Image a retirement that is all it’s hoped to be – fun trips, time with grandkids, long afternoons, gardening, and walks. Then it happens. A fall, an unexpected death, an illness, a slow but certain cognitive decline.

The independence and freedom of a healthy retirement is gone.

In the elder care world, we call this a “trigger event.” We have seen this happen over and over again. There is little you can do to prevent this but much you can do to prepare for a trigger event.

At Life Managers we help clients maintain their independence by letting them be the architect of their aging plan. We advocate for them before someone else is forced to intercede without their approval or direction. Whether you engage a third party such as us or design your own strategy, we suggest taking these steps to prepare for “trigger events.”

Start Planning Retirement Early

As we age, our cognitive abilities decrease. Even older adults who are physically healthy and highly educated may start to have problems managing complex situations and tasks.

The U.S. Congressional Budget Office estimates that about one-third of people age 65 and older report functional limitations of one kind or another. Among those age 85 or older, about two-thirds report functional limitations.

Start today. Set some ground rules for when and to whom you cede decision-making and management of day-to-day tasks.

The trigger points that might indicate when it is the right time to do this include:

  • Difficulty keeping checkbooks balanced and bills paid on time
  • Minor traffic accidents or fender-benders
  • Misplacing things
  • Asking the same questions over and over
  • Not remembering what you’ve been told
  • Falling victim to frauds, email phishing schemes, or phone scams
  • Letting your home go into disrepair

The earlier you examine these questions, the easier the transition to using outside help, the more control you will have over decisions, and the longer you will be able to live independently.

Start Small When Planning

Rome was not built in a day. You don’t have to relinquish every aspect of your life to someone else. Sometimes, just having a plan for one small task will help you realize the benefits of advanced planning.

In some cases, children or other family members may be the best source of assistance. In other cases, it may be best to use a reliable and compassionate professional. Regardless of whom you engage, consider assistance in managing tasks such as:

  • Sorting and reviewing mailPaying bills and balancing checkbooks
  • Decluttering and storing household items
  • Medical appointment scheduling, paperwork, and claims
  • Settling estates
  • Home and property maintenance schedules
  • Shopping for food and necessities
  • Transportation to appointments or social engagements
  • Housekeeping, meal preparation, and laundry

The best form of assistance comes from someone who will adapt their services to your way of doing things. Don’t go from paper bill paying to online bill paying overnight.

Make plans that reflect your interests and agendas. Choose someone who will be a good listener and make your requests their priority.

Be Realistic and Compassionate

This is not an easy task and for most adults, and it may be uncharted waters. Expect some initial resistance when broaching the subject with your spouse and maybe some confusion with your children. Take the courage to ask yourself, your partner, and your family the tough questions whose answers will lead to your plan. Be honest and realistic when answering those questions. The plan must be achievable and you must trust the outcomes and individuals you put in place.

Remember, the goal of all of this is to give you power and control as you age. When the trigger event occurs and you have a plan to fall back upon, you will remain in charge and in control. Then, ultimately the freedom and independence you seek in retirement is maintained.

Start Early. Start Small. Be Compassionate & Realistic.