Consider these two stories: Ben has been married to his wife Shirley for 47 years, and by all accounts both are healthy. Then, one day Ben has a stroke that leaves him unable to walk or talk. Now, Shirley — who understandably feels overwhelmed — is tasked with running and maintaining their home. She’s worried about Ben’s health, but now she finds herself struggling with paying the couple’s bills because she has no idea what accounts need to be paid or when they are due.
In the same neighborhood, 80-year-old Louise lives alone. Like Ben and Shirley, she’s healthy and independent. One day, Louise falls and breaks her hip, which requires her to stay in the hospital for a week and then two months in a nursing home. The difference with Louise’s story, however, is that her son who lives across the country is easily able to pay her bills and deal with Medicare questions. Why? Louise and her son had a long term care plan in place that helped put her affairs in order.
Even though you’re healthy, consider planning for your long-term care now. Here’s what you need to know to get your affairs in order.
Organize all your important papers in one place
You can do this by creating a file in a desk drawer or if you’d rather put your information in a secure location, be sure to put the location and the access information. Important papers include:
- Personal records like your full legal name, social security number, any certificates of marriage, death, adoption or citizenship, the names, addresses and phone numbers of other family members. Any medications you take regularly and their dosages. Names and contact information of any religious contacts. The location of your living will or other legal documents.
- Financial records like your sources of income and assets, social security and Medicare information, any insurance information, names of your banks and account numbers, any liabilities, mortgages or debts, and the location of a safe deposit box and key, if you have one.
- Legal documents like your living will or any trusts as well as any advance directives like durable power of attorney for health care.
Share details with a family member or friend
Organize all your important papers and tell your family member or friend where they are located. If you don’t have any family members or friends you trust to handle this information, your lawyer can help.
Give your doctor/banks permission to talk to your caregiver or lawyer
In Louise’s case, her son needed to speak with her care team in order to assist with her needs. You can give permission in advance at your doctor’s office, to Medicare and your credit card companies and banks as well.
Don’t wait until you or a family member experiences a crisis to start planning for long-term care. Getting your affairs in order ahead of time can save you and your family or friends headaches.