My father always said that the first 100 years were the hardest in life. From the looks of things in the growing number of centenarians in the world, I’d say he was right on the money. Look here for some amazing statistics about aging in the US. Life expectancy is the US has been increasing among the population as a whole dramatically, even in just the past 10 years. This increase of course is mostly due to medical advances, improved communication about diseases allowing for early diagnoses and the end of the Boston Red Sox’ “Curse of the Bambino” (just my theory). In elder law practice this shift towards amazing longevity has caused us to re-examine some of our most basic tenets for planning, and indeed with more clients living longer increasing the range and scope of our services. As people live longer and longer, or at least as their bodies do, diseases that cause memory loss (such as dementia, Alzheimers) or forms of psychoses (particularly severe depression) and other neurological conditions that reduce either or both cognitive or communication skills of the patient are increasing dramatically. Often families do not have any history of the diseases as no one had even reached such ages in past generations. As we counsel clients we no longer make the assumption that clients will have relatively short periods of skilled care, but rather we must take very seriously the prospect that a client could not only outlive their personal financial resources, but also need skilled care for many years. This long term care period could last years beyond what we’ve considered the conventional wisdom for convalescent care. In addition, we have several client situations where two generations of a family are in nursing care at the same time – perhaps mom is in her 90’s and her child in her 70’s and both are in long term care. Which leaves adult grandchildren and great-grandchildren in fiduciary rolls once reserved only for children. Not only does this expand the family tree and the size of the inevitable “committee” that makes decisions, but also the burden on the younger generations to manage both their own families and the decisions of the elders that are depending upon them. I will come back to this topic again as the impending arrival of the baby boomers in their troisieme age is changing everything.
Creating a living will ensures your future health care decisions and plans are respected. A living will, or advance directive, is a legal document outlining medical treatment preferences and end-of-life care if you can’t communicate or make decisions for yourself.