June 12

Advance Care Plan Steps — 6 Essentials You Can’t Skip


It can be hard to think about the future when you can’t care for yourself or can’t make decisions about your own healthcare — but unfortunately, it happens. 

You have to rely on others to help, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have your wishes honored. 

Creating a Care Plan gives you peace of mind and makes it easier for your loved ones when it comes time to make difficult decisions.

What is a Care Plan?

The 2 primary goals of a Care Plan is to get the care you need in the setting you want and set up how you will pay for it. A Care Plan includes legal services, advocacy, and care coordination plans. 

The elder-care system is complex. If you wait for a crisis to happen before you make these decisions will leave you not knowing where to turn. 

Creating a Care Plan allows you to shape your future, retain control over the later portions of your life, and avoid crises that can happen as you age.

Keep reading to find out if you need a Care Plan yet, and how to create one when you do.

Who Needs a Care Plan?

Every adult should have a Care Plan, but it becomes even more important the older that you get. 

Every individual over the age of 50 needs to have a Care Plan in place so they’re prepared for any of the challenges they might face in the future.

How to Create a Care Plan in 6 Steps

You can choose to create a Care Plan on your own or hire an Aging Life Care Manager to help you. We recommend you consult an Aging Life Care Manager even if you want to create your plan yourself.

Step One: Talk to an Aging Life Care Manager

There are several factors to consider when creating a Care Plan for your future needs. 

An Aging Life Care Manager will conduct assessments to determine your current care needs and help you plan for future needs.

They’re knowledgeable about the resources available in your community and can offer invaluable insights and guidance.

You can search for an Aging Life Care Manager near you on the following websites:

Do you live in Southern Pines, NC? Speak to one of our Aging Care Managers by requesting your free consultation.  South Central North Carolina?  AOS Care Management practice covers more than Southern Pines. 

Step Two: Use a Life Planning Guide

Don't know where to start? Consider using our Life planning guide.

Our planning guide helps you put your wishes on paper so you have peace of mind that there’s a plan for any challenge you might face in the future.

With our guide you’ll be able to:

  • Document your personal, medical, and professional information.
  • Record contact information for professionals and advisors you work with, such as Elder Law Attorneys, Financial Advisors, or Aging Life Care Managers.
  • Keep track of your asset and account information.
  • Plan for your future care needs.
  • Express your end-of-life wishes.

Having all this information in one document stored in one place makes it easier for you to keep up with, and easier for your family and friends to access the information they need when taking care of you.

Get your free life planning guide now: AOS Life Planning Guide

Step Three: Discuss Future Needs With Close Friends and Family

It’s likely you’ll need help with transportation, cooking, cleaning, and other daily tasks as you age. 

Who in your social circle would be available and willing to provide that support?

What are their work schedules and family life like? How far away do they live?

To ensure you don’t overwhelm one person with a large number of tasks, try to choose multiple people who can pitch in to help when the time comes.

The people you choose need to be included in future meetings and choices involving your care.

“Seniors typically want their family involved because they always need another set of ears and another set of eyes when they’re doing long-term care planning. So, I do encourage families to stay very involved with their aging family members or friends because many times you will see things that maybe the older individual hasn’t identified as a need and can help suggest other options and other methodologies of meeting the needs they may have.” - Jane Jones, Director of Local Area Agency on Aging

Your living arrangements may need to change depending on your future care needs, so you need to think about what that might look like.

Would you be more comfortable living at home and paying for in-home care or moving in with a relative?

What if neither of those are viable options? 

You might choose to move into independent or assisted living facilities instead.

These are all things you need to think about carefully and weigh the pros and cons of your options against your financial ability to pay for what you want.

Step Four: Speak to an Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney

When most of us think about planning for our later years, a Will is typically one of the first things that pop into mind — but it’s not the most important.

A Will outlines what will be done with your estate and your assets after you’re gone, but what about the time you have between now and then?

There are a lot of things that can happen in that time, and there are more crucial documents you need to have to be prepared.

Financial Power of Attorney vs. Medical Power of Attorney

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that gives a person the authority to act on your behalf.

Whom you choose to act as Power of Attorney when it comes to managing your finances and making healthcare decisions on your behalf can be the same person — but it doesn’t have to be.

You might find that one person in your life is better suited to one of those roles than the other, so it would make sense to have 2 different people for each role.

A Financial Power of Attorney grants someone the power to make and execute financial decisions for you. That person has authority and control to pay bills, withdraw and deposit money, and even buy or sell property on your behalf.

The person you choose for this job needs to be responsible and good at managing money. They shouldn’t have a background of bankruptcy or trouble paying debts.

Your designated Financial Power of Attorney can perform his duties while you’re still in good health, or you can choose not to give up control until something happens and you’re unable to manage your finances yourself.

The person acting as your Power of Attorney loses their authority after you’re gone. At that point, an Executor of Estate will take over and handle notifying beneficiaries and closing your estate. 

You can find out more about what an Executor of Estate does and how to choose someone for the job here: 8 Ways to Prepare Your Executor 

A Healthcare Power of Attorney is also called a Medical Power of Attorney. It gives a person the authority to make important medical decisions about your healthcare in the event that you become incapacitated and can't make those decisions yourself.

This person needs to be someone you can trust to honor your wishes when it comes to life support and other major medical choices they might have to make.

An Elder Law or Estate Planning Attorney can help you determine what documents you need and help you obtain them.

Step Five: Consult a Financial Advisor or Accountant

A common misconception is that Medicare covers all the costs of long-term care when you turn 65. It doesn’t.

For people who qualify, Medicaid picks up some of the costs Medicare doesn’t, but it doesn’t cover everything. Qualification requirements vary from state to state, so even if you think you’ll qualify — you might not. 

You need to have a plan in place for how you’re going to pay for long-term care. The different options you have are:

  • Self-Insurance: maintaining a cash account that you can use to pay for expenses out of pocket.
  • Life Insurance/Annuities: a policy that accepts and grows funds over time so you can create a stream of income or payments to help cover expenses when you’re older.
  • Long-Term Care Insurance: insurance that helps cover long-term care costs. (Find out more about Long-Term Care Insurance here: Long-Term Care Policies: Worthwhile or Not?)
  • Medicaid: you can’t qualify unless you’re disabled or over the age of 65, and you meet their income cap requirements.

A Financial Advisor or Accountant who is experienced with long-term care planning can help you take a hard look at your finances and align what you want with what you can realistically afford.

Step Six: Consider End-of-Life Wishes

Your End-of-Life Wishes are the last thing you need to think about and include in your Care Plan.

Most funeral homes allow you to make arrangements in advance and pre-pay for their services.

Doing so allows you to make sure you get what you want and it keeps your loved ones from having to make the arrangements for you after you’re gone.

Some things you need to consider and include in your Care Plan are:

  • What you want to happen to your body — cremation, burial, or other options.
  • Where you want the funeral to take place.
  • If you want a memorial service or not.

As difficult as these things might be to think about, it’s important if you don’t want to leave those choices and tasks to your loved ones.

Quick Recap

Creating a Care Plan seems like a complicated process that can quickly leave you feeling overwhelmed.

  • Consulting an Aging Life Care Manager and using a Life Planning Guide will help you get started when you don’t know where to begin.
  • Talk to your close friends and family about your future care needs and find out who is able to help you with daily tasks when and if the day comes that you need their help.
  • Consult professionals to plan your estate and create the crucial documents you need. 
  • Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorneys can help you with your Will and designating Powers of Attorney.
  • Financial Advisors or Accountants can help you with managing and planning your finances so you can afford the care you want.
  • Aging Life Care Managers assist you with all aspects of planning for life after 50.
  • Consider contacting your funeral home of choice to make arrangements in advance and pre-pay for the services so your loved ones don’t have to.

Are you ready to create your customized Care Plan?

Get Your Free Life Planning Guide

You have several factors to consider when creating a Care Plan — and keeping up with it all is tough.

It’s easy for something to fall through the cracks when you’re trying to do it alone without guidance from an expert or a planning guide you can follow.

At AOS, our experienced Aging Life Care Managers understand exactly what goes into creating a Care Plan, and we can help you avoid making some of the most common mistakes.

“We feel very fortunate to have found Jennifer and Aging Outreach Services. We can’t imagine having traveled this road without Jennifer’s help and guidance. We think of her as a member of our family. She has given my sister and me peace of mind. More importantly, Jennifer has provided our mom with a reassuring and trusting presence.” - Jean Rieger and Susan Auman

Let us help you create the perfect plan for your future needs by downloading your free Life Planning Guide now.  

Request a Consultation

Life over 50 is complicated. From illnesses to general aging-related difficulties, there's a lot to learn and a lot to cope with. We understand and we're here to help answer questions and provide guidance on your options.

About the author

Amy Natt, MS, CMC, CSA

President & CEO, Aging Life Care™ Manager

“I am dedicated to working with older adults and their families to maintain dignity and enhance their quality of life.”