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I am 80 years old. My husband, age 84, has memory issues and while our life thus far remains largely unchanged, I am beginning to see changes in him that are evidence of dementia. I think we’ve prepared ourselves very well for what may come down the road. We have three adult children with whom are very close to but who all live far from us. My biggest concern is what should happen to my husband if something should happen to me first and I’m no longer able to help him myself, or manage his care. Jeanne N., Miami, FL.

It’s wise of you to think ahead, considering different scenarios that you should be prepared for and involving your husband in the decision-making while he is able. It seems that there are three options that you and your husband, along with your adult children, should consider and discuss together.

The first is to remain in your home with an aide. The number of hours and their duties can be augmented as your needs change.

You can also investigate assisted living facilities in your area that also offer memory care. This would make it possible for both of you to reside in the same facility even if only one of you required this extra level of care.

Alternatively, you can move to be near one of your adult children so that they can assist you in the care of your husband as well as yourself should your own needs change. Living close to them, whether you are living independently, or in an assisted living facility, will enable them to be actively involved in your and your husband's care.

I'd like to suggest other ways that you can be prepared and help your children to be effective caregivers with the least amount of stress.

Prepare a binder (choose a bright color, label it in bright letters, and keep it in a visible place) and place the following information inside:

  • Contact information for family members, in order of who is to be contacted in the event of an emergency.
  • List of doctors (primary care and specialists) with their contact information.
  • Durable Power of Attorney with a separate HIPAA insertion so that doctors will be able to talk to each child (click here for an explanation of this important item).
  • A list of current medications (including dosage, what condition it is for, as well as the name of the prescribing physician.
  • Copies of medicare card and other supplemental insurance policies.

I also suggest that each of your children retain their own copies of the Power of Attorney and HIPAA forms so that they have them in hand in the event that they are the first to reach your or your husband's bedside in the event of a health emergency. This will avoid confusion and unnecessary delays in decision making.