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How Do Seniors Define Independence?

As we celebrated Independence Day this year, I took some time to reflect on the signing of the Declaration of Independence by our forefathers 243 years ago.  I feel gratitude for the brave men and women who currently serve in our Nation’s military, and for those Veterans who have served in years past.

My Elder Law and Estate Planning practice helps a lot of veterans with their Later-Life Planning, especially qualifying for the VA Aid and Attendance Pension.  It is always an honor to help these patriotic seniors qualify for benefits that they earned while serving our Country.

Most of the Veterans we work with are over age 65.  Veterans who served during WWII, Korea and Vietnam.  Many of them have health problems and some suffer from Dementia.  In their youth, freedom was something they fought for on the battlefield.  Now their liberty is often curtailed not by a foreign enemy, but by the limits of their own bodies and minds.

How do seniors define independence?  In the Declaration of Independence we read that we “are endowed by [our] Creator with certain unalienable Rights [including] Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Let’s look at these Rights from the perspective of those who have enjoyed them the longest.

When Seniors consider their Right to Life, it takes on a whole new meaning.  Quality of life is often dependent on health.  For a Senior, independence may mean the ability to choose surgery or procedures that will increase their well-being such as a knee replacement.  Independence may mean the freedom to choose between staying at home with personal care assistance or moving to an Assisted Living community.  Independence may also mean the ability to choose a natural death, rather than to have one’s life prolonged by advanced technology.  Advance Directives such as a Medical Power of Attorney and a Directive to Physicians can help Seniors remain in control of their healthcare decisions and may ensure the highest quality of life.

When Seniors consider their Right to Liberty, they often talk about staying in control of their lives.  To have the ability to make choices, even when others disagree, or when the costs are high, is one measure of Liberty.  A Senior may choose to travel, although the risk of injury is higher when away from familiar surroundings.  He or she may decide to disregard the advice of their physician because the effect on their lifestyle would be too great.  Seniors may get married, or divorced, over the objections of their grown children.  Seniors who are prepared with a good estate plan have the greatest likelihood of retaining their liberty because their options aren’t limited by cost.

The Pursuit of Happiness is the third Right listed in the Declaration of Independence.  Some seniors may find happiness by retiring from a stressful job.  Others may find that working part time, or in a new field brings them joy.  Many seniors will pursue happiness through the development of their talents or the acquisition of new skills and hobbies.  Happiness can be found in volunteer service, quality family time, travel, education, and many other areas.  In order to have the freedom to pursue happiness, a senior must have both the financial resources and the physical and mental health needed.

One of the most fulfilling aspects of the legal work we do, is to see our clients retain their independence during their later years.  Please contact us at 469-210-8371 if we can help you, a loved one, or a client achieve a more independent future.

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