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The Risks of Not Planning for the Final Years

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At the outset, planning for the final years might seem straightforward: You’ll age at home, say goodbye to this world there – surrounded by a loving family – and be celebrated in a beautiful service organized by family and friends. Perhaps you’re helping an older loved one do that. It might all evolve that way, but some aspects of growing older may be beyond our control.

According to a survey conducted by Home Instead, Inc., franchisor of the Home Instead Senior Care® network, North Americans seniors and adult children overestimate how well they have planned for their final years. Among seniors, only 41 percent who have made plans say they have made actual arrangements, while only 33 percent of adults with plans have made actual arrangements. Among seniors who say they have made arrangements, only 25 percent have made arrangements for long-term care.

Putting a plan in place could help ensure a life song strikes a happy chord and minimizes the following potential risks:

Circumstances are unpredictable: The risk of not planning for the final years is that family members won’t know the wishes of their senior loved ones if the unexpected happens or they can no longer make decisions for themselves. The potential unpredictable twists and turns of life could jeopardize those wishes. No one can fully control what life throws their way, but having a plan can help. For example, if someone wants to stay at home, but they no longer can, a plan that includes home care resources could help them realize their dream to remain at home.

Some people age—and die—alone: When someone outlives a spouse or life partner, loneliness could be a potential threat to emotional well-being. Not only that, but without a plan in place to provide for assistance, the surviving partner might risk being forced into care options they don’t want. By investigating where they’d like to be before a crisis occurs, it’s possible to help minimize the risk of being alone and have the support needed to live well to the end.

Family might move away: It used to be that families lived close to one another and took care of their senior loved ones when they needed assistance, oftentimes even moving them in with their own families. More families may be disbursed in today’s mobile society and unable to be there to help their loved ones when they need it. Counting on family may not always be a sure thing. Include a plan that would provide assistance even if no family were around.

The family dynamic could change: Moving is not the only thing that can interfere with someone’s aging preferences. Death, divorce and remarriage could change family dynamics. “There are so many blended families today that what might seem acceptable to one family member could be foreign to another,” said Harriet Warshaw, executive director of the Conversation Project. “A challenging piece is ensuring that everyone is on the same page and they are not fighting at the end.”

Remember, family dynamics can impact situations even when someone has passed away. For example, tradition dictates that an individual be buried with his or her first spouse. But some people remarry and want to be buried with their second spouse. Not laying out plans in writing may be difficult on siblings and blended families.

Sickness or dementia could jeopardize the plan: Only so much of what happens is within your control. The issues of aging could eventually take a toll. The risks of illness or dementia mean that families might not know what an older loved one wants at the end of life. Families might consider designating a power of attorney and health care proxy. Meet with a financial planner as well as an attorney who can help establish or update a will.

It’s difficult to anticipate what could happen, but expecting the unexpected is a key to ensuring families are well-prepared. Completing the Compose Your Life Song Music Generator could help realize a plan that increases the chances of honoring final wishes.

Additional Resources:

5 Final Years Conversations to Begin Now
5 Ways to Create a Personalized Memorial Service
Compose Your Life Song Music Generator

Last revised: February 23, 2018

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