As we get older, so do our parents and other loved ones. In some cases, that may mean they’ll require long-term care, especially if they fall ill. When this happens, families are faced with a tough decision: hand over the reins to a nursing facility, or manage their care from the comfort of their homes. There’s no shame in either decision. But there are several important things to consider when planning for long-term care.
1. Weigh Your Options Well Ahead of Time
Perhaps the most vital part of planning for long-term care is that you’re well-prepared. Making hasty decisions on how to provide your loved one with the care they’ll need when they’re no longer able to care for themselves will not only be stressful for you, but also for them. You’ll want to make sure your loved one is provided with the quality of life they deserve. Certainly, ailments can befall your loved one unexpectedly that will require quick decision-making, but if you can help it at all, it’s best to investigate your options before you’re faced with a crisis. That way, you can enter the situation with a clear head, prepared to make the right choices.
2. Discuss Insurance Options With Your Loved One
Talking about long-term care with your loved one, especially a parent, is not an easy conversation. But as difficult as it may be, it’s necessary. There are financial implications to consider, which will be somewhat lessened (hopefully) with insurance.
Jeff Salter is the CEO and founder of Caring Senior Service, a national in-home care service, and he suggests planning a discussion about insurance options, including what your loved one may already have, and what you both may need moving forward.
Long-term care insurance can still be expensive in and of itself, and costs only increase with age. Many advise that people purchase a plan in their 50s before any major medical issues arise — and even then, it’s not cheap. For example, the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance estimates an insurance policy offering $164,000 in immediate coverage would cost a healthy, 55-year-old male approximately $1,060 a year. A healthy female of the same age could expect to pay approximately $1,390 a year for the same coverage. The sooner you can lock into one of these policies, the better. (See also on WiseBread.com: Is Long Term Care Insurance Worth It?)
3. Find Alternative Ways to Pay Without Insurance
In the worst-case scenario, you don’t have the option of long-term care insurance. This can be a daunting prospect, but it’s not the end of the world. Salter suggests two solutions that will provide monthly income that can go toward the cost of care.
The first is cash value for life insurance, which is essentially the cash amount offered to the policy owner by the issuing life carrier upon cancellation of the contract.
The second is taking out a reverse mortgage on the elderly family member’s house.
“With [the second] option, seniors can remain at home while receiving monthly income that goes toward all of the healthcare-related expenses,” he says. “There are no ongoing costs, and seniors cannot be forced to leave their homes should they outlive the payments from the loan.” (See also on WiseBread.com: How to Avoid Getting Scammed With a Reverse Mortgage)
4. Consider the Cost of Home Modification
When your loved one falls ill, it may limit their ability to function as they once did. This could mean that they’re confined to a single floor in the home. Third-party care facilities take these safety measures into account for limited-mobility patients, but if you’re providing long-term care in your own residence, you may need to outfit the home so it’s more elderly-friendly.
“If the decision is to have the long-term care in the current residence, the family might need to plan for modifications to the home for either specialized medical equipment or for access issues around bathrooms, kitchens, and getting in and out of the house,” says John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, which specializes in digital home management. “These could be things like ramps for wheelchairs, bathtubs with access doors, nonslip flooring, and other modifications, depending on the occupant’s specific needs.”
5. Factor in Home Maintenance
If the care of your loved one takes place in their own residence — whether by you, another loved one, or hired help — it’s keen to remember that someone will be tasked with maintaining the property for hygiene, safety, and resale value reasons.
“Things like cleaning leaves from gutters, replacing smoke detector batteries, and changing air filters are simple tasks, but usually require ladders. It’s not suitable for people with long-term medical issues to handle these tasks,” Bodrozic says.
You may be able to handle these tasks on your own, but if these are projects that you plan to farm out to hired help, you’ll need to include the costs in your monthly care budget.
6. Let a Professional Help You
If you don’t know what you’re doing with regard to long-term care, don’t freak out — you’re not alone. Most people who are faced with this situation are first-timers are who overwhelmed with not only accepting the fate of a loved one, but trying to accommodate them as best as possible so they can live out their days in comfort.
Daniel Sagal is a senior living adviser at Los Angeles-based Total Senior, which focuses on health care planning and services for seniors. If you don’t think you’re equipped to make the best decision, or you’re having trouble coming to grips with it all, he suggests consulting someone who can help you through it, like a senior care adviser or care manager. Some services are free while others require fees, he says, but both will typically help families navigate the options for senior care.
7. Beware of Scams
Like a lot of industries, there are people out there gunning to take advantage of you, and it’s not terribly hard to become a victim of a scam when your emotions are already on the fritz.
“Before providing your information or allowing someone to guide you to senior care options, be sure to do your research,” Sagal says. “Look at their online reviews, make sure they have a credible website with real information/content, ask for references, and check around with health care professionals.”
Doing your due diligence now can ensure a more comfortable situation for everyone later.