We have consulted over the past year with a number of clients and friends dealing with the serious illness of a family member.  Indeed, we have dealt with this in our own families, and have gained what feels like a lifetime of experience compressed into a single year.  This week we share a few things we have learned.

Have an advance care plan in place.  An advanced care plan provides directions to your doctor on how you want to be treated if you are unable to make decisions for yourself.  An advance care plan is different than conferring a healthcare power of attorney to someone to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself.  An updated advance care plan is far more specific than earlier living wills. The form provided by the state of Tennessee allows you to give general instructions and preferences, or to be quite specific.  It is helpful to have in place directions from you about life-prolonging intervention, particularly medically administered food and water, administration of CPR, and the use of machines to help you breathe.  Preparing an advance care plan will help your loved ones better oversee your care.  More information is contained on the State of Tennessee website.

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The advance care plan form is found here:

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The bias in the healthcare system is to over-treat.  A recently-released study conducted by Stanford University reinforced a perception about the healthcare system—physicians tend to pursue aggressive life-prolonging treatments for their patients—treatment they may not pursue for themselves. From discussions with physicians, this actually makes perfect sense—in order to avoid the emotional trauma of being sued, physicians may practice a subtle form of defensive medicine. So, from the family’s perspective, even with an advance care plan in place, a family still must attend to their loved one’s wishes, so they are carried out.

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It takes a Ph.D. to sort through retirement community options.  In 10 Things Retirement Communities Won’t Tell You, a number of important insights can be gleaned.  The article notes that decisions about entering a retirement community often are made under duress, and families often fail to ask important questions.  Continuity of care and staff turnover are issues for inquiry.  The manner of charging for care is especially important because a family can be in for some surprises.  It also is important to read the contract carefully.

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End-of-life expenses can quickly deplete your capital.  Even if you have done a great job saving for retirement, good plans can blow up from potentially ruinous long-term care expenses.  Even if you have long-term care insurance, your loved one may be too sick to live at home, but too well to qualify for long-term care expenses.  Maintaining a reserve of savings dedicated to long-term care that won’t be used for generating retirement income is a good idea.  Keeping your home equity in reserve for a rainy day also has merit.

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And in case you missed itclick here to read last week’s blog post  which examines some tools and techniques for more peace of mind in retirement.

We hope you enjoy reading these articles along with us and hope you find them informative.  Please forward this to your family and friends.

J. Mark Nickell &  Co.

Disclosure – The articles mentioned in This Week with J. Mark Nickell & Co. are for information and educational purposes only. They represent a sample of the numerous articles that the firm reads each week to stay current on financial and economic topics. The articles are linked to websites separate from the J. Mark Nickell & Co. website. The opinions expressed in these articles are the opinions of the author and not J. Mark Nickell & Co. This is not an offer to buy or sell any security.  J. Mark Nickell & Co. is under no obligation to update any of the information in these articles. We cannot attest to the accuracy of the data in the articles.