Saturday, June 11, 2016

Planning for an Uncertain Future


I remind myself frequently that we are still early in this journey. I read other blogs, and realize that others have many more challenges than Jim and I do. It helps me to appreciate what we have now, knowing that greater challenges are sure to follow.

Shortly after I retired, I arranged for us to meet with an attorney so that we could do our wills and get our health care proxies and living wills written. We also did power of attorney for each other. POA is a very powerful thing to do, not to be taken lightly. We both agreed that we wanted this set in place so that we could act on the other's behalf, should the need arise. Of course when we did the POA, I was thinking ahead to the day when I might need it because of Jim's further cognitive decline. It's funny, but the other day Jim said to me "shouldn't we do a will or something?" I reminded him that we had already done it, including the POA and health care proxy. His comment back was "well, as long as you know where it is." I assured him I did!

We decided against long term care insurance quite a few years ago. Working in the health care field, I saw patients who were put through the wringer when the time came that help was needed. Fighting the insurance company for the financial benefits promised is a stressor that older folks don't need. Long term care insurance companies are able to raise the premiums at will. If they raise them to the point where it is cost prohibitive, you are out of luck, and there is no return on the money you have already spent for this insurance. Some long term care insurance companies simply get out of the business, leaving the people who paid all of these premiums high and dry. I'm sure there are reputable companies out there, but we decided to self-insure. In other words, money that we would have paid in premiums we put into our investments. Another option for funding elder care is the  reverse mortgage. This is not without pitfalls as well. No perfect solution, and I think it also depends on individual circumstances.

We've always managed our household so well together. I know that finances can be a strain for many couples. Not so for us. It was an area that we loved planning and talking about. We shared financial goals and it was always easy for us to agree on how we saved and how we budgeted our money. It still is, except that now it is me, alone, who is following the investments, rebalancing our portfolio, doing the spreadsheets, and paying the bills. We used to love to do this together, but now it is painfully frustrating for him to be a part of it. So I just do it, and he is happy he doesn't have to be involved. We both have investments from employer based savings plans. The POA will allow me to access the funds that are in his name alone when the time comes that I need to do this. By having the POA in place now, it saves a lot of hassles and headaches that would occur at some future date when the funds are needed.

As far as housing, for the last few years I've gone back and forth on whether we should downsize further. Should we give up home ownership and just rent? Or should we sell this home and buy something smaller? For now, the answer seems to be just to wait and see. I love our home, our neighborhood. And I love it when we can say goodbye to winter and head south to FL.

Jim is still able to do a lot of the outside maintenance. He is very fussy about the lawn, and it always looks impeccable. We hire for the big jobs, such as painting the house, tree removal. Our house is new enough so that mechanically and structurally it is pretty sound. But I can look into the future and see a time where we will want to live more simply. Just not yet.

Well, when I started this post I wasn't sure what I wanted to say. But when I started typing, the words just seemed to flow. As always, it feels good to be able to share my thoughts with all of you. Thanks for listening!





12 comments:

  1. Yep, we've been there and done that. I thought our decisions were wise then and I still today think our decisions were wise. It is such a good feeling to know all those decisions have been made and aren't something you're going to have to struggle with when one or the other of you is in compromised health. Good job.

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  2. Thanks Linda. Yes, it is a good feeling to know that this piece of the future has been planned for. Our spouses are fortunate that we are planning as best as we can for the future. I enjoy reading about your experiences. It helps to commiserate with others on the same journey.

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  3. Oh, how I hope you're wrong about Long Term Care Insurance! I signed up two years ago; B has had it (and has been paying in) for over a decade. It's all fine ... as long as they come through if and when we need it.

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    1. I hope I am wrong too! I'm sure there are reputable companies out there. As often the case, I probably only heard about the times when the system failed. LTC will become more of an issue as we baby boomers age. If only we had a crystal ball to see what the future holds for us.

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  4. I just signed up to follow your blog, after your comment on mine. I see that you also have me in your sidebar, so thank you for that! In fact, there are only a few that I don't also subscribe to. I've been retired eight years and have no long-term insurance, but no one in my family has ever lived long enough to need it. Hopefully we've made the right decision, but we also have no living children to leave anything to. I'm glad I found you, Carole! :-)

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    1. Hi DJan! I'm glad you found me too! Your blogs and your comments on other blogs are always so positive and uplifting :-)

      My hubby and I also do not have any children, so I think it does put a slightly different spin on the financial piece. We will hope for the best, and adjust as we go. I think flexibility plays a part in how we manage our future lives.

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  5. We have a Will, Advance Care Directive, and a Power of Attorney. My daughters know where they are being stored.

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    1. Sounds like you are ready for whatever the future holds for you.

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  6. A will and POA are very important. Thanks for reminding us.

    Good luck to you.

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    1. Thanks Cindi. Always trying to stay ahead of the game!

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  7. All those forms you've mentioned completing we all should have at every age, but we become acutely aware of needing them as we get older. I need to do some updating I've put off too long. Also, we now have a right-to-die under certain circumstances in California and a new form I need to study that my doctor gave me recently to supplement the others. I guess you feel confident your husband is capable of following up with any necessary directives he might need to should you become incapacitated, or since you have no children do you need to specify a secondary person for yourself -- perhaps you have -- just in case?

    Have been thinking about a spouse not wanting to discuss medical/dementia/memory or other issues with personal doctor. I think of a now 90+ relative who has been open and up front after diagnosed with a dementia issue -- first with doctor and now tells most people to help them feel comfortable and be better able to understand and interact with this relative. The person was put on medication, noticed improvement and repeatedly has said, thinks progressive functional decline (including short term memory) has been slowed because doctor started patient on medication early. Individual taught University level chemistry so is familiar with chemicals, was never one to take a lot of pills. Person had explored with doctor whether or not might participate in any credible medical trials, but the desirable one was already in progress so couldn't participate.

    I appreciate the importance of not wanting to betray spouse by privately telling doctor about spouse behaviors, and not supposed to tell doctor. Not knowing every doctor and the nature of the relationship each reader here has with their doctor, I don't presume to suggest doing other than keeping the secret is best, but I wonder. (As a rehabilitation Speech-Langauage-Hearing-Swallowing Pathologist/therapist I've strongly encouraged patients, including those with cognitive issues, that I've worked with to share pros and cons with me to help me better serve them.)

    I do want to share my personal philosophy with my doctor(s) -- to share everything which they need to know to best care for me -- this includes when I may go astray, or when we have not always agreed on some matter, but I explain my reasoning, we respect each other. I guess I would also wonder what it might mean if a spouse didn't want doctor to know about cognitive issues -- is that attitude more than denial and/or fear and actually another manifestation of functional cognitive change in judgement, or just fear? In which case would I have sufficient trust in our doctor to confide the situation, specifying my doing so was in strict confidence and expected it to be respected so spouse could benefit from care, if any, that might be helpful but not lose trust in me? Surely, if this is a Doctor I trust and respect, he/she would know how to tactfully approach addressing issue with spouse as needed? Seems to me that would go a long way in releasing the "walking on eggshells" tensions that secrets can create. What do official Alz./dementia sites have to say on such a matter?

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  8. Thanks for your thoughtful comment Joared. My brother, whom I am closest to is the secondary person for both of us. He is aware of the situation and has all of the contact information, including the name and number of our lawyer.

    The issue with memory medication is a tough one. I've discussed it with my own personal physician. She confirms that the research shows that while there may be a temporary improvement in symptoms for some people, it does nothing to prevent the progression of the disease. Add to that side effects from medications, as well as his denial of any problem, it doesn't seem to be a reasonable option.

    At this point, I'm guessing that his own doctor must be aware of some of the cognitive changes. He sees him every 3 months. They have known each other for many years. I just can't imagine that he is not aware of the changes.

    The trust issue is an important one for our relationship. For now, I'm handling as best as I can.

    Again, I appreciate your thoughtful comments.

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