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Elder Care Preparation Checklist

Most people recognize the importance of planning, yet we often do not establish a plan for becoming a caregiver.  We start by helping our loved one with small things or find ourselves being called upon in a crisis.  By starting early and taking gradual steps, it is possible to establish a plan for when it is needed. 

 

Whether you are planning for the future or are currently caring for an aging family member, use this checklist to help you prepare and develop a plan before there is a crisis. 

The Home

Ensuring that your loved one’s home is safe is essential to promoting independent living and minimizing injuries and since home safety applies to people of all ages, it is a good starting point. 

  • More than 75% of falls take place at home so use a Home Safety Checklist to identify hazards and the simple steps you can take to reduce the risk of falls. Many hospitals and community agencies offer fall prevention programs. 

  • Have a professional conduct a home safety assessment.  An Occupational Therapist is one such professional who can evaluate your loved one’s routines and the home environment. 

  • Consider how conducive the home is to aging and whether any changes can be made such as repurposing rooms. For example, are there stairs at the entrance or stairs to access the bedroom, bathroom, kitchen or laundry?  There are often government and non-profit programs that can assist with home modifications. 

  • Evaluate the home for any needed home maintenance and make repairs if possible.  This includes not only the condition inside and outside of the home but appliances as well. 

Finances

Discussing your loved one’s financial situation can often be a difficult topic and one where they may not be forthcoming with the information. You may have to start small and work up to the more sensitive topics, but having this information is important in case additional care and services are needed in the future, as well as to identify any possible financial fraud.  

  • Ask about their annual income and sources of income, including verifying that they receive Social Security benefits, as well as their savings and retirement accounts. 

    • Make sure that all accounts are titled correctly. If there is something that needs to be corrected, it is a much easier process to have your loved one make changes while they are able to. 

    • Gather contact information for all advisors and financial institutions.  If your loved one agrees,  add yourself to accounts and make certain that you can access them. 

    • Identify ways to streamline bill paying, such as establishing automatic payments.

    • Confirm whether there is a mortgage or loan on the home and review any debts. Develop a repayment plan if necessary. 

  • If they are a veteran or a surviving spouse, review whether they are eligible for benefits.  There are both financial and service benefits available to qualified veterans and their spouses. 

  • Consider long-term care insurance to help pay for future care if your loved one is under 70.

  • If they have the financial ability to pay for care and service but are reluctant, remind them that if they are saving for a “rainy day,” that their care is part of that rainy day plan.  Often older adults wait for a crisis before opting to pay for services or are concerned about providing an inheritance to their loved ones. 

Legal

It is important to confirm that all necessary legal documents are in place; otherwise their financial and healthcare wishes may not be honored.  If no one is named as their agent, the family may have to go to court to become a recognized decision-maker or the state could become the decision-maker for your loved one. 

  • Ensure that your loved one has a durable power of attorney for finance and an advance healthcare directive and that the person named as agent is still available and willing to assume that role.  It may be necessary to add a secondary or tertiary agent. 

    • Confirm whether they have a will and any trusts.  If possible, review the beneficiaries and responsibilities to ensure that they are still accurate and relevant. 

    • Make certain that you know where legal documents are kept and ask for a copy.  Find out whether your loved one has an estate attorney and if she/he is still in practice. If so, check with them as to whether they have the most current legal documents. 

 

Medical Care

Become involved in your loved one’s medical care so that you are familiar with their health conditions and are better prepared in case of an emergency situation.  They may be reluctant to disclose certain details but explain that you just want to be informed and are not taking away their decision-making authority. 

  • Have a discussion with your loved one about their health needs including routine health care and chronic conditions. Ask how their health affects their day-to-day life.

  • Ask about their latest medical check-up, help schedule upcoming appointments, and offer to take them to the appointment.  Navigating the healthcare landscape can be daunting at any age so offer to serve as their health advocate. 

  • Make a list of all their medical providers, medications, and medical equipment.

  • Locate the nearest hospital or urgent care facility 

  • Establish a relationship with their primary care physician - this can be by attending appointments in person or by phone/video or having a conversation before or after the appointment with the physician. 

  • Discuss what kinds of treatments and interventions your loved one would want if they cannot voice their wishes, including end-of-life care. 

 

 

Caregiving

Since aging is a gradual process, it can be difficult to agree on when additional care is needed for a loved one. Learn about their preferences and create short-term and long term caregiving plans ahead of time to assist with the transition. 

  • Discuss with your loved one what aging at home might look like.  How easy will it be for them to take care of the home, run errands and get to appointments?  How agreeable are they to having someone in the home to assist with tasks? 

    • Is there a family member who could provide assistance or would someone need to be hired?  If hiring, identify homecare agencies ahead of time. 

  • Identify who to include in the care team and how they can assist, including in case of an emergency.

  • Consider visiting assisted living or senior living facilities to learn what they offer.  Many have waitlists so starting early is important. 

  • If one person is already caring for another (for example a person caring for their spouse), create a plan in case they are unable to provide care at some point.

  • If there are pets in the home, make sure there is a plan to care for them.

 

 

Insurance

Make sure that you are familiar with what types of insurance your loved one has so that you are not searching for the information during a crisis. 

It is important that you know what types of insurance and coverage are in place before the need arises

  • Make a list of all active insurance policies including automotive, homeowners, renters, medical, dental, and long-term care.

  • Review the insurance policies and make certain you understand what is covered by each and note the renewal dates. Cancel policies that are no longer needed. 

  • Consider consulting with the State Health Insurance Counseling Program to ensure that your loved ones’ current Medicare plans still meet their health needs.

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