available home care options, but my husband and I visited several assisted living facilities, in case one should be needed, and he decided which one he liked the best.
An excellent resource that covers all aspects of planning for long-term care is available online from AARP: https://assets.aarp.org/www.aarp.org_/cs/health/ltc_resource_guide.pdf. It covers topics such as your home and community resources, your health, your finances and your wishes. It includes preparation steps you can follow and a long-term care worksheet to record your progress. We encourage you to read the guide and start planning now! You can also call us anytime to find out the home care resources we offer in your area of North Dakota or check out our website.
Find Out How Technology Can Help
Advances in technology can provide new options to help care for ourselves and our loved ones. Our recent blog on “The Many Ways New Technology Can Help Seniors Stay Healthy at Home” mentions several that you might not be aware of: webcams, alarms, pressure sensors, medical alerts, automatic pill reminders/dispensers. Wearable technology like Apple and Android smartwatches have voice activated emergency communication, health tracking, alerts, fall detection and GPS tracking options. Surveillance cameras, baby monitors and smart-display devices with WiFi allow for remote check-ins. You can install keyless deadlocks or lockboxes for emergency access to the home without a key. Keeping up on new technology and learning how to use it can be another valuable caregiving resource, as needed.
Make Your Wishes Known
Have you thought about where you will live and who will take care of you when you can no longer do everything for yourself? Have you discussed your wishes with your spouse and other family members? Do you know what their wishes are should you need to give or provide care for them? If you should become unable to tell your family yourself, do you have written instructions for them so they don’t have to guess what you would want to happen? Do you have your legal documents in a place where your family members and healthcare providers can easily find them? Do you have a plan for how are you going to pay for in-home care—everything from aides to specialized nursing care, an assisted living facility or a nursing home. Do you know what benefits are available from Medicare or the VA or for what services you will have to self-pay?
Consider these Possible Benefits of Advance Planning:
- Having more choices down the road
- Directing/making the decisions that will affect you
- Feeling less overwhelmed in the future
- Being ready to help yourself or your family and friends
Dakota Home Care gives seniors who want to live in their own homes assistance with daily living, based on individual needs. Care can be for as little as one-hour-per-visit or up to 24-hours-per-day, and can be provided by a companion, certified home health aide or a registered nurse. For more information about the services Dakota Home Care can provide, visit our website, or call us at 701-663-5373 for a free consultation
A wealth of additional resources can be found by searching on “Long-Term Care Planning.”