Three Stages of Care in Life & How to Plan for Them

Three Stages of Care in Life & How to Plan for Them

Our clients take the time to create a comprehensive estate plan. Members of our Legacy Protection Plan know that signing and forgetting about their documents provides a recipe for disaster. They send their successor trustees to our annual workshops, Trustee School 100 and 200. They write a letter of intent to guide their successor trustees, they write legacy letters to their loved ones that provide them with support and encouragement long after their deaths. Our clients “have the conversation” with their loved ones where they discuss their understanding of quality of life to preserve their lives rather than postponing their deaths. Their families are prepared. 

In other words, our best clients spend the time making sure their investment in estate planning documents actually works when the time comes, by educating themselves and their families.  

Most of our clients agree with us that investing in a revocable living trust –based estate plan provides additional security and protection, especially for incapacity. With a co-trustee or successor trustees in place, our clients can access all of their financial resources to support them in the event of sudden incapacity. Incapacity rarely comes as a complete surprise.  As our population ages, more and more of us will be dealing with one or more chronic diseases.


“Older adults are disproportionately affected by chronic conditions, such as diabetes, arthritis, and heart disease. Nearly 95% percent have at least one chronic condition, and nearly 80% of have two or more.” 


Incapacity comes slowly to those of us dealing with chronic diseases. In many cases, there is a predictable progression. In the case of dementia, for example, families could understand as soon as a diagnosis that extra care at home will be required at some point. If a person with dementia lives long enough, a residential care community with a memory care capacity will likely be a good option.

The problem is that most families remain uninformed about the progression of these chronic diseases. And as such, they are often surprised at often predictable developments and unaware of their options for care and support. Families try harder and harder to care for their chronically ill loved ones in isolation. This leads to more heroic but misguided effort, frustration, and disillusionment as their efforts continue to feel inadequate to meet the increasing care needs of their loved ones as the chronic illness progresses. This is often on top of, in the case of dementia, the overwhelming and extraordinary disappointment of losing a loved one in plain sight.   

Our savvy clients understand and know that they are not experts at managing the medical aspects of chronic diseases. They visit professionals, physicians and specialists to help manage these illnesses. They also understand that they are not experts at managing the increasing need for care as these diseases progress.


Life Care Planning and Elder Care Coordination offer solutions at every stage of care:


1. Stage One – Healthy and Ready to Plan.

Create a Life Plan for your stages of care: This is the least urgent but best time to get your plan in place. Prior to a diagnosis of any chronic illness, our wisest clients meet with an attorney and our elder care coordinator to develop a Life Plan which prepares for, details, and communicates what happens for when the inevitable decline due to illness might happen. At this point in the planning, an individual or couple creates the foundational legal documents they’ll need through possible disability and for when they pass away. They might visit assisted living homes in their area, or they might visit communities close to where their adult children live. These clients consider the significant cost of residential care communities and purchase long-term care insurance, or make sure they have the resources to pay out of pocket for their future care.

The average cost of a residential care community in the US is over $9,000 per month. The average stay is over 3 years. This comes out to a very expensive surprise that most families cannot afford. You are well advised to be aware of this health-related expense and plan for it. The best way to avoid this surprise and limit its effect on your entire family is to stay healthy. The next best thing you can do is get a Life Plan and to make sure you and your family are aware of and prepared for the surprising cost of care.

Stage one provides the most options for families to choose from when planning for the future. Most long-term care insurance is typically only available prior to a diagnosis with a chronic illness.


“Multiple chronic diseases account for two-thirds of all health care costs and 93% of Medicare spending. Yet, less than 3% of U.S. health care dollars is spent on prevention to improve overall health.”


 2. Stage Two – After the diagnosis, creating a Life Care Plan.

In the early stages of an illness, more options are available. This planning stage is slightly more urgent than the first stage, and because we know the likely trajectory of an illness that’s been diagnosed, we’re able to create a Life Care Plan that will address the care needs we can reasonably foresee. When our clients receive a diagnosis, they visit us to make sure their documents are up to date and make any changes necessary. At the same time, because the illness and its likely progression are now known, more shape can be given to the plan. At this point, a couple diagnosed with dementia would start to visit not just assisted living communities, but those with continued care capacity and memory care options. They would research how their long-term care insurance will assist prior to residential care. Does it cover in-home care? How much? What kind? What other resources will be required for this particular illness?

At stage two, the needs are more predictable, and the options are more limited. For example, while there are long term care plans that could be put into place, they are more limited and potentially more expensive than prior to a diagnosis. While specifics of the illness can help fill out details about a care plan, time may be more limited to save and plan financially to help pay for the care.


3. Stage Three – Crisis Management.


We see many clients who find themselves in crisis situations. We have mentioned other places in our blog posts about the beloved clients we refer to as the Wyatts. Edna has been taking care of her husband Bob and covering his obvious symptoms of dementia so that they are not a burden to their children. When Edna falls and has to go into rehab for 30 days, the rest of the family learns that Edna has removed the knobs on the stove because Bob forgets he had started to heat something. Without Edna, he also forgets to eat and bathe.

Because Bob needs immediate daily care the family is in a care crisis management situation. Someone needs to be with immediately, and he will need at least a short-term residential community until Edna is mobile again. But now that we know about Bob’s illness, we can also plan for his progression. Our elder care coordinator manages this kind of crisis need, but it is much easier to admit Bob when there is more time to plan and especially easier when a family has planned financially for his care for years.  


“Chronic diseases can limit a person’s ability to perform daily activities, cause them to lose their independence, and result in the need for institutional care, in-home caregivers, or other long-term services and supports.” 


Most families we see will need help with elder care at some point. And many realize that their estate planning documents are not designed to anticipate, manage nor pay for that care. Because they understand this need, they develop the more comprehensive plan called a Life Care Plan. The earlier they start planning, the more options families have.

At Stage Three, the emphasis of the care planning is mostly on putting out the latest fire. There are not always great options because time is limited or not available for better planning. This means that compromises must be made. At this time, only available resources may be used to pay for care, which limit our options and makes knowing about all available options even more important.



As families age, chronic illnesses are more common, eventually affecting our loved one’s ability to care for themselves. And we also know that many illnesses have an understandable progression that can help us plan. Most families remain isolated and uninformed about the available resources and support. Further, they may have neglected to plan for the financial burden that likely awaits them as they age. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor and call our office today to schedule a meeting with our elder care coordinator. They deserve to feel your protection even as you age.


Data: Read more:

The Missing Link in Thriving as You Age

Plan for Long Term Care NOW

Keep Your Team Up to Date

Add a Life Care Planning Law Firm to Your Dementia Caregiver Toolkit

Facts on Healthy Aging

Don’t miss out on these upcoming Life Care Planning and Care Coordination Workshops:

Workshop for all Hammond Law Group Clients and General Public: 

The Plan You’ve Surely Overlooked: How Life Care Planning Secures Your Future 

Thursday, August 31st at 4:00pm Colorado Springs & Live Webinar Via Zoom

Exclusive Legacy Protection Plan Workshop:

The Secret to Your Dream Retirement: How Care Coordination Saves You from a Living Nightmare

Thursday, June 15, 2023 – 4 pm Colorado Springs & Live Webinar via Zoom


Check out all our workshops:

Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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