At least 70% of people over 65 will need some form of long term care service and support during their lives. So, even if you eat healthy, save your money, and exercise regularly, the probability is that you will need to plan for long term care. Long term care planning can be overwhelming – you have to consider where you will live (at home with assistance, in an assisted living facility or a nursing home), who will take care of you, and how will you pay for it all. One of the best ways to ensure you have the highest quality of life as you age is to plan for the future with the help of someone knowledgeable in the practice of life care planning.
Most people have never heard of life care planning, much less know what it is. The Life Care Planning Law Firms Association (www.lcplfa.org) defines life care planning as an “elder-centered approach to the practice of law that helps families respond to every challenge caused by chronic illness or disability of an elderly loved one.” It’s a form of planning that emphasizes the importance of good health, safety, well being, and quality of life for elders and their families. This plan meets more than a person’s legal needs; it addresses their personal, emotional, physical, and psychological needs, too.
Unlike basic elder law planning, life care planning is about being proactive to life’s situations, instead of reactive. Where basic elder care plans for incapacity or death, life care planning focuses on what’s called the “elder care continuum” – the timeline of a person going through the long-term care system. This timeline is broken into four sections: (1) health and ability to function, (2) home /residence, (3) cost of care, and (4) public benefits and resources available. The “steps” to each section are the needs and situations most people face as they age. With a life care plan, each step is planned for and addressed as it occurs.
Life care planning relies on an “inter-disciplinary team” that works together to come up with a plan that addresses current needs as well as potential future needs. Not only does an attorney do legal planning for you, but a person experienced with elder care assists with assessing your care needs, finding sitters or the correct facility placement when you can no longer live alone, attending care meetings and otherwise making sure you are well cared. Law firms who offer life care planning are there every step of the way, making sure the plan is in line with the client’s needs, and that all parties involved are educated about the plan.
Life care planning goes beyond traditional estate planning. According to the LCPLFA, “Every life care plan is designed to achieve three primary objectives:
1. Make sure the elder gets appropriate care, whether at home or in a residential facility, to maintain the quality of life that he or she desires.
2. Locate public and private sources to help pay for long-term care while resolving issues created by the high cost of care.
3. Offer peace of mind that results when the right choices are made to ensure loved ones are safe and getting the right care while preserving family resources.”
Life care planning is the best way to ensure you or your loved one’s quality of life remains the highest it can be. The ultimate goal is to utilize money and resources in the most effective way to maximize the elder’s quality of life and independence. There is no better sense of security than knowing you and your family will be helped through each step of aging with more than just legal paperwork. So, if you or a loved one is planning for or in need of long term care, make sure you consult with professionals who are involved in life care planning.