NH Legal Perspective: Everyone needs to plan ahead

This article, written by attorneys Brad Cook and Judith Bomster, was originally published by the NH Union Leader and can be found here.

In our estate planning and elder law practice, we often are contacted by children of elderly parents who were confident they would never need to leave their homes or require care, since they were the “exception to the rule.”

But when later faced with a crisis requiring relocating or assisted or nursing home care, the family discovers that no planning was done, and a solution is needed fast. This situation is hard both on the parents, who want to stay independent, and on the children who are not used to directing their parents’ lives.

The reality is that many people are living into their late 80s, 90s or even 100s today, and most will not be able to stay at home until the end. It is surprising how many otherwise smart people have not planned ahead.

Having children reverse roles and do planning for their parents can be stressful for both sides. Realizing parents are entering perhaps the last chapter of their lives is unsettling, and the costs involved can increase tension. To avoid or minimize this situation, it is imperative that planning be done when everyone is healthy.

It also is important for the senior generation to be at the planning table so they are making choices about their future and do not feel something is being done to them. Planning far enough in advance helps everyone avoid an emergency when deciding important questions like where to live or who will offer care.

Looking ahead also allows time to investigate living options like continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs). New Hampshire is lucky to have some of the best CCRCs offering living options for all levels of care from independent living, to assisted living, and memory and nursing care.

Investigating options and getting on a waiting list of a chosen CCRC can be a valuable step in securing quality lifetime care. CCRCs often are not the best option in an emergency, especially if someone needs immediate nursing care, and contracts for admission should be examined carefully.

If an emergency arises, home health care provided by organizations like Visiting Nurses, Home Instead or Visiting Angels, although having round-the-clock care, may be the most expensive option available. Non-CCRC assisted living facilities, county nursing homes and private nursing facilities, whether for-profit or nonprofit, also offer care for our aging population. Again, considering options in advance is advisable.

Families are well served when the older generation shares their wishes for end of life, as well as funeral and burial. Making basic decisions like whether to have a burial or cremation, religious services or a life celebration, and who will handle things makes a difficult situation easier. Pre-planning and paying for funerals helps lessen the confusion and tension in families.

Finally, providing information on many of life’s details, like passwords or where important documents are held, helps those who are caring for elderly parents or wrapping up their affairs after death.

Plan ahead before it is too late to do so carefully and independently.