Have the talk now, avoid conflict later
As people age, there is a strong chance that some kind of long-term care will be needed. The reality is, according to the Department of Health and Human Services, “about 70 percent of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetime.”
So, knowing that your parent or spouse will probably need some sort of care at home, in assisted living or the less likelihood of nursing care, it’s imperative to have open conversations about the possibility:
Is there any long-term care insurance?
If a parent is a veteran, do you have their discharge papers and other information? (There are benefits from the VA for a veteran or surviving spouse).
Is there life insurance? (Some life insurance policies can be converted for long-term care assistance).
Regardless of the type of assistance is needed, know what is affordable since most long-term options are paid privately and could end up being thousands of dollars each month.
I know what you’re thinking… ”My parents aren’t going anywhere, they said they’re just going to stay home.” That is the case with practically all seniors, but that may not be reality. Be careful what you promise before your know all the facts. Below are a couple examples of comments I’ve heard from clients that are all too common:
“I promised my wife I would never put her in a convalescent home,” said a caring husband about his wife with Alzheimer’s who is also a fall and wander risk. My comment: The home is not safe for someone in her condition. Additionally, in this case, the husband is in poor health and all three children live out of state and have jobs and their own children to take of.
“I gave my word to my father that he would not go to a nursing home, and if needed, I would make sure he gets the proper care at his home. He has lived in this home for the last 50 years.” Comment: Because of the father’s condition, he cannot be left alone, so in order to live at home, he needs 24-hour assistance, seven-days per week. Due to the significant cost for this, the father’s money will be depleted in less than one year.
There are two misconceptions that many have regarding long-term care.
One: “If I don’t stay home, I’ll need to go to a Nursing Home.” There was a time when nursing homes were the main type of facility for long-term care. Many of us remember going to visit loves ones at these locations with horrible smells and less than adequate care. Today, nursing homes are mainly set up for short-term stays after being hospitalized for recovery and strengthening. Those who need to be in nursing homes for long-term care are either on Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California) or need medical care (i.e. – IV’s, feeding tubes, wound care, coma care, quadriplegics). Most people still believe that if they are not taken care of at their own home, they will have to go to a Nursing or Convalescent Home. That is simply not true.
Two: “Assisted Living is another name for a Nursing Home.” Nursing homes are an exception rather than the rule. Many more seniors who need assistance reside in assisted living versus skilled nursing. Assisted Living options range from small, family Residential Care Homes to larger, full-service communities with hundreds of residents. The smaller locations are similar to living in someone’s home with live-in caregivers who provide assistance. The larger locations (communities) are more like Senior Apartments with caregivers providing 24/7 assistance. Most that have cognitive issues like dementia can reside in these types of environments versus a nursing home.
Talk to your parents — it’s essential, but be careful of the promises you make until you know all the facts.
Frank M. Samson, CSA is a Certified Senior Advisor and Founder of Senior Care Authority based in Sonoma (Seniorcareauthority.com.) The company provides support to families throughout California in helping them locate the best In-Home Care and Independent and Assisted Living for their loved ones. Reach him at 939.8744 or Frank@seniorcareauthority.com.