by Dana Bookbinder, Esq.~As an estate planning and elder law attorney, I see tremendous benefit in proactive planning to avert crises. Substantial sums can be saved by resolving disputes outside of court, relationships among parties or family members can be preserved, and individuals can enjoy the peace of mind from knowing that their directives regarding their health care or assets will be adhered to.
Yet, many individuals still wait until there is a crisis to visit a lawyer, and in fact most areas of the law are geared to help clients react to a crisis rather than plan to avoid problems. This reactive model to life issues is prevalent throughout our society and is not only the model on which legal services are generally based but is also the model on which America’s medical system is primarily based. Like proactive legal planning, proactive planning for health can yield remarkable benefits, however.
The Center for Obesity Prevention and Education (COPE) Center at Villanova University’s College of Nursing has partnered with 17,000 health care coaches throughout the United States to work on building health before a crisis hits. Chiropractor and COPE certified health care coach, Dr. Eric Stofman has been coaching individuals into better health since 2008. He explains that most of the choices made in American society are based on problem solving. To solve problems, for example, America creates a war on terror, a war on drugs, a war on poverty, a war on cancer, etc. The American medical system, which generally consists of the diagnosis and treatment of disease, is likewise a reactive model.
While the medical system model is necessary to treat a multitude of ailments, according to Dr. Stofman, problem solving in general “gets people back to zero but it doesn’t create anything new.” Dr. Stofman’s goal is to create health for people and reduce the need for individuals to rely on medication or surgery.
The two most common issues that Dr. Stofman encourages individuals to conquer to avoid a crisis are obesity and smoking. “Our health has to be our own responsibility,” he says. Simply addressing these issues has a major impact on health. In fact, Dr. Stofman states that he has seen vast improvements in the health of individuals who take their health into their own hands. He has “been able to help hundreds of people in consultation with their medical doctors to reduce or eliminate their need for medications or surgery.”
To create new health in an individual, Dr. Stofman utilizes a program called the Habits of Health System created by Annapolis physician Dr. Wayne Andersen. The program involves five components: 1) healthy weight loss; 2) healthy eating; 3) healthy sleep; 4) healthy movement; and 5) healthy mind/well-being.
The Habits program is not only beneficial to one’s health, but to one’s wallet. Dr. Stofman points out that the majority of our health care costs are incurred in the last three years of our life. In fact, nursing home costs in America now can easily exceed $11,000 per month, and assisted living costs approximate $6,000.
Like the proactive Habits of Health program, proactive legal and financial planning can help prevent a health care crisis from becoming a financial crisis. In fact, simply having certain estate planning documents in place such as a Living Will or Power of Attorney can negate the need for the appointment of a legal guardian which can be a costly process.
Because we are living longer, taking care of our own health is vital to our quality of life as is a legal and financial plan that includes a Will, Living Will, Power of Attorney and a proactive approach to comfortably affording long-term care if it becomes necessary. While changing society’s model of problem solving is inevitably an uphill battle, changing one’s own individual mindset is worth the health and financial benefits.