Hidden Value of Planning

Small changes in an aging parent can prompt adult children to begin to think about their family situations in earnest. It might be a nagging concern that Mom or Dad had a tough time in their house this winter. Or, it can be a change in their own personal lives, such as a move further away that gets them thinking.

Whatever the trigger and whatever the timing, I get calls from adult children who want to begin to learn more about senior living options. I welcome these calls because it means they’re beginning to create a plan instead of waiting for a crisis to occur…. which unfortunately is what I see happen all too often.

Having a plan in place can make all the difference for a family. Too many people confuse the action of developing a plan, with executing it. Having a plan does not necessarily mean that a parent has to move now. What a plan does is help a family be better prepared for what the future may bring.

What constitutes a plan?

Mostly, developing a plan means assessing your family’s situation, gathering information and having some open and honest discussions. By the time I get contacted by someone, they usually have some concern with a parent’s medical condition and what that means for them to live alone. My discussions with them include an assessment of their loved one’s health, geographic considerations, financial picture, needs and desires. This information allows me to provide some guidance for next steps - - whether the solution is a senior community or other alternative.

Health assessment

This is ongoing but having open communication with a parent’s medical providers is vital. Even older adults who do not have a chronic disease like diabetes or dementia, need to be honest about their overall health and how living in their home may or may not be impacting it. How close are we to a possible crisis?

Financial assessment

Even the closest of families have a hard time talking about money but without these facts you don’t know your options and no decisions can be made. Adult children need to get a clear picture of finances, value of a home if and when it would be sold and what benefits (such as VA pensions) may be available. Whether a senior stays in their home or makes the decision that it is time to move, this information needs to be discussed, and figuring it out in the midst of a crisis is not ideal

Explore senior health services

All families need to explore the many options that exist for supportive services. This part of planning includes researching in-home care options and senior communities so you have some way to assess what makes sense for your situation.

Going through the steps above should get everyone to a place where some decisions can begin to be made. Based on your family’s expected timetable, you may identify some tasks to be done. This may be meeting with an attorney for some estate planning or meeting with a real estate agent to set the stage for selling the home in the future. Start the conversation and fact finding today. You will be glad you did.