Getting older is a wonderful thing. After retirement, there’s more time to relax, travel and spend with loved ones. Years of experience result in accumulated wisdom and knowledge. This is the time to enjoy the fruits of one’s labor.
On the other hand, getting older can pose health and financial problems. Also, as tough as it may be to think about, estate planning and end-of-life decisions have to be made at some point. Here’s what every caregiver should know about helping a senior prepare for the unexpected:
Think About the Big Questions
When helping a senior prepare for end-of-life decisions, there are a few major questions that need to be answered:
- Is there anyone to help with money or any money saved in the event of a financial crisis?
- Who will pay the bills or write checks if the senior is unable to?
- Who will provide transportation if the individual cannot drive or take public transportation?
- When a caregiver isn’t present, who will the person contact, and how will they contact someone if there’s an accident?
- Who is responsible for understanding and fulfilling end-of-life requests?
Making these decisions as early as possible will give both the senior and the caregiver peace of mind and a plan for what to do if the individual’s health deteriorates.
Financial Tips for Seniors
There are a number of ways for seniors to protect their finances and ensure they have a backup plan in case something unexpected happens. Here are three must-know financial tips for seniors:
- Monitor credit reports to catch inaccuracies or mistakes. Should something unexpected pop up that requires a loan or credit, such as needing your house to be adapted for a wheelchair, mistakes on a credit report could limit how much the senior can borrow. Additionally, monitoring credit reports can alert you to identity theft.
- Designate another person to handle finances. Financial information, like bank names and account numbers, should be written down and stored somewhere safe, and access should be given to a trusted friend or family member. By working with an attorney, a power of attorney can be decided, which means that another person will make financial decisions if the senior is unable to. Instead of keeping hard copy papers, consider scanning all finance-related documents for easy storage on a computer. This makes certain financial processes, such as selling a home, much easier.
- Be wary of quick-pay loan or credit options, even if funding is needed ASAP for an emergency. Taking an advance from your pension, maxing out credit cards, or getting a reverse mortgage may fund an emergency now, but these options can result in high interest and bigger bills in the future, making it difficult to afford another unexpected expense down the line.
For seniors who struggle with some of these decisions, it’s helpful to seek out the advice and services of a professional. A financial advisor can answer questions and help prepare for the future or put away a savings fund in case of an emergency. As a caregiver, you can research the financial advisor to ensure they have the right background and qualifications.
Preventative Home Tips for Seniors
As people age, their homes have to change in order to support them. Most homeowners know that they have to stay on top of things like roof maintenance, leaks in the plumbing, and repairing holes in the walls, but updating a home to handle senior-specific issues might be less familiar. Here are 10 ways that seniors can make their homes safer and easier to access:
- A smoke detector and fire extinguisher should be accessible on every floor.
- Rugs should either be removed or firmly tacked down.
- Electrical cords and other wires should be secured to the wall and cleared from high-traffic areas.
- Railings on stairs and along terraces, patios, or other outdoor areas should be sturdy.
- High-wattage, no-glare light bulbs should be used throughout the house to improve visibility. This is especially important along staircases.
- Set the water heater to a max of 120 degrees Fahrenheit in order to avoid scalds. Additionally, clearly mark hot and cold faucets.
- All door locks should be openable from both sides.
- Appliances should have clear markings for “on” and “off.”
- Any appliance that heats up, like an electric kettle, should have an auto-off feature.
- Consider home technology that makes the home safer, such as emergency call buttons, auto-locks for doors, and video doorbells.
Even with a regular caregiver, seniors still have to live in a home that supports their health and lifestyle. By preventing accidents and injuries, you can lower the risk of an emergency. Additionally, make sure the house’s plumbing is also being maintained as normal. This will protect the investment and ease the burden on whoever inherits the house.
Estate Planning and End-of-Life Decisions
Estate planning is when a senior decides what will happen to their properties and finances once they’ve passed. It can also determine who will be responsible for major decisions if the senior is unable to make them. There’s a lot to think about and plan for, from who will get your home and belongings to how you’ll disperse your wealth to charitable organizations or loved ones.
It’s best to work with an attorney to make these decisions and get everything down in legal paperwork. There are also a number of documents needed for managing property and medical care. An attorney can help prepare these.
The best way to enjoy one’s senior years is to make sure as much as possible is organized. Instead of worrying about what will happen in the event of an emergency, there will be peace of mind for the senior, the caregiver, and family members. It’s easier to live in the moment and enjoy life if you know that there are contingency plans.