Former British prime minister Winston Churchill once said, “Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential.”
As we age, it is important to have a plan in place for the future and communicate this frequently with loved ones. Often when future planning is mentioned, one might think of planning where they want to live as they age, what happens when they pass away, and managing finances.
But have you ever stopped to think about what a good life would look like as you age? This could include outlining what values are important to you as well as what activities you would like to continue even as you age. Often, when we plan for the future, we might make arrangements around specific programs or services that we might qualify for as we age. It is important to think about the whole individual including physical, emotional, and mental health as you plan for the future. Emotional and mental health are just as important to think through as well as specific services you might qualify for as you age.
Planning can be overwhelming especially if you don’t know where to start. Here are some guiding questions that can help you think through each area of your life as you plan for the future:
- What is important to you as you age?
- Where do you want to live as you age?
- How would you like to stay connected to loved ones and family?
- What activities are important to you and ones that you would like to continue as you get older?
- Do you have a family member that you would like to designate to help make health decisions?
- Do you have a family member that you would like to designate to help make financial decisions?
- What are some activities that help you mentally and emotionally?
- What relationships are important to you (this could be either friendships or relationships with family members)?
- Do you have loved ones that will need care after you pass away?
- Who would you like around you during a health crisis?
- How do you want to stay involved in the community?
- Is there a group of people that could come alongside you to support you as you age?
- How would you want loved ones to remember you even as you age?
These questions are just a starting point, but it can be helpful to write down your answers before a crisis happens. Sometimes these conversations are not had until it is too late, or the individual is never given an opportunity to express their desires. It is important to have these conversations before you need any additional help because it guides the way care is provided.
If you are caring for a loved one with a disability, it is especially critical to plan not only for your future but for their future as well. Being a caregiver, you may find it difficult to shift the focus to yourself. But if you don’t make personal plans, it can leave several items undone especially if a crisis were to occur.
Here are some guiding questions to help you plan for your future if you are a caregiver for a loved one with a disability:
- Is there someone else that would be willing to step in as a caregiver if a health emergency were to occur?
- As you get older, what supports do you have in place to help provide care for the family member with a disability?
- Would the individual with a disability know who to call if there was an emergency and you were unable to call for help?
- How can you take care of your health as you age and continue to be a caregiver?
- What are your desires for yourself as you age?
- Do you have someone that can take care of you as age and the individual with a disability?
- Describe how you would know you are no longer able to fulfill the caregiver role.
- If something happened to your spouse, do you have a plan for another family member to help also with the caregiver responsibilities?
- Where do you want live as you age? (Another question to ask is where the individual with a disability would live as you age?)
- Have you communicated with loved ones your future plans for the individual with a disability and you?
- What supports are already in place to help both you and the family member with a disability?
These types of conversations can be uncomfortable, but they can also be an eye-opening opportunity to see if there are more areas of your life where you need more support. It also gives loved ones the opportunity to truly hear what your expectations are as you age.
Planning gives the opportunity for you to be a self-advocate and share how you would like to be treated. Making a future plan is one of the best gifts you can give yourself and allows you to have a voice in your care.