Edward is a 90-year-old retired professor. Previously active, he now walks with a walker or cane to avoid falling. His appetite has declined and resulted in a 20-pound weight loss. He is mentally intact and lives with his wife in a two-story home.
He has a history of rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, high cholesterol, and urinary incontinence from previous cancer treatment. He decides to visit his family physician due to recent falls and worsening incontinence. The exam is unremarkable apart from reduced muscle mass and noticeable weight loss.
Edward agrees to an MRI, pelvic ultrasound and outpatient bladder procedure. Two days later, he becomes confused and falls. His wife struggles to manage his care.
Edward continues to decline and is transported to the ER where he is diagnosed with a heart attack, low sodium levels, and delirium. He’s admitted to the hospital and subsequently transferred to a nursing home.
How would a healthcare advocate have helped Edward? What if he had planned better?
The Three Stages of Retirement
Life expectancy is increasing with every passing year. Because of that, the time spent in retirement is longer too. Retirement can be broken down into stages — early, middle, and late.
- Early Retirement (age 60 to 75): What will you do with your newly acquired free time?
- Middle Retirement (age 75 to 85): How will you manage your social network to avoid isolation and premature decline?
- Late Retirement (age 85 and above): How will you adjust to a gradual slowdown?
Each stage has unique transitions you’ll need to make to age successfully.
The Value of a Healthcare Advocate
Healthcare advocates represent someone who may need support to exercise his or her rights. They have a good understanding of the health and long-term care systems and can coordinate effectively with medical professionals, family, and friends. Typically, they are nurses, social workers, and care managers. They could also be a fiduciary like your CPA, financial advisor, or attorney.
Modern medicine is geared to save lives at any cost, regardless of the quality of life. If Edward had an advocate, could he have had a better outcome?
Planning for All Stages
You may be asking, “When do I start planning, and how can I ensure I age on my terms?”
The typical time to begin planning for later life is at the end of Early Retirement between age 70 and 75. Depending on your state of health, it could be earlier or later. At Marca Life Planning, we create Strategic Life Plans for Later Life with our clients.
In addition to securing your finances, your plan for later life should include:
- Lifestyle: Determine the cost to stay in your home & alternative housing solutions.
- Aging and health: Project the personal & financial cost of disease progression or declining memory.
- Quality of life: Identify your healthcare advocate & put plans in place to ensure continuity in your life goals.
Any planning you do should allow you to envision your best life to the end of life and develop a plan to make it happen. Prepare to live; don’t plan to die.
Edward’s story highlights the ultimate costs of not planning and preparing for Late Retirement. With a plan, Edward could have chosen his healthcare advocate to make his life goals a reality and ensure quality of life.
“Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” – Eleanor Roosevelt