How Can You Best Plan for Long-Term Care?
Planning for future care needs—whether it is for your own necessities or for those a loved one—can seem like a daunting task. Like many people, you may feel strongly that remaining in your home is the ideal situation. According to Dr. Heather Sobel—attending physician at St. John’s Home—that desire to stay at home often keeps people from looking into their options. “Many people try to stay at home, but that isn’t always possible,” said Dr. Sobel at the St. John’s sponsored Planning for Long-Term Care panel discussion on October 24. She explained that holding fast to the hope that you can stay home without having a back-up plan can turn out badly. “That often ends up being the reason why people might need to move to long-term care.”
It is never too early
Some studies suggest people are slowly taking a more proactive approach to planning for long-term care. Yet, most professionals who help individuals organize their legal, medical, and personal needs for placement in long-term care say that the majority of their clients come to them with an urgent need that needs to be resolved immediately. These experts admit that addressing future needs ahead of time gives them much greater flexibility to put together a solid, successful plan. Thus, being proactive is key.
Trisha Fast—a geriatric care manager with Constance Care Management—stressed that it is never too early to begin putting a plan in place. “It really is best to seek help before a crisis occurs,” said Fast, who also spent years as a social worker in hospital and home care settings. She added that any plan put in place “will need to be changed at some point” and that starting early allows for time to ask questions, build a support system, and tour potential housing options.
Dr. Sobel reiterated the idea of beginning the process in advance to make sure you are able to properly express your wishes. “It is best to plan ahead while you’re still able to have these discussions with your family.”
The first step to developing a comprehensive plan for long-term care is to complete documents that outline your wishes should you experience a sudden decline in your health. Miles Zatkowski—an elder law attorney with Dutcher & Zatkowski—explained the intricacies the different advance directives and the importance of completing them while you are still healthy:
- Power of Attorney- authorizes an agent to address your financial matters when you are unable to act on your own behalf. Zatkowski expressed the importance of finding someone you can trust, as that person will have access to your personal income and assets.
- Health Care Proxy– formalizes your selection of a health care agent to act on your behalf if you lose the ability to make decisions. A health care proxy form also allows for you to give special instructions to your agent about specific measures you do or do not wish for. Zatkowski explained that taking the time to complete this document in full “allows you to make those decisions first,” thus giving you control in times of uncertainty.
- MOLST- the distinctively pink MOLST form is a document used in New York State to express your current care wishes. Updated regularly when a person is seriously ill, MOLST travels with the person to the hospital, doctor’s appointments, or an assisted living or skilled nursing facility.
Resources you can use
All three speakers participating in the Planning for Long-Term Care panel discussion agreed that the Rochester area is unique in its abundance of resources available to help support older adults. The following sources can help you begin the process of developing your specific plan: