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How To Talk With Your Aging Parents About Long Term Care

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The best way to discuss long-term care issues with your elderly parents is to…

  • Broach the subject as soon as possible, before it’s actually needed. This gives them time to think about it.
  • Involve your parents in each family meeting.
  • Encourage your parents to keep an open mind about this planning.
  • Use a third party person like a social worker or geriatric care manager.

You’re sitting at the kitchen table with your aging parent, trying to have one of those important conversations about sensitive issues. This one is about long-term care. Let’s not beat around the bush, it’s one of the most difficult topics you will ever discuss with your parents.

It’s not easy – you don’t know how to broach the subject without upsetting them. But you need to find a way to talk about it, before it’s too late.

The average person doesn’t want to think about their parents getting old and needing help with everyday activities or having to prepare legal documents for after they die, but it’s important to be prepared just in case.

If you’re not ready financially or emotionally for this kind of responsibility, you should start saving as soon as possible to better prepare yourself for the future.

While the majority of older Americans are attracted to the idea of aging at home, according to the Department of Health and Human Services 70% of adults aged 65 and over will need some form of long-term care. Additionally, with every year that passes, their chance of needing care increases.

Horsham Center for Jewish Life

The average cost for a private unit in an assisted living community or nursing home costs more than $7,000 per month, depending on where you live. This is a staggering amount of money that most people just aren’t prepared to pay.

Whether it’s their savings being drained by their aging parent staying in a facility or poor planning, many Americans are finding themselves overwhelmed with the costs.

This is why it’s important to have a productive conversation with your senior parents about long-term care while they’re still healthy, so you know ahead of time what kind of options to expect. 

This way you can plan for all eventualities and have time to discuss these issues with experts such as social workers and geriatric care managers.

The best decision can be made when you have time to consider all your options.senior

How Do I Tell My Elderly Parents They Need Help?

Many seniors and disabled older adults in need of care often turn to their adult children for support, but this can be difficult if your parent doesn’t want to discuss this uncomfortable topic.

The good news is that there are some steps you can take to try and get them to open up about these types of difficult conversations:

  • Don’t surprise them; if possible, talk to them about it before they really need care. Give them time to think about these important decisions.
  • Avoid using words like “home” and “nursing home”; you don’t want your parents to equate these with being old.
  • You may think that talking about safety issues (i.e., falling, leaving the stove on, etc.) would be persuasive but my personal experience is that it’s not. But you can try.
  • Explain the options available; for example, if you mention assisted living facilities or a senior living community, they’ll be less likely to associate them with nursing homes.
  • If you or they have close friends who have gone through this process already it may be helpful to include them in the talk as well.
  • Don’t force the discussion; if your parent simply doesn’t want to talk about it, drop the subject.

Personal connections are key; if your older parent doesn’t want to talk about in with you, maybe a sibling or other family member will be more successful.

5 Tips On Talking With Your Aging Parents About Long Term Care

First, don’t fight the subject – just have a conversation. Try to bring it up in a way that makes some sense and gives your parents time to prepare for the discussion without feeling as though you were planning something behind their back.

Second, ask if they have some sort of plan for their future needs. If they say no, ask them what they’re comfortable with, and whether they would be open to having a discussion about it at some point.

Third, resist the urge to mention how expensive long-term care can be – you want your parents to feel confident that if and when they need additional support, you’ll be there for them.

If you push too hard on this issue, it can turn into an argument that you may never win, and your parents will resent the fact that they need long-term care. Instead, just tell them that this is a very serious issue and one which you’d like to have a good discussion with them about.

Fourth, try not to equate aging with getting Alzheimer’s or another debilitating disease. If your parents do have any existing health conditions, they’re likely aware of them already.

This is not an easy topic to discuss with our aging parents. So, be patient with them and with yourself. Remember that it’s important to respect their decisions. (Unless they are suffering from dementia or Alzheimer’s or other cognitive impairment.)

Check out our article on Alternative Senior Living Options

So, before you sit down with your parents for this talk, make sure you take the time to figure out what they think about aging and how accepting they are of needing long-term care.

Then, after that, make sure you work on reminding them why it’s important to plan ahead – in case they do ever need it.

1. Make sure you understand your parents’ thoughts on aging and how accepting they are of growing older:

To get a good sense of this, ask them about times they’ve seen someone who’s gotten sick or injured due to poor health decisions. If they seem generally accepting of this as part of life, then it’s likely they’ll be accepting of needing long-term care eventually.

On the other hand, if they seem to be in denial about getting older or seem to not want to discuss it, then you may need to push through some resistance when talking with them about long-term care.

2. Remind your parents why planning ahead is important:

If your parents are still driving at night, driving to medical appointments, performing daily tasks on their own and don’t need any help with personal care or around the house, then they may not see why they need to make future plans.

That’s OK; just keep reminding them that the decisions they make today about long-term care could affect them tomorrow.

Sometimes it helps to provide them with some statistics on how common elderly people are to experience disabilities, accidents and the risk of developing chronic illnesses.

3. Show them your support by signing up for their care-planning meetings:

For all you know, your parents could be feeling depressed about this situation because no one wants to think about getting older or needing help with daily activities. If that’s the case, then they need to know that you’re on board with the long-term care plan.

4. You can’t force them to do anything;

Your role is to simply be there for them, give them information and support them in their decision. Now, I know this can be difficult at times because they may often make the wrong (in your opinion) decision but they are adults, and as such, it’s important to respect how they want to live their lives.

NOTE: Of course, this is not true if they suffer from a cognitive impairment such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease or a mental health problem such as Schizophrenia.

5. When is it time for full-on care?

It’s not your place to make this decision; nor should it be entirely up to the parents (unless they are still fully capable). A geriatric care manager can help to determine if full-time care is needed or not.

Generally speaking, when (and if) your parents are having problems with activities of daily living (ADL’s) such as dressing, bathing, etc. – this is very often a clear indication that it’s time for at least SOME full-on care.

Remember, if your parents had long-term care insurance, you wouldn’t have to worry about the financial aspect at all. It may not be too late for them to make a plan! Although oftentimes the older someone is, the more expensive a long-term care insurance policy will be. Discuss the matter with your insurance agent.

Sit down with your parents and explain that not everyone is lucky enough to have a family member help out. Even if they’ve got tons of children who are willing to pitch in, explain how being stretched too thin can affect their own well-being. And, let them know that there are other options.

For example, it’s not unusual for multiple family members to chip in on care costs so that each child is responsible for part instead of one family member having to shoulder all of the responsibility themselves.

This could be a policy where they’d share coverage – or you could find one large enough to cover everyone involved.  

The next best thing is to know where and how you should start looking.

In the U.S., there are a variety of government-regulated long-term care facilities that offer assistance for chronic illnesses, dementia, and mental disabilities. In these communities, your parent would have their own home or apartment that they’d stay in while receiving the kind of round-the-clock attention they need.

Most all of these communities offer indoor and outdoor common areas giving their residents the opportunity to socialize and mingle. At the same time, there should always be people available for help if needed.

Plus, these facilities include services like regular bathing and dressing assistance as well as assistance with any medication that may be required.  

Assisted living communities must abide by state and federal regulations and they are generally not cheap.

The average monthly cost for a private in an assisted living community is $7,000 — and if your parent requires round-the-clock care that can run as high as $10,000 or more depending on what the facility offers .

You should also keep in mind that your parent may not be able to afford this type of care, even with long-term care insurance. While it may seem impossible to save money at this stage in your parent’s life, you should try to put some money aside every month if possible because one day they’ll need it for something.

It all comes down to planning ahead.

What You Need To Know About Long Term Care

As of 2019, the U.S. had 54.1 million seniors 65 and older. That’s about 16% of the overall population.

In the U.S. the population age 65 and older numbered 54.1 million in 2019 (the most recent year for which data are available). They represented 16% of the population, more than one in every seven Americans. The number of older Americans has increased by 14.4 million (or 36%) since 2009, compared to an increase of 3% for the under-65 population.

ACL.gov

Many of them, and their adult children are unaware of how expensive long-term care really is. Many people mistakenly believe Medicare will cover the costs associated with assisted living, but not everyone qualifies for this coverage.

So what can they and their families do to help them prepare?

The first step is knowing what to expect. Before you sit down with your elderly parents, get educated about nursing homes and assisted living communities and their costs.

You should start this process before your parent or loved one needs care, because it will be much harder to find the right facility when they already have a diagnosis and current needs.

Here’s what you should know:

  • The average individual in a private room in an assisted living facility pays about $7,000 per month. Assisted living communities provide a private room and 2 or 3 meals a day plus snacks in addition to assistance with daily activities such as bathing, dressing or getting around.
  • Nursing homes average about $8,364 per month for a private room depending on the level of personal care and medical care needed. This is much more expensive than an assisted living facility, but still far less expensive than a private room in a hospital.
  • Many people take out loans against their homes to pay for this type of long-term care which can add hundreds of dollars to the monthly cost. In some cases, the individual may not have that option and must try other alternatives such as using their savings, reverse mortgages or long-term care insurance.

Here are some tips on how to talk with an aging parent about the subject of long-term care.

  • The first thing you want to do is determine what your parent’s wishes are regarding this subject. This way, you’ll know if it’s something that has already been discussed or if it’s something you’ll need to talk about.
  • Find out what your aging parent’s assets and resources are, as well as what kind of health insurance they have. If the idea of long-term care is not covered in their current policy, make sure that option is available to them before you make the subject of long-term care an option.
  • If your aging parent owns their own home, this will play a major role in what’s to come because it may be that home health care is a good option for them. The average cost for 44 hours of home health aides is about $3,800.
  • If your aging parent has planned ahead, they may have already put money aside for this type of event. Determine how much is available to them and what changes need to be made if their assets are lacking the amount needed.
  • Find out what care options are available in their area, and if there are any available in-home care services.
  • Talk with your aging parent about what kind of care they’ll need in the future and how much this will cost.
  • If they don’t have a long-term care insurance policy, discuss whether it’s something that is important to them at this age.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk with them about the alternatives, like whether they’d prefer to go on living independently for as long as possible instead of putting themselves at risk of needing assistance later in life.

But if your aging parent does need help, don’t let the cost stop you from giving them what they need. Long-term care insurance prices are on the rise, but rates are still relatively affordable even for those who are young and healthy, provided they purchase it at a younger age.

Things Your Family Needs To Discuss About Your Parents’ Future

People are living longer than ever, which means that most will have to take on the responsibility of caring for an aging parent at some point in their lives.

Most elderly parents just want to keep living independently as long as they can, but there may come a time when this is no longer possible due to health or other factors.

We plan for just about everything throughout our lives—education and career decisions, major purchases, where we want to live, when we’d like to retire, etc. However, it would seem that a parent and child talking about future plans is a rarer occurrence than we’d like to think. Discussing legal and financial details, long-term care options and end-of-life preferences can be uncomfortable, but denial, procrastination and lack of communication come with serious consequences.

Agingcare.com

It’s important for both you and your parents to discuss the potential future scenarios that could affect their current living situation, including who will be responsible for paying for any care they may need.

You may even want to discuss setting funds aside for future funeral expenses, which can be a financial burden for family members.

Costs of Long-Term Care

If your parent does eventually need some form of long-term care, this is where things can get expensive. According to SeniorHousingNews.com, the average cost for a private one bedroom unit in an assisted living community is $7,000 per month. Prices can change depending on location. To make matters worse, this is often not covered by insurance.

Add Ons

If you are faced with having to care for an aging parent financially, there are ways to make it easier on yourself. Luckily, there are different options available that will allow you to take the stress out of the situation.

Instead of purchasing a policy for long-term care coverage, consider having your parent or parents purchase an add-on policy that provides them with additional years once their initial policy runs out.

While this is not as useful as long-term care coverage, it can help to reduce the risk of having to pay for everything out of pocket. Speak to your insurance agent about this option.

Home Care

Instead of putting your aging parents in an assisted living facility or nursing home, you may want to have them live with you instead. This will let you keep a watchful eye over your loved ones without having to worry about the additional care that they may need.

Take Advantage Of Tax Credits

If you’re looking for a way to lower the cost of having your aging parents in assisted living or nursing homes, then you should consider taking advantage of tax credits offered by your state. Most states will give families a tax credit when it comes to care for their aging loved ones.

You can read more about Federal Tax Credits for Elderly Dependent Care Expenses here.

So, how can you talk with aging parents about long-term care? First, try to have the conversation when they’re feeling good. Next, be honest and open. Let them know that you’re there to help, but also be realistic about what you can do.

Finally, don’t forget to listen! Your parents will appreciate your willingness to discuss this difficult topic.

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