Aging presents many challenges. It is not predictable. Many adults can live safely on their own well into their 80s, while others may start experiencing difficulties in their late 50s.
So it is important to start preparing early, ideally when you are healthy and have plenty of time to plan. I call this proactive aging. In particular, it is important to start planning for what I call the "Big 4" transitions of aging. The Big 4 include:
When to turn over financial decision-making. At some point in our lives, most of us should stop making major financial decisions and delegate authority to trusted contacts, which may include some combination of family members, friends, and financial professionals. Failure to have a financial decision-making transition plan can have devastating consequences, both financially and emotionally.
When to get help with health care decision-making. As we age, we tend to get sicker and need to take more medications. As a result, our cognitive faculties are often comprised, and we need help making good health care decisions. Identifying family members or friends who can act as health care proxies is critical to physical, emotional, and financial health, especially towards end of life.
Where and how to live safely. Living transitions can often be abrupt, triggered by a health event. While many older adults prefer to live at home, most homes are not aging friendly. It is important to have a plan that lays out how and where you want to live once it becomes unsafe to live on your own.
When to quit driving. Driving equals independence for many older adults, but at some point for most of us it becomes unsafe. It is important to have an agreement about when an older family member should quit driving, while also educating yourself on alternative forms of transportation, like ride share services.
I encourage everyone to be proactive, and not reactive, when preparing for the Big 4. Bad decisions are much more likely when under stress. Having a plan in place enables family members to focus on the physical and emotional aspects of aging, and worry less about financial matters. Visit www.whealthcareplan.com to see more about how we help older adults and their families successfully prepare for the Big 4.