Planning for your elderly loved one’s possibility of long-term care gives them—and you—time to learn about services in your community and what they cost. In addition, it allows you and your loved one to make important decisions while he or she is still able. The following decisions will need to be made:
- housing decisions
- health decisions
- legal decisions
- financial decisions
Individuals with Alzheimer’s disease or other cognitive impairment should begin planning for long-term care as soon as possible.
Staying at Home
In thinking about long-term care for your elderly loved ones, it is important to consider where they will live as they age and how their place of residence can best support their needs if they can no longer fully care for themselves.
Most individuals prefer to stay in their own home for as long as possible. When planning to receive long-term care at home, there are numerous factors to consider including:
- the condition of his or her home
- whether it can be modified, if necessary, to accommodate a wheelchair or other devices/equipment
- the availability of long-term care services in the area, such as adult day care or nearby medical facilities
- how “age-friendly” the community is. Does it offer public transportation, home delivered meals and other needed services?
- taxes and legal issues
Housing with Services
If it becomes necessary, several types of housing come with support services for your loved ones. Primarily, these include:
- Public Housing for low-to-moderate income elderly and individuals with disabilities. Assistance with services is typically provided by a staff person called a Service Coordinator.
- Assisted Living or “board and care” homes are group living communities that offer housing in addition to assistance with personal care and other services, such as meals. They do not generally provide medical care.
- Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs) provide a variety of housing options, all on the same campus. Nursing facilities, or nursing homes, are the most service-intensive housing option, which provide skilled nursing services and therapies as needed.
It is important to start thinking about what would happen if your elderly loved one became seriously ill or disabled. Talk with your loved one about who would provide care if he or she needed help for a long time.
You might delay or prevent the need for long-term care by staying healthy and independent. Talk to your loved one’s doctor about his or her medical and family history and lifestyle. Your doctor may suggest actions that can be taken to improve your loved one’s health.
Healthy eating, regular physical activity, not smoking and limited drinking of alcohol can help your elderly loved ones stay healthy. Additionally, an active social life, a safe home and regular health care can also help your loved ones stay healthy.
Legal planning is also something important to talk about with your loved one when discussing a plan for long-term care. This means creating official documents — often called “advance directives” — that state your loved one’s wishes for medical care in an emergency and the end of life. He or she can also decide who will make health care decisions for them if they cannot make them themselves.
It is crucial to consider what your loved ones want before long-term care is needed. Discuss the options with your loved ones, a lawyer and others. These discussions can be difficult, but having your loved ones tell your their wishes ahead of time answers questions they or you might have later, and also takes the burden of your family.
It is recommended by experts to create three types of legal documents, or advance directives. These include:
- a health care power of attorney
- a living will
- a do-not-resuscitate order, if desired
Another important factor to discuss with your elderly loved ones about long-term care planning is financial decisions. Government health insurance programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, pay for some—but not all—long-term care services. Most individuals do not have enough money to pay for all of their long-term care needs, particularly if those needs are extensive or last a long time.
Think about your loved one’s financial resources and how he or she would feel about using them to pay for long-term care. These resources may include:
- Social Security
- a pension or other retirement fund
- personal savings
- income from stocks and bonds
Another type of asset that could be used if needed is your loved one’s home.
It is ideal to review your loved one’s insurance coverage as well. Many health insurance plans provide little, if any, coverage for long-term care. Any private health insurance, Medicare and Medigap policies should be reviewed to learn exactly what is covered and what is not.
It is important to discuss long-term care with your elderly loved ones before it is needed. Contact Brashear Family Medical with the link below for more information!