If you are a Family Caregiver tasked with the responsibility of helping an aging parent with their care, you quickly realize that “This Health Care Stuff Costs Money!” It costs a lot of money to secure the proper care for your Loved One. Whether your parent is at home or is in a facility of some type, costs mount fast!
Money is NOT the Issue (or is it?)
Many people would be offended by the mere mention of “why” or “how” to spend parent’s money for parent’s care. They would say, “Money is NOT the issue!” I understand the sentiment. It’s your Mom or Dad AND you love them. Of course, you want to help them get the best care possible. Therefore, discussing money for the sole sake of planning how to “save money” or “protect my inheritance” should not be one of your planning criteria.
What is or should be primary however, is
- Determine health care needs. Oftentimes, this is easier said than done.
- Learning what government benefit programs (if any) are available to assist
- Marshalling their money so as to make sure that they get the best and most appropriate level of care for as long as possible.
Avoiding Unintended Results
Failure to plan or poor planning can have unintended results. For example, we see many people admitted to Nursing Homes prematurely. There could have been other more appropriate, less restrictive, options. Plausible options could have included receiving non-medical home care or receiving care in an Assisted Living Facility. The primary reason that we see for early Nursing Home admissions is where Seniors just run out of money. In many cases, they do need some care. But, they can’t afford to bring in home caregivers (In our area, an in-home caregiver costs about $20 per hour) or private pay Assisted Living Facilities (In our area costs over $3,000 per month).
If you are a Family Caregiver who is struggling with the challenges of getting your parents the best quality care, then read on. This blog post is all about ways to help stretch their money as far as possible while still getting the best care for as long as possible.
It All Starts with Planning
As with any type of planning, when planning for incapacity, most successful plans are made far before the need arises. Planning early gives us the luxury of time. It allows you to be in good health, clear-thinking and under no compulsion to “get it done today”. You can think clearly and shop around. You will have opportunities to speak with different people and visit various facilities. Time allows us to come up with some really good planning results. Great idea, but who actually does that in the real world?
If you are a Senior reading this and still have your full cognitive abilities, it could be you! You can be the one to plan in advance and get some really great results. If this is you, I encourage you to start your planning process immediately. Even if you are planning at the last minute, you will achieve better results by planning than by not planning. To jump start your planning process, we want to give you an Alternative Ways to Pay Tip Sheet.
Bridge of Life Planning
We suggest that you do what we call Bridge of Life Planning. Bridge of Life Planning contains three different planning pillars. They are:
1) State your Preferences
To ensure that you get the type of care that you want if you are incapacitated, it’s important to have stated your preferences (See What are Momma’s Preferences for an explanation of that process). If you haven’t thought about what you want, written it down and communicated that to your kids or other trusted person(s), then what you want is unlikely to happen.
2) Get Your Legal Plan in Place
If you are a regular reader of this blog, you may remember that in our last blog article (Estate Planning for Momma – A Simple Way to Avoid a Cruising for a Bruising), we discussed some of the legal documents that you would need to have in place to make sure that your health care, property management and asset distribution wishes are carried out in the event of your incapacity or death.
This step is very important also. However, according to recent estimates, only 30% or so actually do this step. But as a reader of this blog, I suspect that you are in this 30%. If not, make an appointment with your Elder Law or Estate Planning attorney today to get this done! Capacity is a slippery slope. If and when you lose it, it’s too late! Do yourself and your family a favor by making your plan! Once your plan is put together, you too will be part of the 30% club!
3) Finances – determine how to pay for needed care costs
Money or access to government benefits programs) is “grease to the wheels” of your Bridge of Life Plan. Without money or benefits, even the best thought-out plans can stall in their tracks. With Bridge of Life Planning Process you have (1) stated in writing what type of care you would like to receive should you become incapacitated; and (2) put legal documents in place to legally turn your wishes into mandates; then (3) the next step is to meet with your financial advisor to make sure that you have sufficient financial assets to pay for the level of care that you want should you and/or your spouse become incapacitated prior to death.
Let’s Examine some Possibilities
It is sometimes possible for your financial advisor to “tweak” or modify your financial portfolio to achieve a balance of safety of principal and desired monthly income from your portfolio. In many cases, even a few hundred extra dollars a month will make the difference between having to accept Nursing Home care (when you don’t really need it) versus being able to stay at home and afford the care that you need and would actually prefer if money were in place to cover costs.
Sometimes the care that you need will be provided by Family. However, it is difficult for many families to be able to be there with you 24/7 to provide all of the home care that you so need. Most likely they would like to be able to do this, but life often gets in the way. They have jobs, their own family, and other obligations which eat up a chunk of their time. In some cases, time gaps can be supplemented with non-medical home care. However, this type of supplemental care costs money – that’s where a well-executed financial plan comes into play to make this happen.
The Alternative Ways to Pay Tip Sheet will show you 7 ways to help cover those mounting costs.
What if Momma Has No Money?
If your parent has not planned and has no money, the Bridge of Life Planning process is still necessary. The primary difference is that in Step #3 above, instead of funding their care plan with their own money, they will be looking to receive governmental benefits for assistance. The primary benefit programs in the U.S. to help pay for Long Term Care expenses are
- Medicare (for short term rehab)
- VA (for qualified Veterans)
- Medicaid (to help pay for long term care needs provided by a skilled care Nursing Home.
For a review and brief explanation of a few of the more common private and government benefits programs that are available to help pay for care of a declining parent, click here for our Alternative Ways to Pay Tip Sheet.
We wish you the best as you start your Bridge of Life Planning Process. Things will go much smoother by planning than by NOT planning. AND if you are the child Family Caregiver, you have the opportunity to be the knight on the white horse that rides to the rescue of your declining parent. Take this information, go forth and do good things.
If you need assistance with this process, just know that for a nominal fee, we have some step-by-step planning resources available at www.caregiversupportacademy.com. Sometimes a little help goes a long way towards making it happen!