There comes a time when you realize your parents are getting older and, no matter how feisty they are, they are going to need some help. Do you know that approximately 20 million Americans are currently providing care for their aging parents (Statistics by AARP)? How do you begin to plan for such a “black hole” of need? I’m afraid the only way to tackle this one is by starting the conversation. I think most of us would rather wait until something happens and then react to it as best they can. The only concern with that tack is that most decisions made in the “heat of the moment” are crisis responses rather than a thoughtful planned out option.
Wherever you sit in the “aging parent” scenario, it’s best to begin the talk now rather than waiting for “something” to occur. Here are three steps to help you get started:
- Housing Options: Today’s senior living options are a mile away from the “facilities” of yesterday. From active retirement resorts to a “graduated” housing option offering different “levels” of care. Even so, most seniors want to “age in place”….it is by far the most popular option, with 90% of Americans age 65 and older saying they want to remain in their homes. Even if your parents seem to be chugging along….healthy and ready to take on the world, you should have a definite plan in case of mobility or chronic issues arising or worsening with time. You will need to look at what the future scenario could be at it’s worst. If you think you are not getting “the real story” from one or both parents, ask to attend their next doctor’s appointment. You can attend under the guise of “just taking notes.” Check out eldercare location options as well as those covered by their insurance policies. If your parents have long term care insurance, be sure to check out qualified facilities. You can also search the Aging Life Care Association for a qualified local expert.
- Caregiving Availability: Almost 80% of all long-term care is provided by family members (statistic by National Alliance for Caregiving). It may be too early for you and your siblings to make decisions/assignments as to who can do what and when, but you can chat about everyone’s location and family obligations. This is best accomplished via family meeting or conference call so all are in the loop about what was discussed. Ask everyone to be completely honest about their capabilities. Most of the time, siblings can arrive at some sort of creative way to balance responsibilities, assigning more financial burden to siblings who live at a distance or have more demanding career situations. Be mindful that the amount of help needed will, most likely, increase with time. This situation could go on for many years, and you often don’t know if it’s going to be a temporary crises or if it’s just the beginning of a step-down decline. Revisit the sharing of responsibilities so no one ends of stressed out and frazzled.
- Finances: Did your parents buy long-term care insurance? If so, you are in the minority; just 7.2 million Americans have this type of policy. Mistakenly, most Americans believe that Medicare will cover long-term care costs. A recent survey by AARP shows that the average caregiver shells out $7000. per year out of pocket for a loved one. Know that there are some financial assistance programs out there…Life Insurance Policies, transportation liasons, in-home care companies and VA to name a few. Money and end-of-life care topics will certainly clear a room but, caregiving will be much less stressful with at least some of these issues out of the way. Give your parents some time to get used to the idea and make sure their wishes are heard and considered when decisions about future living is made.
Are you a caregiver? A sandwicher? Have any tips or hacks when it comes to starting the discussion?