Growing older is part of life. Sooner or later, most of us are injured or become ill. For your peace of mind – and your partner or family – you should have a plan in the event you are injured, sick, or incapacitated. Even if you cannot control the future, you can ensure you have the necessary resources and support.
Long Term Care
Long-term care encompasses a range of services that includes medical treatment and what healthcare professionals call ADL, or Activities of Daily Living:
- Transferring (to or from bed or chair)
- Using the toilet/caring for incontinence
Family members, friends, or paid caregivers can assist with ADL. There are nursing homes and assisted living facilities for individuals who lack in-home care or need more intensive, 24-hour care.
You’ll want to consider the type of care you prefer and how you will pay for it. Currently, Medicare does not cover ADL assistance and other non-medical care. You could benefit from a long-term care insurance policy depending on your age and health. Or you can allocate a percentage of your retirement or other assets to pay for it. Use this long-term care costs calculator to determine how much you can expect to pay.
Durable Power of Attorney & Health Care Proxy
Making long-term care plans can help you understand what resources you’ll need. You also should select someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf, such as:
- Would you want CPR or other resuscitation if your heart stops beating?
- Would you like to be put on a ventilator if you could no longer breathe on your own?
- What health treatments would you want (or not want) if you have progressive dementia or another terminal illness?
- Are you interested in being an organ donor or donating your body to medical research?
Having someone to make these decisions based on your explicit, written instructions is essential. There are a few ways to make such arrangements: a durable power of attorney or a health care proxy.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a legal document that appoints an individual (‘the agent’ or ‘attorney-in-fact’). While there are specific types of powers of attorney, the kind that works with a health care proxy is a medical power of attorney. An individual specified within this document is given financial authority to care for your medical treatment decisions if you cannot consciously consent. The document is ‘durable’ due to its “durability” in the case that if you become mentally incapacitated, the document still holds as valid.
Health Care Proxy
Although the law differs slightly depending on which state you reside in, a health care proxy is generally a legal document that appoints an individual (‘the agent’) to have authority over your health care decisions if you cannot consciously consent to the procedure yourself. The health care proxy will be in charge of overseeing your care alongside your living will.
Your agent should be someone close to you: your partner, family, or a close friend. Within the document, the agent will have the authority to make decisions as if they were you, so make sure you choose someone you trust and update the document every recommended ten years.
Last Will & Testament
In a last will and testament, anyone over 18 can designate what may happen to their estate after their passing. An estate can be defined as everything an individual’s net worth is composed of, including assets, land, and other possessions. The last will itself is a formal, legal document containing a testator’s (the person who has made the will) decisions and wishes regarding possessions and dependents.
Within your last will, you can specify lots of information about the assets you want to divide and which assets. People tend to give direction regarding property rights, authority over administering the estate, guardianship over minor children, guardianship over pets, and decisions regarding charity donations.
You may include your funeral wishes in your will. But you should also communicate your burial or cremation wishes to loved ones in other ways since wills often are not read until after the funeral.
An ethical will is a voluntary, non-legally binding document that usually contains a set of stories, notes, and last words to your family and friends. It is not meant to replace a legally recognized last will and testament.
Adapted from Jewish tradition, the defining characteristic of an ethical will is the intent rather than the content. A moral will should be written to inspire your family and friends and share the values and hopes you believe they should uphold following your passing. It has been noted as a “love letter from beyond.”
Preplanning your funeral arrangements ensures your family understands your wishes. It also protects them from having to make difficult decisions during a time of grief. While it might feel uncomfortable to think about your passing, it’s even more unsettling to imagine your loved ones forced to make hasty decisions without your input or guidance.
Cremation or Burial?
Burial versus cremation is a difficult choice, but by considering your options early, you can ensure that your final wishes are understood and fulfilled.
A burial is when the body is buried in a casket, usually in a cemetery or mausoleum. Traditional burials are all-inclusive, with a memorial service coordinated by the funeral home before the burial. Burials tend to be more formal and follow a clear script and timeline.
Cremation is the process of burning the body and producing ashes. Cremation is typically much more affordable than burial, though the price varies depending on your funeral provider and the services offered. Many ShareLife funeral homes allow you to have a viewing or funeral service before cremation if you wish.
Direct cremation is more affordable but does not include a viewing or funeral service beforehand.
Stop Worrying & Start Planning
If you’re concerned about the rising costs of long-term care, assisted living, and funeral arrangements, creating a long-term care plan identifies how you could take care of yourself later in life. You don’t have to do it alone. Consult an estate planning attorney, insurance agent, and preplanning funeral professional for guidance.