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Sunday, September 22, 2019  Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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House Call: Careful planning can help you age in place

By Dr. Bob Riggs For The Spokesman-Review

Most of us want to stay in our homes as we grow older. To do this and still be healthy, safe and comfortable requires planning and forethought. No one can predict exactly how a person’s future is going to turn out, and, if you are lucky, you won’t need many of the services you planned.

You or your loved one may not need help now, but having a plan in place should the need for help arise will make the process smoother. The first thing to do is look at any existing chronic illnesses and talk with your doctor about how your condition could progress or change.

Advancing conditions could make taking care of yourself or your loved one more difficult in the future. Once you have this information, you can talk with family members and friends about help you might need as you age.

You also can begin to research what available support options are out there. A good place to start in our area is Aging & Long-term Care of Eastern Washington (altcew.org/). You can call them at (509) 458-2509.

An important consideration for getting help in your home is money. Some services may be free, but some are not. Before setting up any service or assistance, check with Medicare and any other insurance you have to see if the service or aid is covered.

You want to be clear on exactly what you are going to have to pay for out of pocket. Benefits.gov can help you find out which benefits you might qualify for now or in the future.

Many agencies direct people to the Internet these days, so if you do not have online access or you find the Internet difficult to navigate, ask a trusted family member or friend to help you.

Keeping track of your money can get difficult with age. Having someone you trust to help you when asked is critical. It may be a family member, a friend or a financial adviser.

It should be someone you feel comfortable talking with about money concerns or questions. Talk with the person in advance of wanting help or advice so that he or she knows your expectations.

It can be difficult to let someone from an agency into your home or discuss money matters with people. To stay in your home at a time in life when you need assistance, you will have to allow for a level of trust so that you can get the help you need.

As you age in place, more helpers will be coming into your home to meet your needs – from cleaning to cooking to medical care. Surrounding yourself with people you trust may be one of the most important aspects of successfully aging in place.

Whether this means family members, service providers or friends, be sure you trust implicitly anyone who is helping you in any way. Having said that, I also would recommend trusting your gut.

If someone makes you uneasy, nervous or downright afraid, contact the service provider and get a different assistant or change providers. You also can contact the Washington Aging and Long-Term Support Administration online (fortress.wa.gov/dshs/altsaapps/OCR/publicOCR.PubRptInputReporterInformation.executeLoad.action) or at (800) 459-0421 to report allegations of abuse, abandonment, neglect, self-neglect and financial exploitation.

Planning now for your health care, financial and personal needs can make aging in place easier. Starting the conversation now can make a big difference.

Bob Riggs is a family medicine physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Riverfront Medical Center. His column appears biweekly in The Spokesman-Review.

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