Boomers Need To Plan

By Kate McGahan MSW

They are called The Baby Boomers; The Sandwich Generation. They are the largest segment of our population and they were born between the years of 1946 and 1964. They have become the driving force of the marketplace and an issue of increasing magnitude for our society as a whole.

Greater longevity, lower mortality and diverse lifestyles are causing giant shifts in the demographics of our society. Some of us will spend as many years in retirement as we spent in our career. Some of us may spend as many years caring for our aging parents as we spent raising our children. Many of us will have the overwhelming task of caring for our children and our parents simultaneously.

Government has created new laws and has redefined the healthcare system in countless ways in an attempt to keep Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the taxpayers intact. Corporations now offer benefits such as Family Medical Leave and employee assistance programs which specifically address eldercare issues. Individually tailored work programs and pension plans offer increased flexibility to workers. More and more companies offer Long Term Care insurance as an employee benefit.

The year 2011 is the year the first born Baby Boomer will reach retirement age. Our government anticipates its approach, our employers are addressing the potential effects it will have on workers, and our communities are building the momentum to equip society with the programs that will help meet the needs of an aging population. Aging is inevitable. It is not something we like to think about, but loss or disability is certain to be an issue for each and every one of us. What have you done on a personal level to prepare for your aging and that of your family?

Creating and implementing a personal long term care plan is essential. It is not unlike creating and implementing a business plan. It has to do with identifying areas of need and weakness, creating a strategic action plan to meet those needs and deciding how to finance the whole operation. It is about hoping for the best and planning for the worst. People who see themselves as having an element of control always feel more secure and therefore are more resilient when changes take place. The primary purpose of the long term care plan is to ensure that an element of control always exists, no matter what happens. It is a planning tool as well as a communication tool.

Maslow's Hierarchy

There are six basic elderplanning areas that should be addressed in your long term care plan.
Medical: Preserving your health and wellness comes first and foremost. Be sure to have a trusted physician and a solid health insurance plan that meets your specific needs and preferences. Be accountable for learning and understanding the issues at hand so that you can take an active role in your own medical care.

Psychiatric: Have a plan for coping with the possibility of mental health issues such as clinical depression or substance abuse and addictions. Address competency and treatment issues and develop an awareness of support and treatment programs available to you. Take care of your ongoing emotional health as a preventive measure.

Physical: Be aware of options related to home safety, accessibility and residential and retirement living. Home safety is crucial to preserving ongoing independence. Accessibility experts can help to modify existing homes to accommodate disabilities. Creative residential options such as continuing care communities and special needs programs are regularly being developed to meet the needs of those who cannot or who choose not to stay home.

Legal & Financial: Legal and financial independence results from your ability to create a realistic plan related to your retirement goals and your preferences regarding medical treatment and long term care. This involves choreographing investments, your insurance portfolio, taxes, trusts, and your estate to work together to meet your projected retirement needs.

Social: This encompasses your hobbies, diversional pursuits and areas of passion and productivity. It is about connecting with others: family, friends, neighbors and community. It is about preserving individuality, complete with cultural and ethnic traditions. It is about learning and growing, no matter what age you happen to be.

Spiritual: This addresses the ongoing development of your understanding of what is important in life. This is the area where faith, hope and charity reside. It is where knowledge and forgiveness take place in the depths of your heart.

Involve a team of professionals to help you implement your long term care plan. This team should consist of a physician, an attorney, a financial planner and a geriatric care manager who can help you to pull the entire plan together. Your advisers will become an important part of the foundation that will help you to feel more secure and confident in facing the days and years ahead.