The retirement planning process requires preparing for the unexpected. What happens if your carefully laid plan is beset by an unforeseen medical issue? Chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s – or any other illness that inevitably leads to a substantially diminished physical or mental capacity – can quickly overwhelm even the most carefully constructed retirement plan. Having contingency conversations with your planner often and early will help establish the trust needed to facilitate open and honest communication in the event of such an unanticipated event. 

A debilitating illness can drain you not just financially. The physical and emotional toll that caring for a loved one takes – be it a spouse, aging parent or other loved one – is extremely taxing. The complexities of finance and healthcare involved are often overwhelming and confusing. The comprehensive and well-rounded perspective of a skilled and experienced planner, combined with diligent record keeping on your part, can help bring order and focus to an otherwise chaotic time. Sufficient and honest planning can help bring invaluable peace of mind to you and your loved ones during an otherwise difficult and uncertain time.

Proactive and comprehensive planning

Comprehensive estate planning involves making health care choices while you are still healthy. The time to consider your financial and health care options in the event of a debilitating illness is before one might strike. For example, waiting until an unexpected illness occurs to assign a health care proxy (one who will make medical decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and unable to make them on your own) can further complicate an already stressful time. Open and honest communication with that trusted person about your wishes should an unexpected medical event occurs helps to ensure that the care you might receive in the future is the care that you want. The underlying maxim here is simple: don’t leave estate planning to chance. Preparing for the later years is a common part of the dialogue between you and your planner. Frank and honest discussion is an expected and welcome part of the planning process.

It’s all in the details

One of the biggest rewards you strive for in retirement is independence. While they may not seem relevant while you are still healthy, decisions about where and with who you might live have major ramifications. Many questions that never needed consideration before can surface in the event of a chronic and persistent illness: How will I get to my doctor’s appointments? Who will provide essential transportation and assistance? Who will help me with shopping, cleaning and other essential activities of daily living? Who will assist me in managing daily financial matters?

Planning for these eventualities while one is still healthy and of sound mind makes implementing a sufficient strategy much easier than trying to quickly coordinate needed care and services when an unexpected illness is besetting you. Essential services for daily activities are not the only things to consider when planning for the later years. Those who have regular, meaningful social interactions in their later years are less likely to suffer from medical issues and depression than those who feel isolated and detached.  Establishing a plan for meaningful and engaging social/cognitive contacts is an essential part of ensuring that your later years are filled with as much happiness and serenity as possible.

You are only as effective as your team

Family members, spouses, caregivers and even clergy all have essential roles as you assemble a successful team to help make your later years as comfortable and meaningful as possible. Look for those with the empathy, experience and abilities to carry out your wishes. Coordinating care does not have to be plagued by endless and needless debate if you have assembled the right team and made your hopes and wishes known to them all.

What kind of care will you need?

The need for long-term care in later life is an issue for most of us as we get into our later years. The demands of family and career for your grown children are greater now than ever before and this translates into essential preparation for eventual transition into long-term care for most. Having conversations while still of sound mind to clarify expectations will help establish a secure and stable plan for your unique family situation.

Open up the dialogue

The hardest part of planning for your later years is often just getting the conversation started. Your planning professional can provide an unbiased, unemotional perspective on the financial options available and their potential impacts on your retirement plan.  Taking advantage of their expertise and experience in such matters will ease the emotional burden on you and the rest of your team.

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