By Darlynn Morgan, Orange County Elder Lawyer

As an Orange County elder lawyer, I know it’s hard to think about, but imagine one of these scenarios…

Your mother falls, breaks her hip and requires hospitalization and long term follow up care…

Your spouse repeatedly wanders off and gets lost…

Your grandmother has lost an unusual amount of weight and refuses to leave home…

At some point, each of us will be faced with one of these issues in some form or fashion. The tipping point in deciding whether or not a loved one needs long term care can come at any time and in ways we never imagined. 

If we’re smart we’ve planned for it, but in many cases making the decision to obtain long term care is done in response to an emergency situation.  That makes the decision that much more difficult and can lead to making mistakes with serious consequences. 

To help you plan ahead for any of these unsettling mishaps and make the decision quickly, carefully and in the best interest of your family, here are a few things to consider:

Warning Signs of the Need for Increased Care

If your loved one is exhibiting any of these warning signs, you need to start planning now for their care before you have a crisis on your hands:

  • Difficulty walking – unsteady on their feet – recent fall(s)
  • Poor grooming or personal hygiene – soiled clothing
  • Loss of appetite – changes in eating/cooking habits
  • Spoiled or outdated food in the refrigerator – little or no nutritious food in the home
  • Diminished driving skills – recent accidents – near misses
  • Loss of interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Reluctance to socialize
  • Poor concentration or poor judgment
  • Memory loss, forgetfulness or confusion
  • Mishandled medications
  • Persistent fatigue and lack of energy
  • Changes in personality – irritability – sudden mood changes
  • Unopened mail, past due bills, mishandled finances
  • Poor housekeeping and home maintenance – unsafe conditions in the home

Deciding What Kind of Help Your Loved One Needs

While any of these warning signs means you need to pay closer attention to what’s going on with your loved one, some of them may be signs of a problem that’s correctable.  They could be caused by drug interactions or side effects.  Consumer Reports recommends that any new health problem in the elderly be considered to be drug induced until you can prove that it wasn’t. The elderly tend to take a variety of different medications, and any of them can interact poorly with the others if not monitored properly.  Make sure that it’s not a correctable problem before you take drastic measures.

If you’ve taken the proper steps and precautions and your loved one’s problem cannot be easily corrected, you need to decide what type of living arrangement is best for them. 

Can they remain in their own home? If so, do you know what kind of nursing assistance is available to them? 

Is assisted living or nursing home care a better choice? 

What specialized care will they need and how often? 

Do you know what community resources are available to help you manage their care?

All of these questions need to be answered and the best course of action is to start gathering information now, before you’re in reactionary mode.  Crisis management makes it far too easy to miss resources and care options that a good plan will have laid out. 

And remember, each caregiving situation is unique.  These are just the first steps in helping you manage it all.  Without a sound plan in place, all the decisions and options can be overwhelming.  And you have to remember to take care of yourself and your immediate family as well.  We can’t say enough about how important a good plan is to making a difficult situation better for everyone involved.

Regardless of your current circumstances, if you have an elderly family member you could be looking at a crisis of care at a moment’s notice.  Proper planning can make you feel much more confident that you’ve made the right decisions.  Call me, your neighborhood Orange County elder lawyer at (949) 260-1400 to schedule your Family Wealth Planning Session today.  We can explain your care options, assist with Medicaid planning, and help you use all the resources available to you for planning your loved one’s estate in a way that will help take care of the costs for long term care. 

Our Family Wealth Planning Session is normally $750, but this month I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session with me at no charge.  Call today and mention this article.