As much as I don’t like to admit it, my parents (while still young) aren’t going to stop getting older. My dad will be 55 in a few months and my mom will turn 51 next year. It freaks me out a little to realize that the land of pill reminders, medical appointments, and delicate conversations about living arrangements may not be too far away.
I tell my parents all the time that they better be able to afford a great nursing home, because I do not plan on spending my later adulthood changing their diapers. (It’s a joke. Sort of.) All kidding aside, I do lecture both of them about planning ahead and making their wishes known while they’re still cognizant enough to do so. As the only child living close enough to help out, I have a vested interest in knowing what’s going to happen as they become unable to care for themselves someday.
My dad is pretty aware of his eventual mortality, especially since he is the sole money maker. He deals with all the life insurance and retirement stuff on a regular basis to ensure that he and my mom can live comfortably once he stops working. Mom, on the other hand, stops just short of putting her fingers in her ears and screaming LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU. She knows she won’t be around forever, but she doesn’t want to think about it. At all. Ever. I try to email her links to websites with tips for long term care planning but she won’t even look at them! So it’s up to me to stay on top of things and make sure my parents are thinking ahead (whether or not they want to admit it).
How Do You Plan for Long Term Care?
The most important consideration for long term care is where your parents (or other loved ones) will be cared for and who will provide their care. Early in my former career as a social worker, I worked in a hospital and most of my job involved discharge planning for older patients. I learned very quickly that nursing homes can vary greatly in terms of quality and overall environment. Everyone wants his/her parents to end up in a great facility where they’ll be treated with respect if at-home care is no longer an option.
A secondary (but equally important) consideration is cost. We all want the best for our parents, but excellent care can be very expensive whether it’s provided in the home or in an outside facility. Even if your parents are young like mine, now is a great time to start planning for the costs of long term care - there are tons of resources available such as this long term care planning tool, which helps you estimate potential out-of-pocket costs versus what might be covered by private insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid.
In talking about these things with my parents – or my dad, mostly, since my mom refuses – I focus mostly on getting their input on the small details so they don’t have to acknowledge the bigger picture. I want to know where they do and do not want to live if they become unable to care for themselves. I need to know where to find important paperwork, like their wills and power of attorney designations. I also have to prod a little to make sure I understand their insurance coverage and what will be covered by Medicare once they’re retired. As their daughter, it’s my job to make sure I’m ready for what may come, even if I won’t be the one directly caring for them as they grow older.
As I said, conversations like these are never easy, but it’s vital to plan ahead when it comes to long term care for your family members. Very few things in life are certain, but death is one of them – isn’t it better to imagine your parents enjoying their later years as much as possible rather than just waiting for an end to the journey? Have you talked to your loved ones about long term care?