By definition, the need for long term care can last for years. This is true even for residents of nursing homes, perhaps the most expensive level of care. According to one study, the majority of nursing home patients will be there for at least a year. In fact, almost 25% will remain patients for more than three years.
Given this, it is cruelly ironic that the need for long term care too often arises suddenly. The lifestyle and independence to which seniors are accustomed can be forever changed without any advance notice or indication.
A stroke or a fall are two common ways in which long term needs arise suddenly. The CDC confirms that strokes are a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Seniors make up almost two thirds of those hospitalized for a stroke.
Also, one third of seniors will fall each year (longtermcare.gov). Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for seniors, and often lead to a new series of health issues. By age 75, a fall is four times more likely to result in admittance to a skilled nursing facility.
While prevention is always the most important approach, the reality is that strokes and traumatic falls will happen. A few basic steps, taken early enough, can significantly lighten the burden for caregivers and ensure the wishes of seniors are respected.
- Have a Living Will. – A Living Will allows you to dictate what medical assistance, if any, is to be provided in certain end of life circumstances. Don’t leave this terrible decision to your family to make.
- Have a Power of Attorney. This document allows a trusted individual to handle your affairs (i.e. financial) if you cannot.
- Have a Plan for You and Your Caregiver. An appropriate estate plan should address more than what happens at your passing, it should address what happens upon your disability. More on this in the coming weeks.
Take the opportunity now to address the important issues that should be part of every life, end of life and estate plan. Those issues include what will happen when sudden traumatic injuries occur.
© 2015 Steven J Wright