An aging population brings about many challenges. With an influx of people nearing retirement age or already retired, there is a renewed focus on seniors and how to ensure they are receiving the proper care. When faced with cognitive impairment or early dementia, managing personal finances can be a struggle. It is vital that proper steps be taken before a situation arises to ensure a smooth transition and ease some of the stress. Here are some ways to be prepared:
Set up a Power of Attorney
A power of attorney grants authority to another person to handle financial matters on behalf of the principal or donor (the one setting up the POA). An Enduring Power of Attorney states that should you become mentally incapable to make your own decisions, the appointed attorney will make them on your behalf. These decisions should be made with the best interest of the donor in mind. The Government of Alberta recommends that anyone over the age of 18 have an Enduring Power of Attorney, along with a will, to make sure that personal directives are followed. If you do not have one and something happens, your loved ones will need to make an appeal to become trustee through the court system, which is a timely and expensive endeavour. Save your loved ones the unnecessary burden and get all of your documents prepared ahead of time. It is also important to ensure you discuss Estate matters and how best to handle taxation, disbursements and final wishes. If you are wondering when the best time is to set up your POA and Estate, the answer is now.
Look into Long-term Care Options
There are many facilities that offer long-term care for seniors, and businesses that provide at-home assistance. There are retirement communities, nurses that make home visits and options to make existing properties more accessible. Visit some places in your community to get a feel for what they offer, how they are priced and what amenities are available. Budget accordingly to make sure that money will not be an issue should a parent or spouse need to take advantage of long-term housing. Also, consider the emotional impact of moving. It is very difficult for anyone to uproot their lives and leave the place they called home. Maybe they raised their children there, planted and cultivated a beautiful garden or formed close relationships to their neighbours. Consider these losses. It’s okay to have a good, hard cry and regroup when emotions die down. It’s a difficult transition and taking time to reflect is an important part of moving on.
Talk Openly About Your Wishes
While a POA legally dictates your wishes, having a conversation with your spouse or adult children makes the process easier. It is never good to leave anything up to interpretation. If you have children that disagree on what is the best level of care, you may end up in a situation that leaves you ( and them) unsatisfied. Delaying a conversation about the difficulties surrounding age, only adds to the stress later on. Establishing clear expectations, and building a financial plan around that, allows all members of the family to voice concerns and settle disputes before it becomes a problem.
Seek Treatment as Soon as Possible
Recognizing signs of early dementia or diminished mental capacity can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. The symptoms can closely resemble other health issues such as hearing loss, prescription drug interactions or simply poor memory. The Alzheimer Society of Canada has compiled a list of ten warning signs that could indicate that someone may be suffering from early dementia or diminished mental capacity. If any of these sound familiar, consult your family doctor and take advantage of the many resources available to you.