Just as you take inventory of your parents’ resources, so should you evaluate your own. We believe that if you take the time and make the effort to get ready for the final stages of your life, as difficult and as expensive as some of those preparations may be, you will make that part of your life far more secure and fulfilling than it would otherwise be for both you and your loved ones.

Plan today for your tomorrow.

Where you will end up on the curve and how much care, if any, you will need depends on a number of variables:

• Shoot for the Galapagos but prepare for the worst. By all means plan for a comfortable, exciting retirement. But plan simultaneously for the time when that wonderful retirement might be cut short, gradually or suddenly, by accident or disease. Any of us could spend months, or perhaps years, with our physical or mental aptitudes in disheartening decline.

• Prepare now — and you should begin to plan immediately, because as you likely know from the experience with your parents, if you wait for an emergency to begin planning, the emotional and financial difficulties will be multiplied.

• Prioritize — think sensibly about the basic needs in your life, beyond food and other essentials, and focus on what you could give up and could not give up.

• Buy a home to last. If you are moving, either within your current area or many miles away, contemplate the kind of house you will want not just next year, but in 10 or 15 years, when you are likely to be less enthusiastic about climbing the flights of stairs.

• Estate planning. Everyone, and certainly everyone with children, should have a formal, comprehensive, written estate plan that designates a power of attorney for someone else to act in their behalf.

• Will. You can’t assume that your children or other heirs are going to apportion whatever money you leave in a way that you would consider fair. Make your wishes clear and legal in a will. Even when the financial consequences of dying without a will are small, the emotional repercussions can be tremendous.

• Advance Directive. This document is as crucial as a will( and is sometimes referred to as a living will)and emotionally might be even more difficult to face. The document states your wishes in some terrible accident or medical episode leaves you near death with little or no chance of recovery. It also creates a health care proxy, a relative or friend who can make the decisions associated with such an event on your behalf.

• Power of Attorney. You should give someone the power of attorney to act on your behalf if you are disabled in an accident or by an illness. Even though you will likely recover to take care of your own finances and sign important papers, in the meantime someone will have to sign the papers for the mortgage refinancing or the lease on the summer cabin. Give your power of attorney to an alternate as well.

• Last wishes. You can do your family a great favor by providing final instructions which address questions and other issues which are important to you. Don’t put the burden of making these decisions on your children.

• Long-Term Care Protection. One way is to reinforce the income you expect from savings and the equity in your home with long-term care insurance. A typical policy purchased currently would provide $100 a day worth of care, roughly the cost of a professional non-medical caregiver at home for five hours a day at current rates. A reassuring policy would cover you for four years of care with a provision for inflation of 5 percent a year compounded. There are financial advantages to buying early, of course; evaluate your options.

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