When planning for retirement, most people know that legal and financial issues are of utmost importance. Powers of attorney, trusts and wills are in the forefront of planning for aging. But, have you considered planning for care? According to the National Council on Aging, more than 90% of older adults have at least one chronic health condition. The risk of accidents, cognitive decline, or chronic disease all increase as we age. It is important to make a plan for care, so that your wishes are met and you receive the medical and emotional support that is needed.
Consider the following when making a plan for care in aging:
- Evaluate your support system. Older adults should have an advocate who knows their individual wishes and healthcare needs. When deciding where to live in retirement consider who will be your advocate. If family or dear friends are not nearby, make a plan to move closer to those who will act in your best interest in times of need.
- Learn about the senior resources in your area: Visit retirement communities, adult day health centers, and area agencies on aging to get an idea of what resources are available. Put your name on wait lists for communities or services that you prefer.
- Plan for a time when you may not be able to drive: As we grow older, issues with vision, mobility or cognitive decline may prohibit the ability to drive. Be sure to make plans for a support system to provide transportation, or move to an area where services are within walking distance.
- Make your wishes known: Just as Advance Directives legally outline your wishes concerning end-of-life care, it is important to let your advocates know your preferences for how you want to live in your senior years. Do you hope to age in place at home? Would you accept care in an assisted living facility? Is it important that your hair be kept nice every day, or that you are always clean-shaven? Be sure that dear friends and family know your wishes so that they have clear direction on how to be your best advocate.
- Evaluate your living environment: If you wish to age-in-place at home, take a serious look at the barriers to mobility in your environment. Steps, bathrooms, clutter, and poor lighting can all cause safety risks as you age. Consider hiring an Aging-in-Place specialist to provide a home assessment and install safety modifications in your home.
- Avoid social isolation: As we age, friends and family may move away. Spouses may die, leaving seniors alone and isolated. Older adults who do not have regular social contact are at high risk for anxiety, depression, sleep problems, and chronic disease. In addition, the risk of cognitive decline increases when the brain is not stimulated. Make a plan to continue with meaningful activity and social engagement throughout your retirement years.
Successful aging takes planning. Aging Life Care Managers specialize in helping older adults plan for care as they age. Care Managers provide assistance and resources to help seniors successfully age-in-place or find the best retirement community to meet their needs, so that they can live their retirement years to the fullest.