Alan D. Feller, Esq.
When to start a Life Care Plan?
Starting to plan for college the day after your child graduates from high school is probably not a great idea. This obviously flawed logic, applied to one of life’s natural progressions, is also unhesitatingly used as a planning recipe for aging seniors. Over the last 30 years, too many elder care plans have been initiated following a health emergency. As a response, new approaches to elder care are being tested by attorneys and other senior advisors. One such approach is called Life Care Planning.
Life Care Planning is a quality-of-life system. Using an “Elder Care Continuum,” aging adults can measure their overall needs and benefits against a chart that includes the headings: Health and Ability to Function, Housing Options, Cost of Care, plus Public Benefits and Available Resources. The range of a senior’s functionality extends from no limitations all the way through significant limitations. Living at home is a natural starting point. If a senior requires assistance or contemplates a move into a senior community, life care planners can examine those options or other more care-oriented options. Cost of care often goes hand-in-hand with the housing options and then comes the question of how to pay for everything. Public benefits and resources will be part of the conversation along with private-pay concerns. Depending on where on the chart an aging adult falls – if there are any gaps, an inter-disciplinary team can make adjustments.
Adjustments would cover basic elder law functions such as estate and Medicaid planning and advance directives (Health Care Proxies, Powers of Attorney). Care coordination, family education, care advocacy, crisis intervention and support would also be part of Life Care Planning adjustments. A range of health care, legal, and social work professionals would comprise a Life Care Planning team. The goal is ensure that an aging adult is living their best life, in the right home, with the most financial, medical and legal flexibility.
Moving away from the crisis-driven elder care approach requires a substantial change in thinking. For decades, a medical diagnosis, a fall, death of a spouse and other difficult life events were often the catalysts to start elder care and estate planning. Under this cloud, planning was shrouded in negativity. Life Care Planning is supposed to begin with hope and intelligence. There are aging milestones that should be target dates for starting a Life Care Plan. Retirement, signing up for Social Security and Medicare, birth of a grandchild are all easy markers to begin next phase Life Care Planning. The expectation is that an on-going relationship with the planners leads to better preparation, organization and execution as life events or health issues arise.
Life Care Planning, when it operates effectively, will be a years-long conversation between the senior, their planning team and the senior’s loved ones. The on-going dialogue would trace financial concerns, health changes, family dynamics and any legal changes necessitating document updates. Stitching seams and closing gaps will be the preferable methodology for senior planning. Avoiding the messiness and stress of emergency planning is vitally important in a time of great uncertainty.
Contact the professionals at Sloan and Feller today to inquire about the range of senior planning options.