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Live in here and now, but plan for future

Caring for elderly parents makes writer think about what will happen to him in the years

I have noticed, in the time I have been looking after my ailing father, and now my surviving mother, that I have spent a great deal of time thinking about my wife’s and my futures.

Those moments of thinking have often been conflicted. At some points I feel a certain way about maintaining our independence and at other points I wonder what circumstances might arise that would completely alter any plans we might have, mentally, physically or financially.

Throughout my business career, and as a parent, I have always encouraged others to focus the majority of their attention on the here and now. You can’t go back and change the past so you just need to let it go.

And while you can certainly set some goals for the future, you can’t really tell what is going to happen 24 hours from now, much less 20 years. You have to adapt to whatever comes at you.

As I have ventured into the field of eldercare, I have found myself much more prone to spending time thinking about the future and am beginning to recognize a lot more issues for which planning is needed.

As we age, the risk of significant changes is much greater and the time to adjust much shorter, so considering the various options and discussing them with family becomes an important part of setting out a framework of decision-making in the event of a disaster.

A will is essential. It is grossly unfair to leave a spouse or other family members hanging in the air for a long period of time or arguing over what you might have intended but never bothered to write down.

Along with a will should be a written statement related to Power of Attorney for property and personal care.

What if something happens that renders you incapable of making decisions, but your life is not threatened?

Who will have the power to make decisions related to your financial and property matters and your personal care?

Additionally, you want to have a clear statement of your resuscitation wishes.

There are a host of insurance matters that need consideration, too.  The longer you wait to initiate such coverages, the more expensive they get or the less likely you might qualify for them.

I continue to focus on the here and now most of the time.  But having seen the future, we are having more conversations on topics we don’t really want to talk about, but need to now, while they still seem a long way off.

We have bought a small home that is good for elderly mobility and care.  We are spending more time considering financial arrangements for various scenarios and coming to the realization of what is possible and not possible in our circumstances.

We all hope, of course, for a long and healthy life and a sudden demise that avoids many of the considerations that come with compromised health or the necessity of long-term care.   But as medical technology advances, and people look after themselves better, the sudden demise often associated with heart disease is being replaced by a long, slow process of simply losing steam.

Chances are greater now that people will live longer and that they will move into a phase of compromised independence.

Live in the here and now, for sure, but some serious planning for the future may be the final responsibility we have to our family to ensure our burden on them is not too great.