straight talk on aging

The holidays are here! The time for extended families and loved ones to get together. It’s also a good time to start the conversation between generations on some sensitive topics.

Here’s what you should be asking and discussing:

Is a Power of Attorney in Place?
If so, where is it located? Are the powers broad enough to enable your agent to make critical decisions? A Power of Attorney (POA) is one of the most important planning tools you can have. It protects you in case you become incapacitated. If you do not appoint someone, your family may need to seek a guardianship and a stranger could be appointed to make decisions for you.

What About a Health Care Proxy?
Have you discussed whether you want life-sustaining treatments? Are you confident the person you have chosen feels capable of following through on withholding treatment if this is what you wish? This is a critical part of the conversation, especially if you have strong feelings about limiting life-sustaining treatments in certain situations.

Do you have a Long-Term Care Policy?
If so, where is the policy kept? Does your family know what it covers? How long before benefit payments can be collected? What’s the daily payment cap and the maximum amount of coverage?

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Do your loved ones know about your financial situation?
If you suddenly become incapacitated, your POA may need to take over in a hurry and they need information! If you aren’t ready to disclose your finances to your children or loved ones, you can still create a list of all your financial institutions with account numbers, contact information for your financial planner if you have one, life insurance policies and policy numbers, sources of income, etc.

It’s also helpful to have a list of regular bills that you pay, along with your online user names and passwords in case your family needs to step in unexpectedly. Whether or not you are ready to share this information or your POA with your loved ones, you can still be prepared.

Do your loved ones know where to find your documents?
I’m referring to birth certificates, passports, marriage license, deeds to property or burial plans, power of attorney papers, wills, etc. Getting these items all in one location – and making your family aware of that – can make life a lot easier in the event of a crisis. If you keep these items in a safe deposit box that only you can access, no one will be able to retrieve your important paperwork!

I recommend that you be proactive! An experienced social worker or certified care manager can help facilitate these discussions, put you at ease, and reduce the pressure on everyone involved. Proper planning will give you and your family peace of mind. It may also allow you to have much more control over how and where you age.

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