It was supposed to be a quiet and uneventful Christmas. Our family had been through a rough couple of years with various family members having had serious health issues and we were still twitching from it all. Just about the time we were getting for the year to change from old to new, the call came that my mother’s health had taken a bad turn – and off to Florida I went with some of my siblings.
We’d been in a similar situation with my father years before so we were better prepared this time around. Additionally, my mother’s cognitive state was 100% on point; my father had not been so lucky. We huddled at the doctor’s office and though we were there to ask questions and weigh-in, she was clearly steering her ship. There would be no dialysis, no extraneous care, and no admission to the hospital. Lu Lu, as we affectionately called her, wasn’t having any of it.
Our mission was pretty clear. As her children, we were to do as she told us. Her thoughts and opinions were well-formed. Everything she wanted – or didn’t want – made perfect sense. Had she predeceased my father instead of the other way around, our family would have had a difficult task, as my father suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. My mother was instrumental in guiding his care, advocating for him and keeping us apprised of his changing state. She told us when he was resisting turning over his car keys and enlisted our help.
Facing these decisions is the focus of one planner’s work. Carolyn McClanahan, physician financial planner and co-founder of Whealthcare Planning, integrates health care and wealth planning into her practice and is changing the way her clients face their golden years. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking with her for On Her Mind podcast.
We spoke about how to prepare for medical costs in retirement and she has an interesting perspective. Carolyn believes that the pressure of having a hard stop on working might not make sense in a time when we are living longer and future healthcare costs are a looming, unknown variable. Instead, she advocates that working less but for more years might be better for our finances and our mental well-being.
Whealthcare Planning has tools to support investment professionals and individuals in making a financial caretaking plan. Questions discussed include:
- Who will step in and pay bills, manage investments, and assist in healthcare decision-making?
- Have cognitive changes begun to take place?
- When are changes in lifestyle needed, such as stopping driving or moving to another home?
Carolyn contends that it is easier to implement an emergency strategy when it has been thought-through and planned out in advance.
Whether you need a plan yourself or are looking to ease into a conversation with older relatives, Carolyn’s perspective from both a medical and planning perspective is invaluable.
I wouldn’t call the last months of my mother’s life a fortunate situation, but it could have been worse. If nothing else, my father’s long illness had forced my mother to get all the finances organized, specify her health-care wishes, and assign us specific roles years earlier. Not everyone gets a “dress rehearsal” like we did. There is no getting around that the tasks are unpleasant as a loved one’s life draws to an end, but knowing what needs to be done and who needs to do it offers a much-needed peace of mind.