Gary Horton | On Planning Our Common Future Demise

Gary Horton

One thing for certain. Whether we’re MAGA or WOKE or blissfully politically agnostic, no one gets off this planet alive. Possible exception: Elon Musk, who just got a $47-billion bonus to help get him there … 

The rest of us ordinary earthlings? Well, having made it into my late 60s and starting to see friends and siblings decline, fail and pass away already – it’s all too personal and too evident that mortality is upon me, my friends, and all of us. 

Advanced age is great for bringing us additional time here on Earth. Sadly, it may also bring decline in mental faculties, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive ailments. In our family we’re dealing with two dementia cases right now and both are challenging for everyone. 

And Americans are communally dealing with two cognitive decline cases running for president if you can imagine. Where the MAGA guy dares the blue guy to take a cognitive test while forgetting his own doctor’s last name. Or the blue guy stumbling through so many speeches that we’re relieved when he nails one only modestly well. So, you see, the age-mind thing happens to everyone, from all sides and all walks of life and belief systems. Neither politics nor God will help you – we’re all potentially subject to mental decline. Most living long enough will experience some variation of it. 

Other than the disease itself, elder cognitive decline shouldn’t be too hard to manage, provided there’s sufficient funds. Paying for elder care by itself is a challenge, as many families don’t set aside sufficient funds for elder care for themselves or parents or other loved ones. Medi-Cal or Medicare may provide for some support or even living assistance, but the sums they’re paying aren’t likely to land loved ones in their last day’s home of their dreams. Quality elder care, in home or out, can be dauntingly expensive. 

Legal in-home care today is mid-$30s per hour, adding up to many thousands per month. California law requires caregivers to be treated as employees, with all the overtime and workplace laws in place. So, private care in one’s own home is unreal expensive. 

Group home care for those with advanced mental decline may be more “affordable” than private caregivers, but still lands one in the range of $5,000-$12,000 per month, depending on basics to luxury. With Boomers all coming to elder age starting now, demand for these services will only rise and with it, pricing, too. 

So, know the reality, and start saving. Time flies and I’ll tell you, those 68 years of mine went by FAST! 

As daunting as it sounds, finances might be the easier part of the elder-care maze. Health directives, powers of attorney, wills and trusts also come into play. Failure to have solid legal directives in place creates voids for all sorts of unexpected problems. Foremost are sibling disagreements on care, location, expense and who’s in charge. Family wars may erupt over elder asset distribution. Then, in come the lawyers and out goes the family togetherness. 

So, save and document. You’ll save yourself from the sadder part of declining years and might preserve your family’s ties. 

A few other pointers from the gauntlets we’ve crossed: While some kids are squeamish, talk openly about your elder care and end-of-life wishes. Let things be known. Make sure every family member mentioned in your trusts or wills understands the terms and understands your wishes. Get things understood while you still can. 

More: Teach generosity and kindness to your children. Family love should surpass any family inheritance, so should disputes arise, hopefully they’re more easily resolved with calls to be generous. Few things are as important as strong, productive families, and fighting over inheritances should be the last thing parents see as they pass on or look down from above … 

Assuring best outcomes in our last years requires advance planning, communication and saving. Forget the bias to postpone and procrastinate. Sorry to say, but save for Elon Musk, decline and death are guaranteed. So, plan for your best grand, grand finale, whatever your situation or income. 

Gary Horton’s “Full Speed to Port!” has appeared in The Signal since 2006. The opinions expressed in his column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Signal or its editorial board.

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