Friday, May 4, 2012

Family Matters: Preparation is Paramount

In April, LTC Leader introduced readers to the NPR series “Family Matters,” a print and audio series that is focused on the challenges many families are facing in caring for their elderly loved ones. In the second installation in the series, reporter Marilyn Geewax turns to an often-daunting aspect of providing care: financial planning.

Focusing on the experiences of the featured families, “Preparing for a Future That Includes Aging Parents” tackles the financial reality of providing care for loved ones. According to a MetLife report, nearly 10 million adult children are caring for aging parents, yet only 13 percent of surveyed workers believe that the need for long term care would impact them and their families. It is this dichotomy between perceptions of need for long term care planning and the reality of an aging population that is creating today’s struggles for providing care.

Children of Baby Boomers are experiencing a new struggle with aging parents. Americans are living much longer, on average, than ever before. While this is a sign of a prosperous nation, good health care, and improved quality of life, it also means that people are living longer as elderly people—meaning they may be sicker for much longer, as well. This can quickly mount up to additional costs for caring for these loved ones.

To prepare, NPR suggests looking into several facets of financial preparedness. First, getting aging relatives to sign a power of attorney document allows adult children or caretakers to make decisions on behalf of that individual. Planning for individual finances with tools with as Mint.com is also recommended.

As those professionals in the long term and post-acute care community know, many people are surprised to learn that government programs, like Medicare and Medicaid, do not always cover long term care stays. And, unfortunately, many people learn this lesson too late—after they’re saddled with growing health care bills.

Is your facility sharing information about financial planning with residents and their families? One great resource for care information and financing options is CareConversations.org, where tips for saving money, having hard discussions with loved ones, and average costs for care are shared.

Above all, the importance of planning for the future should not be minimized. In fact, 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will need long term care in their lifetime. Are you ready?

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