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Sentinel: New Years Resolutions | Keystone Elder Law – Mechanicsburg, PA

Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? It’s certainly not too late. January 1st is the perfect time to look forward with a sense of hope and optimism!

Certainly, from a legal point of view, New Year’s resolutions are largely irrelevant. A contract requires participation by two or more parties. We are each cursed and blessed that a resolution, which is essentially a promise with oneself, is not legally enforceable.

New Year’s resolutions can be easier to talk about than to fulfill. It has been said that “a New Year’s resolution is something that goes in one Year and out the other.” For an optimist, the arrival of January 1st can be a watershed time to get started.

Just because the resolutions suggested in this column are easier to fulfill than losing weight or quitting smoking doesn’t make them less important. Seniors, baby boomers and caregivers can act to reduce stress and take control of their lives. Here are ten resolutions to consider:

1. A good place to begin is to promise that, before 2013 ends, you will create a “bucket list.” This term was popularized by a movie starring Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman as hospital roommates who developed a list of things they wanted to experience before death. Their bucket list included skydiving, mountain climbing and kissing the most beautiful woman in the world. Even if your list is not dramatic, it is never too late to identify one’s priorities for the indefinite but precious time remaining in your future.

2. If a loved one in your family is becoming forgetful, or having trouble with vocabulary, ask your family physician if lab tests or a consultation with a neurologist could be beneficial to identify a reversible cause of dementia, or perhaps warrant a prescription which could deter the onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

3. If you are between the ages of 55 and 70, do not have an adverse medical history, and you do not own long term care insurance, investigate the cost and consider how it could maximize your independence in your final years. If you resist this insurance because you feel it would be wasted if you don’t need it, then explore the variety which pays a death benefit to your children if you are so fortunate as to never need extended care. Making a decision about long term care insurance is different than making a decision about going on a cruise– If one spouse is not welcome to participate, the other should anyway!

4. Think about the chores that you are still doing, and consider if you remain the best person to do them. Can you afford to have a lawn service cut your lawn or remove the snow from your property? That service is cheaper than the hospital co-pay or physical therapy which will result from your overexertion. Is it time to ask your children to go with you the accountant to help you with your taxes?

5. If you are a devoted caregiver who has been looking after your spouse or parent, schedule a regular time to get away. Caregiving is a marathon, not a sprint. Every caregiver needs at least one day off per week; and a weekend off each month is not a bad idea. Schedule it without feeling any guilt and ask your family to help you cover the needs of your loved one when you are absent.

6. If you are between the ages of 65 and 75, and are considering how to live the rest of your life under worry-free circumstances within the local area so you can remain close to your friends and family, investigate admission to a Continuing Care Retirement Community. Only 10% of the population qualifies financially, and fewer than half meet all the criteria. Unfortunately, many qualified persons wait until it is too late to enjoy all the benefits. Moving to a CCRC can be a wonderful way to maximize the enjoyment and independence of your retirement years as you age gracefully.

7. If you do not have a power of attorney document, or if your document is more than 10 years old, was prepared by an out-of-state attorney, or obtained from an office supply store or Internet service, consult a local attorney so that your family will not need to have you declared to be an competent person to keep you safe and manage your affairs in your later years.

8. If you are still living in the family home in which you raised your children, inventory your basement, attic and garage. Be honest about the difference between treasure and trash. What you can direct your family to toss into a dumpster this summer will be less work for them in the future. With you present to supervise, there will be less chance of treasure being thrown out along with the trash than in the future, when your adverse health could prevent you from providing that direction.

9. If you are a wartime veteran, organize your discharge paperwork in a central location so that your spouse or children can help you to access it when you might in the future qualify for special benefits from the Veterans Administration because of your wartime service. If you can’t find your DD-214 discharge form, get a duplicate now.

10. Consider whether you want to be cremated or buried, and where you want your remains to be placed. Where should a memorial service be held, and are there hymns or scripture that should be included? Share your written answers with your spouse, children, or pastor.

Everyone’s list will be different, but these ideas should help you to get started. Plan now to get a some of these things taken care of in 2013, and you will have a sense of accomplishment by this time next year. I just know that 2013 will be a lucky year for you!

Dave Nesbit