Wintertime Reflections (Phase 1 Planning)

Sometimes, things change quickly! If we aren’t planning for the future, it can surprise us… Start your Planning Process with Phase 1 Planning.

I was reminiscing this past weekend. I was thinking back to times before winter when the temperature was warm and it was sunny out. Cindy and I were outside playing with the grand kids, and we were all wearing short sleeve shirts. It was a wonderful time of family fun and love! As I look outside, it’s much colder, stormy and miserable! Now is the time for fireplaces and blankets, not short sleeves and fun. What a difference time can make!

Sometimes change happens fast and furious – just like Arkansas weather. As we approach springtime, we see storms seemingly come from nowhere that can bring torrential rains and damaging winds. Such is life; you were floating along just enjoying life, then something suddenly happens that changes everything.

We have seen the health situations of many Seniors take the same unexpected and unpredictable path.  One day, they are up moving around with everything working great – then the next day, something happens and  it’s not great anymore. Without proper planning in place, the result can be as tumultuous as a sudden storm.  

My Recent Visit to the Nursing Home

Recently, I visited a man in a Nursing Home.  Two weeks prior he was at home, doing well – then he fell and broke a hip.  He had surgery and now is going through rehab at a local Nursing Home. Before his injury, his goal may have been to go fishing again that week.  Today his goal is to recover enough to return home and walk again. This man and his immediate family all experienced huge changes in their life, seemingly overnight!

We never know when bad things are going to happen, either to us or to our parents.  The keys are to be prepared for these sudden unwelcome “surprises” that life throws at us AND to know how to respond appropriately when change does occur.  Below, we discuss a few planning tips to help you get prepared for these inevitable changes. We refer to this as Phase 1 Planning.

Phase 1 Planning

Awareness

For most people, something has to happen to get them to thinking that “I’ve got to get my ducks in a row”.  It may not happen to them personally (maybe it happens to a neighbor or another family member) but something happens that gets their attention.  To use the above example, one of the Adult Kids may wonder what would happen if their Mom or Dad broke a hip and had to be in a rehab facility for several weeks.  Then what if, when they returned home, they needed assistance moving around safely – assistance transferring from bed to wheelchair to toilet to dining table and other places in the home.  What if all of the Adult Kids work and have families of their own? Would they be able to juggle their schedules to provide the assistance that their parent needs?

Discovery

This step is the same regardless of whether you are the Senior reading this or whether you are one of the Adult Kids trying to help a parent after something bad happens.  This part of the planning process is the essence of “getting your ducks in a row”. If your health has declined some and could conceivably decline a little more, consider the following:

  1. Preferences  What do you (the Senior) want to happen now and in the future.  If I were to decline in health even more, (a) where would I want to live?  (b) if I need assistance, who would I want to provide the care?
  2. Finances Do I have enough income or assets that could be easily accessed or liquidated to pay for my desired level of care?  If not, do I have long term care insurance? Am I eligible to receive government assistance?
  3. Legal Have you met with your attorney to get your estate planning in order?  Recently? I’m not talking about a document that you downloaded off the internet – I’m talking about a honest-to-goodness plan that incorporates everything that you want and need.  Have you done this?  If not and you still have your mental capacity, take this as a friendly reminder…

Communication

Most families go about their busy lives and don’t communicate with each other at all about the things written above.  They talk a lot about the grand kids, the garden, the weather, their favorite local sports teams (which is a sore point right now here in Arkansas) and a lot of other things, but they don’t talk about (1) What they would want if they were incapacitated before they die; (2) How this care is to be paid for; and (3) The legal documents they have in place to make it happen.  If you have appointed someone, do they know it? Do they know where your legal documents are located? Do they know what to do if or when something bad happens?

In our next blog, we will take this discussion a little further when we discuss Phase 2 Planning.  We hope you will join us then.

If you’re wondering if you should approach your Elderly Parent or Loved One about Phase 1 Planning, we have just the blog post for you. Check out “Clues That Momma May Need Help” for some common signs to watch for.

Next Step

If it’s time for you to get your ducks in a row, download the Phase 1 Planning Checklist to discover a few things to consider to help kick-start your planning process.  This won’t solve all of your problems but for many, it’s a great place to start.

Best wishes to you as you do your Phase 1 Planning.  If you are in Arkansas and need assistance with this, just give us a call.  If you live in another state, then contact an Elder Law or Estate Planning attorney in your area for assistance.

Thank You for being a Caregiver for Your Loved One – you are making a huge difference in their life!

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