Taking care of aging parents is an inevitable part of life, and it’s not always easy. We watch the people who raised us slowly slip away, and we want to do everything in our power to give them the best care we can.
While it may be challenging to watch your loved one age, there are luckily tons of resources available to help make the transition into long-term care as simple as possible. This guide will provide you with the tips and information you need to help make a decision on what kind of care is best for your family, options to help you afford that care and how to take care of yourself throughout the process.
Table of Contents:
How to Begin the Conversation
One of the most challenging parts of planning for senior and long-term care (LTC) for your loved ones is simply knowing how to approach the subject. Many times, children must start this difficult conversation with their parents, and the role reversal can be intimidating. While the intention may be pure and you’re just looking out for your loved one, you never know how they’ll react. They might feel thankful for your concern, or they might feel attacked and that their independence is being taken away. But with almost three quarters of the U.S. population needing some type of LTC, it’s likely that you’ll eventually have to have the conversation. Luckily, there are steps you can take to make sure that it’s positive and effective.
Prepare in Advance
Before you sit down with your loved one to have a conversation about long-term care, it’s important that you do your due diligence. By doing some homework and understanding the basics of long-term care, you can lead the conversation and hopefully answer questions that your loved one may have about their options. This also provides you the opportunity to see what long-term care options are available locally and the benefits they offer. It’s also suggested to prepare talking points or questions ahead of time — this is especially helpful if the conversation becomes emotional.
Include Any Necessary Family Members
Planning care for a loved one can be an emotional experience, but you shouldn’t have to do it alone. If you have siblings, be sure to bring them into the conversation. What each of you envision as the best option for your parents or loved ones may vary, so it’s vital that everyone is on the same page prior to having the larger conversation.
Start Your Discussions Early
While it’s hard to think about long-term or end-of-life care for our loved ones, it’s important to begin discussions early. There are many factors to consider when it comes to long-term care, and you may not come to a resolution the first time around. By starting your discussions now, you can revisit all your options without feeling rushed to come to an agreement. This will also allow you to find unparalleled care and provide the best quality of life for your loved one.
Let Your Loved One Be Part of the Decision Making Process
One of the most common concerns for seniors when it comes to long-term care services is losing their independence. To help honor your loved one during this time of transition, it’s vital that this conversation is a two-way street. This allows them to share their opinion on what might be right for them and helps everyone be on the same page.
Budgeting & Saving for Long-Term Care
Everyone wants the best for their loved one. But sometimes, the best care comes with a hefty price tag. End-of-life and long-term care options can be an expensive, and wind up putting the caregiver in debt and under pressure. It’s important to know what options fit your budget, and where you might be eligible to receive benefits or financial aid.
Plan Ahead and Set a Budget
No one wants to think ahead to needing long-term care and support. But if planning continues to get pushed aside, your loved one could be in need of care before you’ve had an opportunity to consider the options. Worse than that, you may have fewer care options, and that could put a dent in your savings. The cost of long-term care is higher than many think — the average cost of a private nursing home room can run you more than $100,000 annually.
Your parents likely saved money their entire lives for big things like your education, and all the small things like clothes and supplies. You can do the same for them and save money for their eventual LTC. By planning far in advance for LTC, you can start putting small amounts of money away without sacrificing your regular spending habits. Using budgeting software can help you determine how much to set aside or save to pay for long-term care, while also staying on track with your other expenses.
The Veterans Administration (VA) has a pension benefit that both veterans and their surviving spouses may be eligible for. The benefit is called Aid and Attendance, and is highly underutilized by veterans. Only five percent of these assistance funds are even applied for, meaning there are many qualified people who could be receiving financial assistance. The funds from Aid and Attendance are tax-free and can be used for a variety of long-term care costs, including in-home care, assisted living communities and even some nursing homes. If your loved one has served in the military, urge them to look into whether or not they are eligible to receive these benefits. It could save you a ton of money!
Long-Term Care Living Options
Often when people think of long-term care options, their minds immediately go to dim and depressing homes. Fortunately, there are many different facilities available that can accommodate all health and wellness needs for seniors. Whether your loved one prefers to stay in the comfort of their own home, or if they need more assistance at a live-in facility, we’ve outlined some of the most popular long-term care options.
In-home care or private caregiving is a highly popular option that allows a person to stay in their own home or a family member’s home comfortably. This will usually involve non-medical care or assistance, such as bathing and dressing, basic house chores, and ensuring that medication is taken properly.
Assisted Living Facilities
An assisted living facility is a great option for a loved one who still want to maintain their independence and can care for themselves, but might need an extra hand. It is similar to in-home care, only the care takes place in a designated community or facility. Assisted living facilities are not for individuals who need intensive medical care. However, there is staff to help with medication reminders and basic health care monitoring.
Adult Day Care Health Centers
While not one of the most popular or well-known options for care, adult day care centers are an excellent option for caretakers, including in-home caretakers, who still have to work a 9–5 job. These facilities provide a safe setting during daytime hours, and many often have specialized services and activities on-site as well. From physical therapy, health care services and social engagement events, adult day care health centers offer a variety of benefits for your loved one.
If your loved one has fallen ill and needs extensive medical care, a nursing home may be the right option. It is the in-between for people who don’t need to be in hospital care, but can no longer be cared for at home. The type of nursing home will vary, and you’ll find that some are set up similarly to a hospital, whereas some feel more like an assisted living facility.
Nursing homes will have aides or nurses on-hand 24 hours a day who can help with custodial care such as bathing, dressing, and eating, as well as skilled care which includes medical monitoring and administering treatments.
Also known as active-adult communities, a retirement community is a great option for your loved one who still wants to maintain their sense of freedom and independence. These residences allow seniors to continue living their lives, but with a few added benefits. Retirement communities offer amenities such as housekeeping, 24-hour security, laundry services, transportation to errands and appointments, and so much more. These residences are perfect for seniors who are still able to take care of themselves, and provide peace of mind for their families.
Long-Term Care Insurance
While long-term care is a necessary part of aging, many people don’t prepare for the financial burden that comes with it. Federal data shows that 15% of people who require some form of long-term care pay more than $250,000 out of pocket, and that amount is not realistic for most Americans. Purchasing LTC insurance is one way to prepare for the costs that come with senior services that are not covered by your regular health care provider.
Why to Consider LTC Insurance
Since most regular health insurance does not cover long-term care, LTC insurance is something to consider to help pay for the costs. It’s important to urge your loved ones to begin shopping for different policies early to find the best fit for their situation, but don’t wait until they need coverage. This could help alleviate the financial pressure down the road. Medicare will cover a minimal amount of long-term services and care — typically up to 100 days in a nursing home if your loved one requires rehabilitative care.
Qualifying for LTC Insurance
In order to be eligible for long-term care insurance, you must be in good health at the time of application. It is highly likely that insurance companies will deny you for LTC insurance if you already require some form of long-term care, or if you require assistance with daily living activities. In addition to being in good health, it’s recommended to purchase a policy at about 60 years old, though you may be as young as 40. There are also pre-existing conditions that may disqualify you from LTC insurance, including but not limited to Alzheimer’s, dementia, and muscular dystrophy.
Costs and Benefits
Like other insurance, long-term care insurance is underwritten by insurance companies, and the premiums you pay will depend on a variety of factors. It definitely pays to shop around and get various quotes, as the same policy could change by about $1000 or more based on the company. Despite the cost of premiums, LTC insurance provides a safety net and will likely be minimal compared to what you would pay out of pocket for care and services.
Other Things to Consider
While your primary concern during this time of transition is ensuring your loved one is taken care of, it’s important to think about yourself as well. Setting someone up with long-term care affects everyone involved, but it’s easy to get wrapped up with only worrying about them. Here are a few things to consider for yourself when planning long-term care for a loved one.
Think About Your Own Needs and Abilities
Providing someone with long-term care can be stressful, and it’s highly unlikely that it’s the only stressor in your life. For many people, it’s unrealistic that they can commit their entire life to providing care, and they will likely have to carry on with daily tasks such as work, errands, and personal care. Be cognizant of your personal health and wellbeing during this time of transition, as many caregivers tend to put themselves last. According to the Family Caregiver Alliance in San Francisco, more caregivers are hospitalized due to burnout and stress-related illnesses than other medical conditions.
Emotional Support for Yourself and Others Involved
When you make the decision to move your loved one into a long-term care facility, it’s an act of love and respect for their well-being. As we’ve discussed, it’s certainly not an easy decision to make, and can be an emotional time for a family. Much like any life-changing event, people will react in different ways and likely feel a variety of emotions. Make yourself available to others as a shoulder to lean on, and consider professional help if you begin to feel too overwhelmed. There are many support groups and community resources that can help with emotional fatigue and stress.
The sooner you begin to educate yourself and learn what options are available for your loved one, the sooner you can start preparing for this life transition. Long-term care is something that a majority of Americans will need in some capacity during their lifetime, and yet so many people choose to ignore the issue until it is too late. There are many care options available, and you can encourage your loved one by letting them know this is not a loss of their independence — this is just the next chapter of their life.
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