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Essentially Caring From Afar

by Shannon Nook, FPQP®

I have been fortunate to have both my grandmothers in my life ever since I can remember.  Working with numbers and finances has always come naturally to me. When my grandfather passed away and my paternal grandmother needed financial stability, I took on the job of handling the household books.  As her aging progressed, my extended local family began creating a support team, giving her the satisfaction of knowing she could comfortably continue living in her home, even at the age of 94.

However, even with these experiences, I was not prepared to assist my husband’s sister in caring for their aging mom, both living more than a thousand miles away from our home.  Many aging individuals are denied independence, because their support system derives from a smaller or distant family or friend’s network.  This creates further gaps between families, the increasing cost of care and aging gracefully.  

This problem reminded me of book I’m currently reading, Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. His book focuses on the art of creating a life “that focuses on the idea that any particular entity requires certain elements for its functioning and existence”. Determining those most essential elements often prove to be most critical and sometimes difficult.  

I took some key concepts from the book to define some “essentially caring” items to help myself.  Perhaps they will help you to feel better prepared should you become a caregiver or part of a support team to a grandparent, parent, close friend or neighbor or even for yourself.  

1.    Essence:  Guide your loved one to choose the individual(s) in their life that they trust to make decisions on their behalf:  

  •  While they are living for both Durable Power of Attorney for Finances and Healthcare Power of Attorney for medical. 
  •  Once they are gone for a Will or Trust. Most states have free legal forms for simple estates or you are advised to seek out an estate planning attorney in more complicated situations.
  • Note: These agents can be different people, but select those with the best interest of the individual being represented at heart, that can handle the job, and are willing to accept the job.  

2.   Explore:  Determine needs, desires and assets available for feasible future living arrangement before a need arises.  If needed, seek a financial planner to assist with identifying financial possibilities to accomplish aging goals and long term care options.  Geriatric care managers can help assess and facilitate the ongoing needs for outside care if your family unit or team is unable to provide it directly. 

3.   Eliminate:  Organizing in advance reduces the guesswork of the “who, what, when and where” that can weigh heavy on future caregivers stability or need for respite.

4.   Execute:  Outline a pre-essential long term care plan to prevent any shock of new needs as they arise through the aging process.

Planning for your family or your own legacy is one thing, providing a road map to future eldercare needs is essential.