Inevitably, there is a group of people we meet who don’t want to or don’t see the need to plan ahead for long-term care. Yes, I know, it may seem “depressing” to spend time on imagining what life would be like when you actually need someone to help you take a bath. But I’ve seen too many situations turn into crises when families don’t give this adequate time and decision in advance. So forgive me if I sound bold here.
A CAUTIONARY TALE
I’ve seen many versions of this same story. Mom and Dad live together and do just fine. What we don’t realize is that Mom has dementia. Dad compensates for her weaknesses so well it’s almost invisible. There’s been no need for involvement by anyone else so far. Then, he has a surprise heart attack and immediately dies. It is shortly thereafter discovered that Mom is not safe at home alone, and no one knows where the bank information or insurance information is located, including her. Adult son and daughter are having to take time off of work to tag team caregiving of Mom until they get the situation stabilized. They are not certain of what finances or benefits are available to pay for mom’s care on an ongoing basis. Their spouses are struggling to care for their own kids in the meantime.
DEVELOP A PROACTIVE POINT OF VIEW
Preparing your own plan is like oiling your shock absorbers to better manage if your health starts to change. Here’s a mini-meditation to embrace a proactive point of view. Start by imagining a time when you were really under the weather, perhaps the flu, or after a major surgery, and you couldn’t lift anything, or barely get up to take a shower. Imagine how wonderful it felt to have someone bring you a warm bowl of soup and when someone put some fresh sheets on the bed. We deserve and need care and comfort when we are not feeling well and developing long-term needs is no different. It doesn’t have to be sad to think about a future of need. You are being proactive and can appreciate some peace of mind as a result.
ASK SPECIFIC QUESTIONS
- What would you do if you developed pneumonia and were so sick you could not get out of bed? Who would do your laundry, take out the trash, and make sure you are eating and staying hydrated?
- How often do you typically go out in your car for the grocery, favorite errands, and medical/business appointments? Who will drive you and do this for you?
- What if you survive your spouse? Did he/she handle all the bills or do all the yard work? What is your plan for that?
- How much money do you have saved? Is it enough to cover the cost of care that you may need for a few years? Specifically $25,000-$35,000 per year for 4 hours of daily home care or upwards of $100,000 per year for a nursing home?
- Do you have adult children nearby? Are they able to take off of work and do all of these things for you?
You get the idea. So let’s get to the good part – what to do and how to do it.
SIX KEYS TO SOLID ADVANCED PLANNING
- Establish POWER OF ATTORNEY for health care and financial – make sure to set up a primary and a successor especially if your primary is also over 65.
- Complete an ADVANCE CARE PLAN – this could be a living will or even better, something like Five Wishes which can be considered a legal document in the state of Tennessee for expressing how you would like to be cared for if you are unable to speak for yourself.
- ANALYZE YOUR FINANCES and take an accounting of all insurance policies or benefits you may have to help pay for care. This includes life insurance policies, long-term care insurance policies, VA benefits such as Aid and Assist. Remember that health insurance such as Medicare and BCBS do not cover the cost of long-term care.
- Identify a provider – tour and research care providers in your area. Talk to families that have used their services. Interview management.
- CHOOSE A PLAN – if you have the opportunity to prepay for service that guarantees care and a financial benefit, such as a life plan community (retirement community) or a life plan at home program, then give those full consideration.
- Last, have a family meeting and share this information.
Planning for long-term care doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By carefully addressing each key above, you and your loved ones can be well-prepared for the future.
Jane Kelley is the Executive Director of LiveWell By Blakeford. In her almost nine years with Blakeford, she has served as Vice President of Blakeford At Home and served as the CARF-CCAC accreditation team leader for Home and Community Services and Case Management programs.