A New Year’s Resolution?

Make a plan and then stick with it.

You may be taking care of elderly parents now or looking at that possibility in the near future. According to a report from PEW Research Center, 37% of baby boomers are helping take care of elderly parents by providing personal help or financial assistance or both.

If financial planning and long term care planning have not been done previous to the need for care, the burden falls on the caregiving family member to determine what, if anything can be done. Decisions about how care will be paid for, who will be responsible for managing the estate as well as how the long term care will be given can cause stress and contention among family members.

It is best for parents and all family members to be involved in planning for future financial needs. The financial resources being used today could change drastically with the occurrence of a stroke, illness or onset of dementia. In order to plan financially for long term care, you need to know what the costs are now and what they will be in the future.

In Texas, the Median cost for Assisted Living facilities is $3500 per month. The cost of a semi-private room in a nursing facility is $4,563 and the cost of a private room is $6,053.00. (Genworth Financial Inc., statistics)

“According to some sources, 60% of us will need long term care sometime during our lives. You are three times (3x) more likely to become disabled, or severely impaired, than to die. It is important for all of us to prepare for that day when we will need to help loved ones with elder care or we will need elder care for ourselves.”

“It is simply a fact of life that we prepare financially for unexpected disasters by covering our homes, automobiles and health with insurance policies and to provide funding for our retirement. But, no other life event can be as devastating to our lifestyle, finances and security as needing long term care. It drastically alters or completely eliminates the three principal retirement dreams of elderly Americans, which are:

1. Remaining independent in the home without intervention from others

2. Maintaining good health and receiving adequate health care

3. Having enough money for everyday needs and not outliving assets and income

Yet, the majority of the American public does not plan for the devastating crisis of needing elder care. This lack of planning also has an adverse effect on the older person’s family, with sacrifices made in time, money, family lifestyles and even affecting the family’s or caregiver’s medical and emotional health.” — National Care Planning Council “The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning”

Because of changing demographics and potential changes in government funding, the current generation – more than ever – needs to plan for long term care.

If you have spent time helping a parent or loved one cope with a disability resulting from aging, you know the frustration of balancing what you feel they need to do and what they want to do. Communication is strained at times, because after all, you are the child and they the parent, yet physically and mentally the rolls have changed.

When you make directives, assignments and arrangements in advance of needing elder care, then everyone involved can follow the prearranged care plan.

As an example, Jefferson Simpson wrote in his care plan that if dementia or Alzheimer’s inhibited his mental abilities to communicate or recognize his surroundings, he wished to be in a respectable facility and only asked that he be visited and brought chocolates. To his children, this request seemed silly at the time, but when his mental capacities did diminish, the instructions were there. No one had to wonder if they should try to take care of Father Jefferson at home and how they would do it. Without guilt or question, they placed him in a respectable facility that took care of his needs. All they had to do was make loving visits, and of course they brought chocolates.

In order for Jefferson’s simple request to happen, he had made financial, legal and personal long term care plans years before.

1. What do you want your children or friends to do on your behalf?

2. When it comes time for them to help, what if you can’t say what you want because of a physical or mental disability? This is where a written long term care plan comes into effect.

3. Do you have a financial plan or long term care insurance? Retirement savings can disappear quickly when used for care services.

4. Where is your paperwork; insurance policies, living will, medical directives, Armed Services discharge or disability papers? Is there someone designated to know the location?

5. What are the legal documents that are needed for power of attorney, estate planning and disbursement of assets? When do they have to be completed?

6. What types of care services and facilities are available and what are the costs?

7. What will government programs pay for and how do you qualify?

There is a lot you can do now to put together a plan for your own long term care. You may have limited resources in the future or health problems that will inhibit your ability to take care of things you could do now.

For example: Billy and Bobbie want to be able to stay in their home as they age. In order to do this, when they were in their 40’s they took out a long term care insurance policy that will pay for home care if it is needed. The policy will also pay for nursing home costs as a care option. With taking the policy at a younger age and in good health, the monthly payments are low. Extra funds can now be put away for retirement without worries of having to deplete savings for care costs.

Or consider Sarah’s following experience: After taking care of her own parents for many years, Sarah realized the importance of making a plan and preparations for herself in advance. She saw all of her parents’ assets dissipated in order for her father to qualify for Medicaid nursing home coverage. She didn’t want the same thing to happen to her. She took the time to create her own plan on paper expressing her wishes for her own care. A trip to her attorney provided all the legal documents and estate planning she wanted to be in place to insure care for her and an inheritance for her children.

There is much to learn about long term care and there are a lot of new services and programs available to draw from.

The National Care Planning Council has gathered together an overall review of government and private long term care services both on the Council website, www.longtermcarelink.net and in their book, The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning.

The 4 Steps of Long Term Care Planning provides comprehensive information about long term care planning. The design also allows you to record personal information, family agreements and directions on 20 planning sheets at the back of the book. Using this book as a single?source repository for information and directions makes it much easier for you or your care coordinator to carry out your wishes when the need for care occurs.

If it is too late for long term care planning, it is not too late to salvage some of the parent’s estate if a plan is put in place upon learning of the loved one’s need for long term care in a skilled nursing facility (nursing home). Don’t rely on friends or for that matter the Department of Human Services. DHS manages the funding for Medicaid in the nursing home and are notoriously frugal in handing out benefits to which your loved one may be entitled with the proper planning, or proper guidance.

No matter the timing, it is important to make a plan, the sooner the better.

A plan is no better than the implementation, so make a plan, put it into action and stick to it.

Legal Disclaimer: Unless otherwise indicated, the author is not certified by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization(Translation, I have not taken and passed a test in any area of legal specialty, but am licensed to practice law before all Texas State and County Courts and several Federal Courts).

The principal office of Weston Cotten, PC is 5223 Garth Road, Baytown, Texas 77521. My office phone is 281-421-5774.

The content of this article and any referenced pages or websites, has been written or located for informational purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal advice. Legal advice of any nature should be sought from legal counsel. This information is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney?client relationship.