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Creating a roadmap for senior care

As you and your loved ones begin to age, the prospect of where to begin when it comes to planning for later in life can become daunting. Luckily, your doctor can help guide these conversations to make sure that you and your loved ones are prepared for any situation. Dr. Althea Cunningham, an internal medicine doctor at Tryon Medical Partners, has helped compile a checklist to advise you in thinking through these decisions. 

“It’s never too early to have a discussion with family members about long-term care and goals of care,” Dr. Cunningham says. “We’re happy to be involved in the discussion as physicians if you have specific wishes or want to understand your options.”

Overall, here are some tips for you and your loved ones to maintain independence for as long as possible, while still ensuring your safety:

Choose the right living arrangement:

Discuss what type of caregiving option you prefer, including in-home care, personal care homes and senior living.

“This is a good place to involve your physician, as you do want to make sure your preferred care option would also be a good fit in terms of the level of care you might need,” Dr. Cunningham notes. “You want to be set up to maximize your independence and quality of life while also being safe and having the resources you need.”

It is also important to understand the cost of these options. Medicare does not cover any type of long-term care whether in nursing homes, assisted living, or in your own home. If possible, discuss your options with your doctor at your Medicare Annual Wellness Visit. 

Identify your goals of care:

  • Elect a healthcare power of attorney who can make medical decisions if you are unable to do so
  • Create a living will, which outlines your wishes when it comes to your health. There are templates available online. 
  • Complete a Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment form, which allows you to give a big-picture summary of your goals for care.

Choose the right caregiver:

  • Sit down with family members to put their caregiving roles in writing. 
  • Encourage your caregivers to explore the Family and Medical Leave Act to make sure they can take up to a 12 week leave to help care for you if needed.
  • Involve anyone who will play a caregiving role in a relationship with your doctor(s).
  • Determine your wishes for your pets if you need to move out of your home.

Get your financial books in order:

  • Create a list of assets, account numbers, names and contact information for financial advisors and any other financial personnel you interact with on a regular basis.
  • Sign up caretakers to be authorized users on all financial accounts.
  • Determine if insurance will cover home health visits, mental health visits, physical therapy or skilled nursing facilities.
  • Look into your insurance and retirement options, including disability coverage, life insurance, insurance through work, pension benefits and long-term care insurance. 
  • Ensure that you are enrolled in public benefits, which can include Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security Disability Insurance, Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Veterans benefits, etc. 

 Address your legal needs:

  • Draft a power of attorney document that indicates who you would like to have legal and financial authority over your affairs if you become incapacitated. 
  • Communicate the exact location of all important documents caregivers may need including:
    • Birth certificate
    • Citizenship papers
    • Death certificates of family members
    • Deeds to cemetery plots
    • Deeds to property
    • Divorce decree
    • Insurance policies
    • Marriage certificate
    • Military discharge papers
    • Pension benefits

Making decisions for later in life care as early as possible will allow you and your loved ones to feel safe knowing that difficult decisions have been thought through in as much detail as possible. Your Tryon doctor is here to help with those decisions, either at your annual physical or in a separate appointment scheduled specifically to discuss senior care.