Financial Planning for the Elderly: a Personal Perspective

Being that this is my first contribution to Gilbert Guide’s helpful elder care blog, I thought it appropriate to provide you with a little insight about myself outside what’s available on my Web site, .

Beyond my 29 years of providing financial services to the public in a wide variety of areas, I have also personally confronted some of these difficult issues with my own parents. My clients and their children deal with a myriad of concerns, problems, and questions regarding aging challenges. We all are looking for the “correct” and best solutions to the complex matters we face.

Both of my parents live on their own and are well into their eighties. In my father’s case, it has been a very slow and increasingly frustrating, humiliating deterioration that’s occurred over more than fifteen years. I have sadly and regrettably moved him four times in that period. First, he was at home, and then in a condo on his own. Next, he moved to a retirement living facility in Boston. He’s currently in his second assisted living facility, in Denver, with a high probability of needing nursing home care in the future. We have also used a wide variety of services for the elderly in each community, including homecare, to maintain his living situation. Prior to the last fifteen years, Dad was very active. A dentist and a sportsman, he lived life to its fullest. His hearing loss and macular degeneration (he’s now blind) eventually caused his need for help­—and put an end to his active independent living. There were other contributing factors, including dementia, neurological seizures, propensity to fall, daily incontinence, and the ever-increasing inability to deal with taking care of himself in his current environment. Without his children nearby (he wanted to stay in Boston and thought his younger sister would help him), small things became large problems with huge negative implications. The difficult decision to move him came in 2003 so he could be closer to one of his children for the frequent assistance that was needed. The typical family conflicts arose, as such issues tend to magnify whatever the underlying dynamics that existed. For now we’ve found a workable balance. However, Dad’s quality of life has since deteriorated significantly—his current state is one of care maintenance. Luckily, my father had enough financial resources for my family members and me to be able to access. These offered us some latitude in our choices for Dad—at least for now.

My mother’s is a completely different story. She lives alone in an apartment, and has multiple physical problems. With a limited income and minimal resources, she has fewer options than my father.

As to clients, over the years I have seen a wide spectrum of elder care problems, concerns, conflicts and answers. Every situation is different—there is no “one size fits all” ! Some people are prepared; most are not. The people, resources, needs, limitations, values, expectations and the health care demands differ. The situations they face are frequently unexpected or unknown. Sometimes the players involved are in denial. The solutions are mostly difficult, but can be easier if approached with knowledge, understanding, and willingness to open both the heart and mind to possibilities.

I hope to present in coming writings some more ideas of the things that need to be considered in planning a loved one’s care and helpful methods of resolving them. Yes, in an occupational sense, I provide assistance with financial issues, but in the later stages of life, frequently, everything is intrinsically intertwined. Next month I’ll be addressing how, exactly, a financial planner fits into all of this, and outline how you can help yourself handle present and future financial care needs. I will be coming back to more specific problems, considerations and possible solutions on later articles. Please feel comfortable to call me if you wish for more specific insight.


Editor’s Note: for more about financing long-term care, visit Duane Lipham’s expert corner.