These three steps can help you pre­pare for when your loved ones need a care­giver.

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Parade - - Healthy Stay - By Me­lanie Haiken

There comes a time when you re­al­ize your par­ents are get­ting older and no mat­ter how in­de­pen­dent they are, they’re likely go­ing to need your help. Af­ter all, more than 20 mil­lion Amer­i­cans are cur­rently pro­vid­ing care for ag­ing par­ents, ac­cord­ing to the lat­est sta­tis­tics from AARP and the Na­tional Al­liance for Care­giv­ing.

How do you plan ahead for such a big un­known? Start hav­ing the con­ver­sa­tion, says Los An­ge­les–based geri­atric care con­sul­tant Jen­nifer Voor­las. “So many fam­i­lies avoid talk­ing about this un­til some­thing hap­pens, but it’s much more difwcult to make de­ci­sions in a cri­sis,” she says. These three steps will get you on the right path.

1. Con­sider Where: Eval­u­ate Liv­ing Op­tions

To­day’s se­nior liv­ing has come a long way from the nurs­ing homes of old—from re­tire­ment en­claves to tiered con­tin­u­ing care re­tire­ment com­mu­ni­ties (CCRCs) that of­fer lev­els of as­sis­tance. Yet “ag­ing in place” is by far the most pop­u­lar op­tion, with 90 per­cent of Amer­i­cans age 65 and older say­ing they want to re­main in their homes. Even if this is your par­ents’ hope, you should dis­cuss how mo­bil­ity is­sues or chronic con­di­tions—both of which are likely to get more se­ri­ous with time—might af­fect what kind of care they’ll need.

If you think you might not be get­ting the “straight story” from your par­ents them­selves (an all-too-com­mon sce­nario), ask to join them for a doc­tor’s ap­point­ment, even “just to take notes.”

Re­mem­ber that it’s not too early to con­sult a geri­atric care pro­fes­sional who can help you as­sess your par­ents’ needs, weigh op­tions and wnd re­sources. Check if your com­pany of­fers an em­ployee as­sis­tance pro­gram, which may in­clude el­der­care lo­ca­tion ser­vices, ac­cess to le­gal ad­vice and other as­sis­tance. Or use the Ag­ing Life Care As­so­ci­a­tion’s search re­fer­ral to wnd a µuali­wed lo­cal eÝpert.

2. Con­sider Who: As­sess Care­giv­ing Avail­abil­ity

Close to 80 per­cent of all longterm care in the U.S. is pro­vided free by fam­ily mem­bers, says Gail Gib­son Hunt, founder of the Na­tional Al­liance for Care­giv­ing. It may be too early for you and your sib­lings to de­cide who will do what, but you can dis­cuss how ev­ery­one’s lo­ca­tion, job and fam­ily obli­ga­tions will fac­tor in. If at all pos­si­ble, do this via a fam­ily meet­ing or con­fer­ence call, and ask ev­ery­one to be as hon­est as pos­si­ble about their ca­pa­bil­i­ties. In many cases, sib­lings come up with cre­ative ways to bal­ance re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, as­sign­ing more of the wnan­cial bur­den to sib­lings who live at a dis­tance or have more de­mand­ing ca­reers and more of the hands-on help to those who live closer or have more yeÝi­ble work sit­u­a­tions.

Keep in mind that the amount of help needed will likely in­crease, says Voor­las. “This sit­u­a­tion could go on for many years, and you of­ten don’t know if it’s go­ing to be a tem­po­rary cri­sis or if it’s just the be­gin­ning of a step-down de­cline.” Plan to re­visit the shar­ing of re­spon­si­bil­i­ties reg­u­larly so that no one sib­ling ends up stressed and over­whelmed.

3. Con­sider How: Get a Han­dle on Fi­nances

If your par­ents pur­chased longterm care in­sur­ance, you’re in the very lucky mi­nor­ity; just 7.2 mil­lion Amer­i­cans have such a pol­icy, ac­cord­ing to AARP. (Many mis­tak­enly be­lieve that Medi­care will cover long-term care costs.) Sur­vey data from AARP shows that on av­er­age care­givers spend $7,000 a year out of pocket car­ing for a loved one.

The good news is that there are many sources of wnan­cial help, some of them un­der­uti­lized. If ei­ther of your par­ents is a pen­sion-el­i­gi­ble vet­eran, VA pro­grams known as Aid and At­ten­dance and House­bound will, un­der cer­tain cir­cum­stances, pay for res­i­den­tial and in-home care. Life in­sur­ance poli­cies can be ac­cel­er­ated to pay liv­ing be­newts, or cashed out. On the state and lo­cal level, sub­si­dized trans­porta­tion, meal and day-care ac­tiv­ity pro­grams can be a life­line for fam­ily care­givers stretched to the maÝ.

While money and end-of-life care aren’t eÝactly fun din­nertable top­ics, care­giv­ing will be much less stress­ful with at least some of these de­ci­sions in place. Your par­ents may need time to get used to the idea, but mak­ing sure their wishes are heard will help ease the way.

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