It’s great to take a trip home and catch up with family, especially when you live far away. However, if this is the year that you arrive to find big changes in your aging parents, here’s some help about what your next steps might be.
When nostalgia doesn’t quite match up with reality, it’s time for some challenging conversations with aging parents and, if you have them, your siblings. It’s not an easy topic, according to the article, “Making the best care decisions for aging parents,” from KARE 11 in Minneapolis, but it is better to have the conversation and make the plans for what’s next than it is to bury your head in the sand and pretend that nothing’s wrong.
Many families find this out the hard way. When a parent requires immediate urgent care, the family must jump into “go” mode. It can be overwhelming. There are many options, which range from various levels of in-home care, to independent living, to assisted living and even to skilled nursing care. You should understand the level of care you need and what you can afford.
Unless you qualify for Medicaid, you’ll need to pay for assisted living out of your own pocket. For most of us, this could drain assets in short order. Many people also aren’t planning for long-term care in retirement.
It’s best to plan early. If you're going to buy a long-term care policy, the best time to apply is in your 40s or 50s, when your health is good and the cost is cheaper.
Sit down with an elder law attorney, regardless of your assets, because the laws concerning Medicare and Medicaid are confusing. Every situation is different.
Many people aren’t aware that Medicare doesn’t cover many long-term care services. In fact, that limited benefit is designed to get somebody back to independent living, not help them with basic activities of daily living. Therefore, if it becomes a situation where somebody is going to need help with such basics as dressing, bathing and other activities of daily life for the rest of their life, Medicare is not going to cover it.
If you believe gifting your estate away now will stop you from losing it in the future, remember that most states have a five-year look back period. Any gifts of money or property in the 60 months before applying for Medicaid can be taken back to pay for the program or the applicant will be penalized.
There’s very little about this that is easy for aging parents or adult children. However, planning in advance, in an intelligent and sensitive manner, is better than having to make hard choices in an emergency.
Reference: KARE 11 (Minneapolis) (November 27, 2018) “Making the best care decisions for aging parents”