Caring for your aging parents means helping them plan for the future, which can be overwhelming, both physically and emotionally. When the time comes for you to take care of your parents, you may be certain of only two things: Your parents need you, and you need help.
HOW DO I TALK TO MY ELDERLY PARENTS ABOUT THEIR FINANCES?
Talking to your parents about money is always difficult, especially when the money you’re talking about is theirs. They belong to a generation that was taught to keep their information private and not to share their concerns openly. Even if they need help, they may be unwilling to talk to you because it’s “none of your business,” or because they’re afraid to give up control over their own financial affairs.
If they’re reluctant to talk to you, make it clear that you respect their needs and concerns. However, don’t be afraid to express your own needs and concerns as well. Their financial situation may impact you also, particularly if they become unable to support or care for themselves. At the very least, you should find out where they keep their personal records; discuss housing, health care, and budgeting issues; and find out what steps they have taken to plan their estate.
What if they still refuse to talk to you? If they’re capable of managing their affairs for now, you may want to drop the matter and reapproach them later. Or you may suggest that they talk to another family member, a trusted friend, or a professional advisor, such as an attorney or financial planner.
However, if you feel that they’re no longer competent to manage their own affairs, or that their financial situation is precarious, you should seek out professional advice right away. Call the Eldercare Locator, an information and referral service sponsored by the federal government, at (800) 677-1116 for a list of local and national organizations that can help.
MY MOTHER IS 90. SHOULD SHE STILL DRIVE?
If your mother has a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record, she can legally keep driving–but should she? If your mother has poor eyesight, slowed reflexes, or other age-related ailments, she could be putting herself and others at risk every time she gets behind the wheel. As a precaution, many states now require older folks to renew their licenses in person. And some states require drivers to take eyesight and driving exams in order to renew a driver’s license after reaching a certain age (e.g., 70).
MY PARENTS CAN’T MANAGE ALONE ANYMORE. WHAT SHOULD I DO?
This is an increasingly common scenario. Perhaps one or both of your parents are having health problems, suffering mental lapses, or just slowing down with age. The problem may not go away or get better, but there are several ways you can deal with it. First, talk with your parents and any siblings you may have.
Sometimes the best option is to have your parents move in with (or closer to) you. That way, you avoid having to use your parents’ assets (or your own) to pay for a nursing home or other facility. You won’t have to worry about your parents receiving inadequate care from strangers. And your parents will probably appreciate the gesture of love and self-sacrifice on your part. However, the cost of feeding, clothing, and caring for your parents can be high, especially if you’re forced to give up a job to be home with your parents. And don’t underestimate the emotional and psychological impact.
What if your parents’ care is more than you can handle? You may then wish to consider some type of assisted-living arrangement. The broad term assisted living encompasses a range of facilities and services designed to help seniors who can’t live independently. The assistance provided may be short- or long-term and may focus on social services, medical care, or some combination of the two. Depending on your parents’ conditions and needs, one or more of the following assisted-living arrangements may be worth considering:
- Nursing homes
- Assisted-living communities
- Continuing care retirement communities
- Alzheimer’s/dementia care specialty facilities
- Retirement communities
- Active senior communities
- Home health care
- Hospice care
- Adult day-care services
Ask a social worker, your parents’ physicians, or other professionals for information about these assisted-living arrangements. Such individuals can also offer you support and recommend solutions that best meet your parents’ needs. Finally, if you have an employee assistance program at work, contact your human resources department for help and suggestions.
IS THERE SUCH A THING AS NURSING HOME INSURANCE?
Insurance that pays for expenses related to long-term (custodial) care comes in many shapes and sizes. Some insurance policies only pay for care provided in a nursing home or assisted living facility, and does not pay for care provided at adult day care centers or in your home. These types of plans are called facilities-only plans or nursing home insurance.
Comprehensive plans, on the other hand, not only cover long-term care provided in nursing homes or assisted living facilities, but these policies also pay for services rendered in a hospice facility, adult day care center, and even at home. Generally, facilities-only plans usually cost less than comprehensive policies.
HOW CAN I TELL IF A NURSING HOME PROVIDES HIGH QUALITY CARE?
You may have heard horror stories about the quality of nursing home care. However, there are good nursing homes as well as bad ones. Here are some points to consider when evaluating nursing home care:
- The quality of health care: Make sure that the nursing home is certified by the state. Ask about the credentials and training of the staff, including doctors, nurses, and aides. Can residents see their own doctors, or must they see the staff physician? Do they have access to dentists, eye doctors, and other specialists? Does the facility have clear procedures that it follows in medical emergencies?
- The facility’s appearance: The nursing home should be clean and well maintained. A bad smell may indicate the staff is too busy or uncaring to help residents to the bathroom or to change clothes. Rooms and public areas should be comfortable. The dining room and kitchen should be clean, and the food should be hot and appetizing.
- Safety and security: Ask when the facility was built and/or updated. In general, the newer the building, the more fire-resistant it will be due to changes in building codes. Look for safety features such as wide hallways, doors that unlock from the inside, handrails, and grab bars.
- Resident/staff ratio and interaction: Find out how the nursing home complies with state and federal government regulations such as patient/staff ratio and training. Notice how staff members treat residents. Do they generally seem caring? Distracted? Are a lot of residents sitting around in common areas doing nothing, or are there stimulating activities going on?
You can access a tool that can help you find and compare nursing homes at http://www.medicare.gov.
DO YOU HAVE MORE QUESTIONS?
Reach out to us at Kuderer Financial if you have more questions about providing and caring for your elderly loved ones. We have access to many resources that may be of assistance to you both.
Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc.