Millions of us Boomers are caring for an aging parent. Some take their loved one into their home, and some move to be closer to the aging parent. Some provide care from a distance. Some live nearby and do a great deal, often on a daily basis for their family member. Many see parents living to surprisingly old age and see the amount of care their loved one requires.
I have a friend whose grandmother was very independent for quite a long time, but she had a stroke and fell. Everyone thought she was at her end. Her granddaughter, in her 60’s, moved grandma to a care facility near the granddaughter’s home. Grandma didn’t recognize anyone at first. They planned for her demise. But she pulled through. She’s going on 105 years old now and her health seems to be stable. She is improving, though still very frail.
Grandma, in this case, has assets. She is paying for her own ruinously expensive care facility, which required supplementing the staff with a private caregiver from outside the home. She has “graduated” from that level of need now and isn’t ready to die just yet. But what if grandma didn’t have any money? Her family would provide for her. Imagine you are in grandma’s shoes.
Many people simply do not want to face this issue, or somehow believe that they will avoid needing long-term care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “Someone turning age 65 today has almost a 70 percent chance of needing some type of long-term care services and supports in their remaining years.” About 35 percent of aging individuals will need nursing facility care. That’s us, too, not just our parents and grandparents.
- Face the facts: we all may need help as we get up there in years. If the odds of needing long term care and support are 7 in 10, we need to accept the truth of this and not think “it won’t happen to me”. Accepting the truth means we think it through, and start the plan now, in our 60s or 70s.
- Talk about the future with your family members. Let them know what you have in the bank, what your Social Security and any other income is expected to be at retirement age. If you plan to keep working in your “retirement” years, as many Boomers will, project what you may be able to earn and save. Discuss what you would need to earn or have saved if you needed long term support at home or in a care facility. If you don’t know the costs, contact your Area Agency on Aging and get the local expenses for home help or a care facility, such as assisted living.
- Get legal advice about whether Medicaid could be an option for you. If you do not have much saved, and your income is not going to be much, now is the time to find out about eligibility in your state for Medicaid. Medicaid is an insurance program for low income people (regardless of age), who do not have many assets. The rules very considerably from state to state. By spending a little time and a modest amount of money on competent advice, you can learn well ahead of time what you would need to do to qualify for the program. If you could qualify, Medicaid could cover many services for you that are not covered by anything else, particularly Medicare. In most states, whatever you do to move or give away assets to qualify you must be done 5 years in advance so that you do not incur a penalty when you need Medicaid.
I’ve heard some friends in their 60s remark: “If I got to the point where I couldn’t take care of myself, I’d shoot myself”. Well, that’s actually not what happens. Age related disabilities like dementia sneak up on you. You probably won’t be thinking of ending it all as you are still able to do many of the things you enjoy. Needing some help is typically not an all or nothing proposition. We just need to be realistic about it.
I hope I am persuading you why we independent, freedom loving Boomers must recognize that we will probably not be as vigorous at 85 as we might be at 55 or 65. We just might need someone to give us a hand. And it’s not free. So, planning ahead as early as we can makes perfect sense. Make it your resolution. Look down the road and be ready for your own future.
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