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November 19, 2014

How to Plan for the Possibility of Declined Brain Health, Part 1

Dementia and other cognitive impairments can be physically, emotionally, and economically overwhelming for the families of affected people and their care partners. Preparing for the possibility of declined brain health won’t change that; however, getting your affairs in order now while you are healthy can lessen future burdens.

According to Jennifer Brush, M.A., CCC-SLP, director of healthcare research and education at the Brush Development Company, all older adults—regardless of if they have a cognitive impairment—should prepare for the future by taking a few practical steps. We discuss two of those steps here.

Preparing Legal Documents

“The first thing to do would be to talk to your family and spouse about your advance directive. It’s important for you to communicate how you would like to be cared for if you are no longer able to make those decisions,” she says. “Your estate planning should also be taken care of. It’s critical to plan ahead so you can maximize the use and protection of your assets in case you have dementia or other health problem in the future.”

She continues, “You should also think about emergency preparedness. I recommend families prepare an emergency folder to keep in a prominent place so an emergency or health care professional, friend or family member would have easy access to it.”

In this folder, Brush advises to include:

  • A complete medical history
  • A current list of all medications
  • Known allergies
  • Copies of health care proxy and power of attorney
  • Copies of insurance cards

For those with advanced dementia, include known triggers that cause the person to become agitated as well as “quick tricks” to calm the person.

Household finances are another consideration. According to Brush, it’s wise to transfer all finances and accounts related to bill paying into the name of someone other than the person with dementia. This includes credit cards, bank accounts, and investment accounts.

Making a Long-term Healthcare Plan

Government figures show nearly seven in 10 Americans will need long-term care at some point after the age of 65. Yet a recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research indicates a mere fraction of older adults (20 percent among those surveyed) think they will need long-term care.

There’s no stopping the body and mind from aging, and there’s no way of knowing what your health needs will be in five, 10, 20, or 30 years. That’s why it’s vital to begin exploring long-term healthcare options now while you are physically and mentally healthy and active.

For many older adults, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs) are the ideal choice. When you relocate to a retirement living community like Kendal at Oberlin, not only will you have access to quality person-centered care, you’ll also have abundant opportunities for exercise, socialization, healthy eating, and learning new skills, all of which help keep your mind sharp.

If you know you would prefer to remain in your own home as you age, explore services like Kendal at Home, a unique continuing care program that provides comprehensive services designed to focus on your personal wellness and independence.

In our next blog, we’ll be sharing two additional steps older adults can take to plan for the possibility of declined brain health. Subscribe to our blog now so you don’t miss it!

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