No one ever plans to become disabled or injured. Although everyone realizes that life will end someday, few of us consider the possibility that we will spend a significant portion of our lives unable to fully care for ourselves. Very often, life gets in the way and bad things happen to ordinary people. Disability doesn't just happen to the elderly or those who pursue risky and dangerous hobbies. Motor vehicle accidents, work-related injuries, and otherwise common illnesses render many individuals disabled or 'incapacitated' every year.
Being prepared means having legally effective documents that establish:
- Emergency contacts to be notified
- Immediate access to your Medical and Mental Healthcare Powers of Attorney, Living Will and HIPAA forms
Healthcare Powers of Attorney
- A definition by which you may be deemed incapacitated
- Authorization for your chosen agent to act on your behalf, if you are deemed incapacitated
- Designated people with whom your private information can be shared under HIPAA rules
- Guidance and authorization for your agents about what to do if you enter a permanent comatose or vegetative state.
Revocable Living Trust
- A plan in case your emergency situation becomes a permanent condition that affects your ability to handle your affairs.
No one likes to think about the possibility of their own disability or the disability of a loved one. However, as we'll see below, the statistics are clear that we should all plan for at least a temporary disability. Study after study confirms that nearly everyone will face at least a temporary disability sometime during their lifetime. More specifically, one in three Americans will face at least a 90-day disability before reaching age 65 and, depending upon their ages, up to 44% of Americans will face a disability of up to 4.7 years. On the whole, Americans are up to 3.5 times more likely to become disabled than die in any given year. In Maricopa County, the 2010 census results are informative. Maricopa County has 462,631 people (or 12% of our population) is 65 or older. 31.5% of those individuals have some sort of disability. By 2020, the projection is that more than 700,000 people will be 65 or older. The number of persons with disabilities will increase. These figures do not include all those under 65 who have a disability, temporary or permanent. Disability is part of our lives.
Disabilities may require longterm care. According to the 2000 National Home and Hospice Care Survey, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control's National Center for Health Statistics, over 1.3 million Americans received longterm home health care services during 2000 (the most recent year this information is available). Three-fourths of these patients received skilled care, the highest level of in-home care, and 51% percent needed help with at least one "activity of daily living" (such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, or the kind of care needed for a severe cognitive impairment like Alzheimer's disease). The average length of service was 312 days, and 70% of in-home patients were 65 years of age or older. While a relatively small number (1.56 million) and percentage (4.5%) of the 65+ population lived in nursing homes in 2000, the percentage increased dramatically with age, ranging from 1.1% for persons 65-74 years to 4.7% for persons 75-84 years and 18.2% for persons 85+.
Nursing home costs will consume many Americans' assets. A recent Harvard University study indicates that 69% of single people and 34% of married couples would exhaust their assets after 13 weeks (i.e., 91 days) in a nursing home. Alternatively, clients (or their families) can pay for long-term care completely or in part through long-term care insurance. A comprehensive plan includes benefits for all levels of care, custodial to skilled. Clients can receive care in a variety of settings, including the client's home, assisted living facilities, adult day care centers or hospice facilities.
Planning should include discussing insurance options. Given the costs of long-term care, clients should consider a long-term care insurance policy that meets their unique planning objectives. Income-earning clients should also consider disability insurance to cover lost income as a result of a long-term disability. While long-term care insurance will cover in-home or nursing home costs, it will not replace the income lost due to the client's inability to work.
I would be pleased to consult with you and prepare an individual foundational plan that addresses these needs. If you have insurance needs, I would like to work with your advisor or recommend an advisor to you to make sure that you stay "Ahead of the Curve."
A Story that shows why you need these documentsLone Wolf by Jodi Picoult
What happens when a Living Will and a Healthcare Power of Attorney are years old? What happens when the named agent is estranged at the time that the person becomes incapacitated? This book deals with both of these circumstances. While fiction, it engages the reader about the how a family deals with a dad who has been determined to be in a vegetative state. Of course, the conflicts between the children and the deep-seeded frustrations between the dad and his son all arise to flavor the story. All is complicated by the fact that the dad is a genius in understanding wolves and became quite famous during this life, at the expense of his family relationships. Why read it? To see how an up-to-date Medical Power of Attorney and a Living Will are imperative at preventing stress and in carrying out wishes!
A Story that helps deal with life transitionsA Bitter-Sweet Season: Care for Our Aging Parents—and Ourselves by Jane Gross
There is comfort in knowing that other bright people are in the same, difficult place as we are, when we are dealing with becoming caregivers for our parents. This book goes through the myriad of issues that one encounters and the honest emotions that will subsume you at times. It offers practical information about Medicaid and Medicare and how those programs work. Perhaps, more important is the insight into what the aging parent is going through. Wouldn’t you like to know how to avoid pitfalls that we do not need to fall into? It is a worth a read, and you can scan over parts that seem too detailed and personal to the author.