By: Frank Brown, Chairman, Alabama Nursing Home Association

Across the country, the elderly population is growing. Here in Alabama, the number of residents age 85 and older is projected to grow by over 60% from 2007 to 2030, according to the AARP.

This is the population most likely to need long-term care services. And yet many of them have done little to prepare for these future needs. A full one-third of adults age 40 and over responding to the 2016 Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research Long-Term Care Poll say they have done no planning at all for their long term care needs.

ANHA 2017 Chairman Frank Brown

ANHA 2017 Chairman Frank Brown

For example, most older Americans say that they would prefer to be cared for by a family member. But less than half have discussed with family members these preferences.

The new year is a good time to start. Make talking to your family one of your goals for 2017.

It may seem intimidating at first, but the truth is that conversations about the future need to happen – and the sooner the better. If you don’t know where to begin, there are resources to help.

A great place to start is Care Conversations.

Care conversations is an initiative led by the American Health Care Association (AHCA), which represents more than 13,000 skilled nursing care, post-acute care and assisted living facilities across the country. Care Conversations provides insight into the care planning process and firsthand accounts of various care experiences. The goal of Care Conversations is to facilitate conversations with loved ones and help people make informed, confident decisions about the care they may need.

A variety of tools are available through Care Conversations. These include tools to help you understand your care needs, learn about care options and find a care center near you. There are more than 200 care centers here in Alabama from which to choose.

The new Care Conversations Care Kit Builder – offered through AHCA and the Alabama Nursing Home Association – goes a step further, guiding users through a series of questions toward a custom toolkit they can use to prepare for the future. Wherever an individual is in the care planning process, the Care Kit Builder customizes results for a specific user and connects them with resources unique to their needs.

Planning and preparing to meet changing care needs throughout one’s life is critically important. Fears of upsetting a loved one can prevent these difficult but necessary planning discussions from occurring. The good news is Care Conversations, and tools like the Care Kit Builder, make starting these important discussions easier.

When it comes to care, preparing for the future leads to greater piece of mind and better outcomes for everyone involved. The best time to start is now.