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Santa Cruz Sentinel—Op Ed Page; Sunday, January 6, 2008 Santa Cruz Sentinel Dan Nicholas: Prepare Now For The Silver Tsunami Sentinel Staff Report "Maybe some of us are just living too long." This comment slipped as I co mpleted my talk. A friend came up to me afterwards and told me that his living to 105 was not a burden to him. It was my liv ing to mo re than 100 that was presenting the ethical burden and financial p roblem. He was jesting, of course. I th ink. Surrounded by Christmas leftovers, I scan the morning papers, encountering the usually last year look-back art icles common as the Times Square ball p repares to drop. The awful 2004 tsunami story appears. I begin to contemplate the other Wave -- a silver tsunami. I glance and I see the second disturbing article in as many weeks today, touching: ethics, money and getting old. "Mysterious death in care home" says the LA Times headline. The p iece was not unlike a recent story in the Santa Cru z Sentinel of a difficult passing of an elderly poor wo man with no family. She d ied a difficult death in a nursing home in Pacific Coast Manor in Cap itola, a facility known for leading the way in quality skilled care. As the year ends, I'm not only feeling older but reviewing finances. The holidays have followed too closely on t he heels of my 60th birthday. Difficult careg iver stories fro m last year arise in my head, bringing even mo re an xiety: • Westside Santa Cruz man, Ruben Ramirez Leon, a 41-year-o ld caregiver of his 82-year old father. The son pleads guilty, agrees to serve four years, is implicated in h is father's death due to negligence in a ho me fire. • A San Jose man, Steven Tu, a caregiver son who at 32 went to jail for elder abuse because his father, 80, died at home of bed sores. Even if your father asks you to let him die at ho me, it is illegal to die of bed sores. • A Kansas City man, Stanley Reimer, 51, arrested, awaits trial for dropping his chronically ill wife, 47, over the balcony to her death as she lay mo rtally ill with cancer. He kissed her before he let her g o, overwhelmed with the $75,000 yearly cost for chronic care. Is it our family members who failed here? The indiv idual? Is inept planning the culprit? Poverty? Govern ment? Hard to say where the lion's share of failure lies. Not hard to peg, however, is the fact that we are all living longer -- 17 years longer since I graduated fro m h igh school in 1966. The ethical, financial and legal questions are coming hard at us now. What can we do? Here are three act ion items we can make happen with this financial and ethical dilemma of aging: • Get busy planning for your own "good death." Native A mericans taught us to value this. Have a talk about these matters with family. Get an Advance Directive for Health Care downloaded, filled out, witnessed, signed www.makeyourwishesknown.org. You don't need a lawyer for this. • See a lawyer o r a priest or a rabbi and do some long-term-care estate planning. Let your wishes be known among those you care about. Put it all down in writing. We all need a will o r a trust, and an Advan ce Directive for Health Care. Hand-written wills are legal in California. • As a nation, let's get brave and serious about tax incentives for those willing to plan with set -aside home equity, long-term-care insurance or reverse mortgage funds. Let's get honest and start talking about gearing up for taxat ion more in line with Europe if we desire to continue having the government entitle us to extended chronic care, assisted liv ing care, in-ho me care -- all paid for by Uncle Sugar. Or let's start putting money away for private funding to cover this expensive business of getting old. www.santacruzsentinel.com/story.php?sid=64671&storySection=Opinion Dan Nicholas is a member of the National Association of Insurance and Financial Advisors.
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