Planning for the Future: Aging and Vision Loss

At some time in our lives, many of us are caregivers. For years I threw the dogs - whichever ones I had at the time - and a case full of paperwork in the car and spent my Friday night driving an hour and a quarter home to my father. Process reversed Sunday afternoon.

Weekend trips home

I was fortunate. The trip home was easily do-able. I still had friends in the area and - the area being the Poconos - I had things I could do to enjoy myself while I was there. Also, my father was always easy-going and undemanding and there were few crises. With a bit of juggling and conniving and help from the Veterans’ Administration, I was able to make the money last literally down to the last week of his life.

The hidden costs of caregiving

Other people are not that lucky. In the November issue of the AARP Bulletin, there is an article on the hidden costs of caregiving.

Financial concerns were noted to be a biggie. There are many unexpected costs involved with caregiving. According to AARP, 78% of caregivers pay out-of-pocket for things directly related to the person they are caring for. People go into debt. They tap into retirement funds. They ignore their own job responsibilities.

Preparing the paperwork

I was a planner even before I became visually impaired. Although my father protested - he already had a will! - I dragged him to all sorts of professional appointments and mined him for all sorts of information. In the end, he was pretty impressed with the results.

One thing I learned through this experience was, at least in my case, my estate attorney was worth his weight in gold. In spite of commonly held beliefs, a will was not going to be anywhere close to enough. My attorney had us put the house in a trust, avoiding capital gains taxes and probate on the house. He had us set up a prepaid, irrevocable burial fund (in my father’s case it was burial insurance) and sent us scurrying for documents that would prove Daddy had served in the armed forces during a conflict.

My dad's service record

Why did we need his service record? If he had served during wartime, he was eligible for aid and attendant services. After jumping through about a thousand hoops (this was the United States government, after all), I was able to get reimbursed for aide care, transportation, adult diapers, etc. Without the largess of “Uncle Sugar”, there would have been a lien on the house.

Assistance for the aging

I had opportunity to speak with a friend who is having serious medical issues the other week. I suggested she contact the office of the aging and get some idea of what is available in the way of assistance. My friend surprised me by telling me her income was too high! What?!?

Advice from the aging office

My friend was operating under a misconception. Services for the aging are pretty much available to everyone no matter their income level. Complaints about my transportation? They go through the local aging office. Questions about social security, Medicare, and supplemental insurance? I made an appointment and went to the aging office for guidance. I got great advice.

Planning ahead

As the saying goes, we ain’t getting any younger. The day will come when we need caregiving rather than giving it. If you are experiencing serious vision loss, that day may be coming sooner rather than later. My father allowing me to plan and execute my plans was incredibly helpful for both him and me.

Remember, there is help out there but you need to take advantage of it. Talk to your potential caregivers of ways about lessening their burdens when the time comes that you need care. You will be glad you did.

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