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Sharing Your Stories: What Does Planning for Later Life Mean to You?

October 16, 2018

As we age, planning for later life becomes increasingly important. It may also be that personal planning is relevant to you in ways you haven't contemplated. Are any of these circumstances familiar to you?

  • An adult child wants to take steps to assist a parent whose mental condition appears to be deteriorating.
  • A first-generation immigrant wants to learn about assisted living arrangements that integrate important aspects of their own culture.
  • An older adult wonders how best to talk to their loved ones and healthcare providers about their personal and religious values and how they wish these to impact future decisions about their health.
  • Parents with young children wonder who might make financial and legal decisions for their family if they ever unexpectedly became unable to do so.

Everyone's plan for later life is unique to their circumstances. They may include things like preparing legal documents (such as powers of attorney) and identifying useful resources and assistance. They may be coloured by related experiences where they felt unsupported or confused about their options.

Our online discussion is designed to give you a chance to share your stories and challenges with planning for later life, either in your own planning or in assisting family and loved ones in theirs. Our goal is to learn from your experiences, and to create information and tools that will equip you to better address concerns and barriers.

In sharing your stories, you may want to consider:

What do you feel is important to plan for in later life?

What do you think would have helped address difficulties or solve problems you or your loved ones faced?

To take part in the discussion:

1. Post your comment below. Type in the box under "Add new comment" below.

2. Click the Save button. Your contribution will appear below.  

Thank you very much for being part of this discussion. We look forward to hearing from you!


One aspect of planning that my parents never spoke openly about was their wishes for burial. My dad was suffering from Alzheimers when my mom passed away. My siblings and I were left not being sure what mom wanted - cremation or burial. We did our best to make a choice we think she wanted. It would have been so much better if we had spoken with her about it or she had written down her wishes.

My 56-year old brother was evicted from his rental unit because of substance abuse issues. My brother has always been a bit of a loner, and my sister and I are his only support network. We try to help him as much and as best as we can, such as trying to find a new home for him. We are seniors ourselves and have issues of our own to deal with. We are not sure if formalizing our care relationship (being appointed as authorities to help make decisions for him) will help the situation and if it's even appropriate. It's been an emotionally and physically exhausting experience.

We are dual citizens. Our main home is in Connecticut and we have a home on Vancouver Island where we spend every summer. We have children that live in both countries. For us, personal planning would include figuring out how to take our dual citizen status into account. For example, would the Power of Attorney we executed in the US be valid for our Vancouver property and bank accounts?

each province and each state has their own legal requirements for peoples financial, medical and personal (where you live and with who) issues. I would suggest getting a POA in both locations executed by lawyers in each location. equally a temporary substitute decision maker for medical and/or representation agreement for your personal decisions in each location again executed by lawyers in each respective location.

My step-sister was estranged from her mother. She was violent and abusive towards my father and her mother. They were both afraid of her. When Dad died, she came back into the picture. At this point her mother was elderly and in poor health. She had herself appointed as Power of Attorney and Executor of her mother’s will. We think that my step-sister was treating her mother poorly. We know that she was not complying with the instructions of doctors or social services. As a family, we all wanted to meet to set up a more n extensive care plan for her - she was the love of Dad’s life and we know he would have wanted this for her. But she died before we could meet. We wonder what we could have done better in this situation, and whether planning before she got so sick would have done anything to prevent what we saw as abuse. As it was, it was a mess.

I was laid off from my long-term job and have had difficulty finding a home. I lost my estranged husband to long-term illness several years ago. I raised our children without his financial support. Trauma has been most detrimental to one of my sons. He suffers from mental illness which is complicated by his addiction to opioids. My Mom and Dad had RESPs provided for all their grandkids however my sons are late in moving forward with their post-sec ed but my brother, who has power of attorney, surreptitiously decided to cash the remaining RESP funds, which were meant to be for my sons. I wonder about the ways I can help or represent my son when I myself am struggling.

I have had a lot of experience working with people around end of life and advance care planning.

I don’t know if you've heard of "My Voice"? It's a resource we commonly hand out to patients to help with Advance Care Planning. It's nice to have printed information to share with our patients so that they can take it home to read when they are up for it. Also, many of our older patients don’t use the internet fluently, so online information becomes inaccessible. I think with My Voice, it's true that it's extensive and can be a bit overwhelming. When I or my colleagues give it out, I think most of us provide some guidance on how to use it and are giving it as a tool to compliment a whole conversation and process. I'm not sure how it would be received if it didn't have a Social Worker (or other professional) explaining it. Sometimes I give the pdf handouts that are on nidus' website to supplement the conversation.

It really depends on what the readiness of the individual is and our assessment about what they need and can take in.

I think some of the access challenges are around the costs of setting up POAs, wills, and some other documents. If it were all free, I think more people would do it.

And sadly, cost is a barrier to many. Also transportation and efforts if they don’t drive or are too unwell to travel. Or if they live in remote areas, are already burdened by medical appointments, or just don’t understand the value. Of course, I'm speaking more to people who have health issues already. If you're targeting healthier groups, then that might be a different story.

Normalizing the process would be amazing! I for one never thought of it until I was pregnant. But like I tell my patients, we're all going to die one day, and by the time you need these things in place, it's too late to set them up. Who do you want making decisions for you if you can’t make them for yourself? If you ever end up in a situation where your loved ones need to make decisions for you, wouldn't it be nice for them to know what you want so they don’t have to guess in an already otherwise stressful time? Etc.

I've been looking through the various websites for senior services in BC but I'm not sure what agency to ask for help with supporting my mother, who now lives in a long-term care facility in Victoria. It's been difficult for me to figure this out by myself online. I need to know what ways I can help her and my father and what help is considered income and what is considered a gift in the eyes of the province. Is there an agency who understands the BC senior health care services and can advise me?

a good accountant may be able to help discern what can be a "gift" vs income. Home health can help discern what is considered "income" for the purposes of "government subsidized help" a general guideline is the net income line ( line 236) on the tax return.

I have a power of attorney of the person that I know for 30 years I took care of him for couple years when he was sick. He died in 2014 I took care of the funeral . There is some little money in the acct that would help me but I need estate doc. I would like to understand what happens with a power of attorney after the person has died.

POA is only applicable while the person is alive. A will is required after death.

We became aware of a situation where an elderly friend's husband was spending a lot of time and money on a dating site. The husband had mental health issues, appeared to be delusional, had some addiction issues. It was our opinion that he was being taken advantage of and that the site was fraudulent. He thought the woman he was chatting to was going to come and rescue him from his relationship. We were not sure if the wife had any legal documents appointing her as authority. In any case, there was a marriage breakdown. As outsiders, this was a difficult situation to observe.

I’m in my late thirties and have never really given a thought to needing to plan. I’m single and have no dependents. A few years ago, my mom had a major health scare and it got me thinking about needing to think about these things more. Life can change overnight. I always used to think that being single excused me from needing to plan. But as life has thrown curveballs at friends and family members, I have come to realize – I have no idea who would make decisions for me if I couldn’t. I don’t have a partner who could advocate for my needs. It’s a scary thought. I guess what I'm realizing is that it's up to current me to take care of future me.

My parents were already in their mid-40s when they had me. We immigrated to Canada from Italy when I was young. The burden of caring for them fell on me, as the English-speaking only child of immigrants, to navigate the health system for my parents, both of whom have had chronic health issues since I was a teenager. I was and am their constant companion, I often translated for them every-day things like at the grocery store, at school meetings with teachers (when I was still at school) and at bank appointments. Both of my parents are now in their mid-seventies. At an appointment a few years ago, a doctor suggested that my parents go to a lawyer to talk about singing some documents. It was daunting and difficult with the language barrier, and we found it expensive but I will say that it has given all of us peace of mind that we've done what we can.

I have worked for years as a Notary Public and have in my professional and personal life dealt with numerous people, but especially seniors, who have never give Advance Care Planning a single thought.

To create awareness of the importance of it and familiarity with documentation necessary to express thoughts on this subject it is essential that the discussion about Advance Care takes place with relatives, friends, doctors and legal professionals. Many people do not see the need for this until it is too late, in many cases also because the mental capacity to make decisions for advance care planning have diminished.

There is also the added problem of seniors’ abuse when siblings , kids, friends and caregivers take advantage of the indecision or lack of knowledge of a senior and influence that person against their will to benefit themselves.

To reach a large group of people to draw attention to, the internet can be a valuable place. The government of BC has issued Advance care Planning Guide and workbook.

Not every person has a computer or is able to manage the internet so various information on this subject should be made available in public spaces, such as libraries, community centres, medical practioner’s offices, churches etc.

Ideally every (older) person should have a last Testament and Will, a Power of Attorney, a Representation Agreement, in writing at a safe place in the home or in a safety deposit box and let their relative know where those documents are kept.

Some incidences from personal experience come to mind.

One of my friend’s husband died at young age from a massive heart attack. He never told his wife he had serious heart problems and she thought his check ups were all okay. He had made a Will but the document was never located. His estate was divided between his wife and his two under age daughters which created a whole lot of problems since there was real estate involved, which his wife could not dispose of since the daughters inherited half of it and were still minors. It took a good two years to wind up the estate and a lot of lawyer’s fees. The document should have been kept in a safe place.

The other case is that of an old friend of mine who fell in the empty basement of her home and lay there for 2 days before she was found. She ended up in the hospital for 4 weeks, cold, dehydrated and very weak. Her family should have made sure that she had a medical alert on her and then she would have been a lot better off. Had she died her sons would not be aware at all of her wishes and her husband might have known but was already in a care home and had lost mental capacity.

Another senior I know has lived in her home on the edge of the forest and does not want to leave the home and all her belongings. She is totally neglected by her two sons although they gave her a medical alert but she refuses to wear it. She does not want a stranger in the house to find her if she falls or has another emargency and dies. She has her Will written on the back of an old envelope and changes it often on another scrap of paper. No matter what I tell her she will not change her way.

If someone had talked to her when she was a lot younger may be things could be different.

to be sure-- in BC both a POA and a Representation agreement are required. Neither cover the other. I've always thought that's a good idea "you may not want the person who decides how your money is spent to also decide where or how long you live"