March 1, 2021

Your Advocacy Connection

By Kathy Nitz
GolderCare Solutions

Getting Your Ducks in Order

Getting your “ducks in a row” or getting your “ducks in order” are fairly common phrases that can apply to almost any aspect of life. It can be used when coaching kids, when planning a vacation, when starting any project or unfortunately, when faced with aging or ill health. It’s a phrase that works and it is understood by everybody. But when referencing “getting your ducks in order” as it relates to aging, it has a meaning all its own. It’s important not only to get it right, but to keep it right.

The odds of disability and death increase with each passing year. It is something we see on a daily basis in our business.  People who are either disabled because of injury or disease or just aging are plagued with the uncertainty that they may not have gotten their “ducks in order” when they should have done so.  It’s so difficult to witness those who are dealing with a debilitating disability, which in itself is stressful, only for the first time to consider what “getting your ducks in order” really means at this stage in life. It need not be this way. I’m not sure why people put it off. I remember an attorney I knew once always telling people they should always have a will, and then he would follow it up with, “it is not like a coupon you have use before the expiration date.” Sometimes emotions get in the way thinking if they plan for death, it will come. Just because you have a will, it does not mean you are all set, however.

We at GolderCare talk about putting the pieces of the puzzle together. Without all of the pieces in their correct space, we don’t have a complete picture. Getting your ducks in order is the same thing. Without all of the pieces in place, you do not have a complete plan and may encounter difficulties just when you need help. We have a family piece of the puzzle that deals with our relationships. We have a financial piece of the puzzle that means what we have in the bank, investments, stocks, bonds, real estate, and debt. We have insurance and that can be several pieces of the puzzle: health, Medicare, Part D, life, death, disability, umbrella policies, long term care insurance…it can go on and on. Then, we have a health and/or care piece; the piece that so often is the driving force for change. The health piece can also include making decisions about what care we want at each stage and memorializing it.  As we age each of these puzzles have more pieces and are more complex.

One puzzle piece impacts the other. For example, you accompany Mom to the doctor as she has been having some health issues.  The doctor tells Mom that she should no longer live by herself and should consider a change. All of the pieces of the puzzle have to be considered before just moving Mom.  Without all of the pieces in the right places, Mom leaves you and the rest of the family wondering what to do and who should do it. What if Mom has a sudden change, such as a debilitating stroke?

These are the questions that pop up: Who has authority to make medical decisions…did she ever talk about how she would feel about a feeding tube? Does she know I love her?  A little later, once the shock wears off, what insurance does she have, how does Medicare fit into all of this, how is all this going to be paid? Then you begin the process of determining who has access to her bank and 401(k) to pay her mounting medical bills and eventual long term care cost? To answer these questions and more, each piece of the puzzle comes into play.

This is the good news. The fact that you are reading this article means that you have the opportunity to evaluate your puzzle now. Each of us has a different life story with unique needs based on our pattern of living.

Getting Your Ducks in Order is one of the most popular educational segments that we offer. We discuss in practical terms what you need to consider when getting your “stuff” (or your “puzzle” in order as you age (legal documents, financial assets, insurance, healthcare and family). We explore what this means and why it’s so important. We will be covering this topic during our next Aging Empowerment Webinar. It will be at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, March 23rd.  Call (309)764-2273 or email: info@goldercare.com for more information on how to join us!

Kathy Nitz is the Lead Benefits Advocate for GolderCare Solutions. She uses her wealth of knowledge and experience in benefits planning to advocate for seniors and those who are disabled.  You can reach GolderCare at (309) 764-2273 and learn more at www.goldercare.com.