One of the unfortunate realities of aging is that many of us will find it difficult to manage our own affairs someday, often during the later years of retirement.
A study published online in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in April 2017 looked at how people’s functioning in two important areas changed over time: managing their medications and managing their finances.
The researchers started with a group of men and women who were 65 or older in 2002 and who didn’t, at that point, need any help with either their meds or money. It then checked on them at two-year intervals for the next decade, ending in 2012.
By age 69, about 10 percent of the sample reported having trouble with their medications and about 23 percent with their finances. After age 85, the numbers were more alarming: about 38 percent reported having difficulty with their medications and 69 percent with their finances. Women had a higher probability of developing difficulty managing medications and finances than men, the study found.
So what can you do to plan ahead, rather than just hoping it won’t happen to you?
Remembering your medicine
A recent HealthAfter50 article, “How to Remember to Take Blood Pressure Medicine,” offers some simple advice that can apply to any kind of medication.
Among its suggestions:
• Get a weekly (or monthly) pill organizer. Some will even beep when it’s time to take your medicine.
• Set an alarm to remind you.
• Take your pills at the same time each day so it becomes part of your routine.
• Keep a log of when you took your medicine or jot it on your calendar.
Staying on top of your finances
Not only can our ability to manage money decline as we age, but studies have also shown that we become more vulnerable to scam artists who want to separate us from it.
Some ways to protect yourself:
• Arrange for direct deposit of any stock dividends, tax refunds, or other income instead of receiving checks in the mail. You’ll be less likely to lose track of them and also save yourself a trip to the bank. Since 2013 Social Security has required that most recipients receive their monthly benefits in this way.
• Similarly, think about arranging for automatic withdrawals from your bank account to pay regular monthly bills, such as phone and utilities.
• Enlist a child or other trusted relative to assist you. You might consider adding his or her name to your checking account, just in case something happens and you are unable to pay your bills yourself.
• Ask a lawyer about a durable power of attorney for finances. It’s a legal document that provides for someone else to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Greg Daugherty is an award-winning writer and editor specializing in retirement topics. He has served as editor-in-chief of Reader’s Digest New Choices retirement magazine, executive editor of Consumer Reports, where he wrote a popular column about preparing for retirement, and senior editor at Money. His work has appeared in Money, Smithsonian, Parade, The New York Times, and NextAve.org, among others.