The best advice that I ever received on retirement and long-term care is, “The best time to plan is long before you need it. This way, you will have more choices about how and where you receive the care, when needed.”

Another good piece of advice is, “plan while you still have the energy, physical and mental health, and resources.” This is why 2016 is my year for planning.

If you missed my last post regarding the aging alone plan, you have an opportunity to do so now.

Last week, the Huffington Post published my second article in the series, “Elder Orphan.” In it, I discussed the importance of understanding the five stages of aging.

This topic is not sexy. At the same time, these articles give us the information we need to recognize the challenges we face at each stage of the aging process. Without this knowledge, we may miss a significant piece in the plan. It is Mr. Tom Burke, the senior director of American Health Care Association who confirms the need for seniors to learn as much as they can about what happens at the various aging stages. Bottom line, it helps us better prepare.

What are the consequences of not making a long-term care plan? My company asked 44 experts this question and here are a few of their answers:

When ready and prepared, you can choose the care you want to receive. If not, it is selected for you.

The need for long-term care can result in a complete depletion of assets and bankruptcy if not organized and prepared.

Proper planning gives consumers control of their care options and also eases the burden of family members.

Take care of yourself while you can. Make healthy choices to reduce risks and maximize your health.

Here’s a summary of the stages of aging. Everyone ages differently, contingent upon many factors. You can expect some of the projected incidences during or close to the five stages.

First Stage: Being Self-Sufficient and Self-Reliant

If we live with chronic conditions, we manage them independently, without the help and assistance from others. We thrive on independence and it’s the best time to assess one’s place and community. Can it support you throughout the significant changes of aging? It’s the time to evaluate your health, the types of care you may need down the road, and how to pay for them. You will want to get your legal documents in order if you have not by now.

Second Stage: Relying on Others for Assistance

If you live alone, you should have built a team of friends and family to call on for help. You may experience a decline in independence and needs with meal planning, cleaning, and easy transportation.

Third stage: Becoming Dependent

People in this stage of the aging process require assistance with ADLs (activities of daily living.) They need help with meal preparation, cleaning, shopping, transportation, and help with dressing, bathing, and grooming.

Fourth stage: Finding Ourselves in Crisis Management

Hiring an in-home caregiver may not be enough. A person at this stage may need to live in a residential care home.

Fifth stage: Requiring Nursing Care and Extensive Assistance

This is the phase that’s called the final stage. At this time in our lives, we require the help of a nursing home facility. Skilled nursing care and extensive personal care assist the person to live with dignity.

This is an overview of the five stages of aging. Now that we’re clear they exist, I can focus on the more interesting and entertaining aspects of growing older. Where are you along the continuum of stages? I’m in the first but have a lot of work to do to complete my plan.

What are you doing to prepare for the 5 stages of aging? Do you have a written plan in place? Please join the conversation now.

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