"Plan Well, Age Well": Plan For Retirement and Your Later Years
This week, KSFC will air a four-part series that focuses on preparing for getting older. We’re calling it "Plan Well, Age Well." The programs will air from 10-to-11 am Tuesday through Friday (April 10-13) on KSFC. That’s 91.9 FM in Spokane, 100.3 FM in Coeur d’Alene.
Our partners in this project are members of the Spokane Elder Resource Team. Their professionals will be in our studios each day, answering my questions and yours.
The idea is if you think ahead and plan for retirement and other important events that your later years can be full of joy, rather than angst.
Our first program will focus on family dynamics, particularly in cases involving parents who are aging and infirm.
We’ll be joined by Becky Tiller and Gail Goeller. Goeller has written a book, “Coming of Age with Aging Parents: The Bungles, Battles and Blessings.” She and her late husband John cared for their parents in their final years and then, Gail cared for John during his time with Alzheimer’s.
Becky Tiller owns a geriatric care company.
“Generally people come to me when they’re often in crisis and they need to have some direction as far as what needs to be done," Tiller said. "Do we keep Mom and Dad in the home? Do we need to find placement? Do we have care come into the home? When is it time to place? All those difficult decisions that people face as we age.”
“It’s a crapshoot," Goeller said. "We return to the family and the mindset that we left the family. It’s all about perception. Mom liked you better than she liked me, da da da da da. So we carry that and we look adult, but we act like when we were in the family. We take on those roles again.”
“The conflict comes out when a parent is aging, when they’re ill, when they’re starting to get a dementing illness. This is when you start to see the dynamics of the family come out, good or bad," Tiller said. "Some people really rally around the nation and that’s what I was blessed with my family and others really do start to fall apart, especially if there’s money involved.”
“And so communication becomes absolutely imperative. What are the expectations? What did you commit to doing? And trying to balance the roles that come to play," Goeller said. "I think one of the things that is a sticky wicket is to be able to confront someone, a sibling, and say, you know, you said you’d mow the lawn when you came from out of town. That out-of-town experience is totally different because you get to go away and pretend it isn’t there. And so the family dynamics and the expectations just collide.”
“I often have to say to the family, it’s not about you. We have to keep our eye on who this is about and that’s Mom or Dad," Tiller said.
Becky Tiller and Gail Goeller will join us on Tuesday, April 10.
On Wednesday, we’ll turn our attention to senior living and elder law issues. Kathy Bryant is a real estate specialist for seniors in Spokane. Years ago, she was looking for a safer place for her mother to live, but Mom repeatedly said no to the options she presented.
“I just kind of threw my hands up and said, ‘Mom, you’re on your own’ and I went back to my office and I thought, “Wow, I can’t even help my mom move. This is what I do for a living is help people move.’ And I realized that it was all about me. It was about me and my fear, not my mom’s fears," Bryant said.
So she went to work and learned more about the senior housing options available. Meanwhile, her mother eventually realized that it was time for her to give up her apartment and she opened up to a search for a new place to live.
“To this day she is living in a retirement community. She’s still completely independent. She’s 90 years old and she’s living an amazing life,” Bryant said.
Now she counsels families that go through the same issues she and her mother navigated.
“It’s all about being pro-active and helping them figure out what’s the first step and how are we going to get from point A to point B without everybody stressing out and throwing up their hands and saying, forget it, I’m not going to do anything,” Bryant said.
Like the others in this story, Lynn St. Louis got into working with seniors because of her personal experience; in her case, her father had a stroke. When she began her legal career about 30 years ago, she says she was a litigator, but decided after caring for her father, to become an elder law attorney.
“We focus on care, number one, and focus on how that care is going to be delivered. What resources can we bring in, not just resources to pay for the care, but other people in the community that can help,” St. Louis said.
She says that might mean hiring someone like Becky Tiller to oversee the details of that care. Meanwhile, St. Louis helps with legal documents, such as wills and durable powers of attorney. You might consider those documents only important near the end-of-life, but St. Louis urges even young adults to think about getting their affairs in order.
“If you are in your 20s and you just got married and maybe you have children, it’s critical that you have in place documents to protect your family. And there are, of course, many stories that have been told about people that didn’t do that. Mom and Dad died; the children now, who do they go to, because there’s been no direction?" she said.
Lynn St. Louis and Kathy Bryant will be our guests on Wednesday, April 11.
On Thursday, we’ll turn our attention to financial planning. We’ll be joined by Daria Brown, a CPA who will talk about how the new federal tax law changes affect financial and Social Security planning. Financial planner Dustin Allbery will also be with us.
Allbery encourages young adults to start their financial planning early, but he says the process becomes more crucial as people hit their 50s and start to think about sweet freedom and ask big life questions.
“First one, can I retire? That’s the generic question everyone asks and, with some numbers and computer help, it’s a pretty easy thing to figure out. People just don’t take the time to do it," he said.
"We’re more of an accountability coach. It’s easy for us to sift through all that other minutiae that they’re trying to get through to retire. So we just build that outline and plan and start connecting the dots and chipping away at it,” he said.
Sometimes Allbery says he has to break the bad news, you don’t have the money to retire yet, or "retirement might not look the way they intend it to look. And that’s the picture we want to start creating for people. OK, you need to do this, you need to do that. And then it’s life-related and life is a pretty ugly thing sometimes. There’s divorce, there’s death and we deal with that quite a bit. So, just managing life,” Allbery said.
Dustin Allbery and Daria Brown will join us Thursday, April 12.
On Friday, we’ll delve into long-term care and Medicare with two specialists, Joel Ferris with long-term care and Dennis Fletcher with Medicare.
Like the others we’ve talked to, Ferris got into this business in part because of an experience with family, in this case, his mother needed custodial care for more than two years.
“There’s a lot of crisis management that can happen if you don’t have a plan in place. And also you have to figure out how are you going to pay for it. Where’s that money going to come from?" Ferris said. "If you don’t have a good plan in place, it could really disrupt your retirement plan, so that’s why it’s important to have something in the form of, some form of insurance to mitigate that risk.”
Ferris recommends people begin considering long-term care insurance in their 50s when they update their other life documents. He says they have several options, starting with in-home care.
“But there’s also assisted living, of course, and nursing care. If you have a plan in place, your likelihood of needing nursing care is greatly reduced and that’s really what the goal is, is to maximize your wellness going forward in your life so you don’t have to worry about jumping into nursing care at the end of life,” Ferris said.
One of the related issues seniors deal with is Medicare, the federal health plan mostly for those 65 and older. Dennis Fletcher is head of a Spokane Valley financial group which sells the various Medicare plans. He says they can be intimidating at first, but easier to understand when they’re explained.
“Medicare is made up of four parts. Within those parts you’ll find all the plans. So when people talk about Medicare Part A, that would be your hospitalization. Medicare Part B would be your doctors. Those are the two elements that really make up Medicare," Fletcher said.
"You’ll find your plans and Medicare Advantage, which is Medicare Part C, and then you’ll find your drug plans in Part D; Part D for drugs. And then you’ll have Medicare supplements and Medigap plans out there in the universe somewhere, which really doesn’t have a letter for it,” he said.
Fletcher says how much you pay for your Medicare policies depends on your situation and your income. Unlike some of these other issues we’ve mentioned, he says people don’t need to start early when they think about Medicare.
“Usually six months before they turn 65. If they decide to work longer, that’s fine. They really need to see an insurance agent, a licensed Medicare insurance agent to let them decide they will stay with Part B or decline Part B, something in that respect," Fletcher said.
Dennis Fletcher and Joel Ferris will join us for the final program in our "Plan Well, Age Well" series, which will run Tuesday through Friday, April 10-13 from 10-to-11 am on KSFC, 91.9 FM in Spokane, 100.3 FM in Coeur d’Alene.