Haims: Planning for the future
Learning to assist our aging family members and other loved ones can feel overwhelming. Outside of those who have had a formal education in social services or medicine, most people rarely give the subject much thought until they are faced with the unexpected. Unfortunately, such a situation can cause much anxiety and leave people feeling like the learning process is like drinking through a fire hose. This doesn’t have to be the case.
According to the United States Census Bureau, there are over 56 million people over the age of 65 in the US. By 2030, an estimated 17 million more baby boomers will become 65 years old. Depending upon the data source, this could equate to about 1 in 4 people.
Not just here in the U.S., but worldwide, we are ill prepared to address the needs of this cohort. Consequently new research, marketing, products, and services are coming to fruition. Addressing the needs of an aging generation of people will create new businesses and industries and ultimately generate big revenue and profits.
Driven by potential new revenue streams and economic development, we will meet many of the needs of our aging population. However, whether we will address the human and emotional needs of both the aging and those persons who will provide help for them remains less clear.
On almost a weekly basis, my office receives phone calls from the adult children (persons in their 30s to 60s) of seniors who are looking for advice and resources to aid their parents and loved ones. Many of these adult children have suddenly found themselves thrust into the role of being a caregiver. Often, when an elderly parent or loved one becomes hospitalized, diagnosed with a chronic or terminal illness, or can no longer care for themselves, it is usually the children of the elderly parent who step in and respond.
Many of the persons reaching out to our office are looking for assistance and education on how to keep their aging loved ones at home and how to know when living at home is no longer a safe option. Dealing with concerns like independent and assisted living, providing daily care within the home, assisting with daily errands, driving, financial choices, health, and end of life are very personal and difficult topics. There is no one solution that fits all.
My suggestion as the first step is to find out how much your parents or loved ones have prepared for their legal and financial affairs. Find out if they have long-term care insurance, and if not, how they plan on paying for nursing home care or in-home help if necessary. You may want to ask, given a choice, if they want to remain at home or if they would choose an independent living community. Do they have an estate plan, family trust, or other means of protecting their assets?
Following are a few topics of discussion that should be noted for both yourself and your parents:
Starting with the home
- Can they attend to yard work?
- Can they manage stairs both outside and inside the home?
- Can they safely cook and attend to keeping the home clean and tidy?
- Can they safely drive?
- Is there a plan in place for emergencies?
- Would a Personal Emergency Response Systems system like LifeAlert, SafetyChoice, LogicMark be helpful?
- Determine if their living expenses fall within a sustainable budget.
- Are there funds allocated to pay for in-home care or assisted living?
- Are there established income revenue streams?
- Does a family member have both power of attorney and durable power of attorney?
- Is there a will in place and has it been updated?
Health and health Insurance
- What health problems do they have?
- Is there a health insurance plan in place that is appropriate for their medical needs?
- Is there a Medicare Supplement Insurance Plan to aid in affording prescriptions?
- To what extent will Medicare, Social Security, or a pension assist?
For seniors, the recognition and acceptance of aging can be difficult. The recognition that their lifestyle may be changing can pose significant challenges. For the adult children, it can be difficult to watch parents age. Often, adult children feel many conflicting emotions as they struggle to assist their parents. Are they not doing enough? Are they imposing? These are often very gray areas.
There are no rule books to look to for specific guidance. If you have walked this path or are currently dealing with these situations, share your stories with your friends. While the particulars may be unique to each of us and our families, the grander view of aiding our loved ones’ is shared by all of us.
Judson Haims is the owner of Visiting Angels Home Care in Eagle County. He can be contacted at visitingangels.com/comtns or by calling 970-328-5526.