Planning ahead to meet the long term care needs of senior family members can help to make less traumatic a transition that’s often difficult, though necessary for the well-being of aging loved ones.
Last time, in Part 1, we discussed long term care options and explained the most common choices and what to consider when evaluating what’s best for your loved one’s situation. This time we discuss the action portion of your plan, steps you can take to be ready should that transition be needed for the senior in your life.
Before that, we received a comment in response to Part 1 suggesting that we had overlooked adult daycare as an option. We feel adult daycare is a great resource for seniors and family caregivers, one that allows many to successfully age in place longer than would otherwise be possible. Our list of options, however, was intended to cover potential full-time living options where aging in place is no longer practical or desired by senior family members.
Actions in Your Long Term Care Planning
- If there is a specific facility nearby that may fit your needs, get your senior’s name on the waiting list. You can always refuse when a spot comes up if you aren’t ready.
- Check out whatever facilities you may be considering, including location, ratings, cost, services, cleanliness, staffing, accreditations, meals, religious services, and any other concerns your senior and you may have. Visit each facility to get a feel for it and walk around. Don’t stop at the lobby, but go into the living and care areas.
- Begin planning for the costs associated with any type of long term care. Keep in mind that assisted living is not covered by Medicare or Medicaid. Estimates of the cost of daily care vary state by state but range in many areas around $200 a day for a nursing home bed and more for a private room, and at least $3,000 a month for an assisted living center. Home care can be $19/hour and $17/hour for homemaker services. Don’t forget to factor in the other costs your senior will have, such as co-payments, and other uncovered medical needs, such as dentists, eyeglasses, etc. Medicare covers few if any long term care costs. Medicaid does pay for these expenses once your senior is eligible financially, medically and functionally. If your senior qualifies for Veterans Affairs benefits, he or she may meet eligibility for some coverage. The earlier your senior loved one begins financial planning for these costs, the more options they may have later. You may want to speak with a qualified financial planner about what strategies your senior can employ to prepare for these costs.
- Prepare advance directives, such as a living will, healthcare power of attorney and wishes for how your senior desires long term care be delivered. This will help you plan to meet their wishes if they are no longer able to communicate that with you when the time comes.
- Have open discussions with your senior about his or her expectations and finances. These are often very difficult subjects to broach for parents and children but they are important so everyone knows where they stand. Involve all appropriate family members.
- Observe your senior loved one closely. Are they having more trouble with daily activities, keeping their finances on track, driving, personal care, or meal preparation? You may notice signs of decline that may indicate the need for interventions, such as in-home care and then eventually a move for more assistance. Your senior may not tell you they need help, so you need to be vigilant.
- Talk about the possibility of facility care with your senior. Frank discussions with them as time and function changes can make it a smoother transition. You don’t want your senior to feel like he or she was “dropped off” somewhere with no prior notice. This is definitely an emotional topic for everyone and supporting each other will help you all.
Long term care may never be needed for your senior loved one. If it is, doing these tasks before they’re needed will be beneficial when the time comes. We may look at our seniors today and think they are doing fine and are healthy so feel you can wait to do this or that. Unfortunately, all too often a single fall will make the long term care transition necessary, the family will need this advance planning and it won’t be done.
Bottom line: Learn about your options, discuss the possibilities, and plan for it financially and emotionally. It will be time and energy well spent!