The holidays are here! This is a wonderful time of the year when many of us are able to visit our family and friends. Whether it is to share a meal together, exchange gifts or tell stories from your family’s history, making time available to spend with your loved ones is always time well spent.
For many of us, especially those of us with aging parents, spending time with loved ones may also mean traveling to them. As they age, it may become more difficult for parents and grandparents to move easily from one location to another. There can be an unexpected benefit in traveling to see loved ones who live far away. You can use the visit to check-in and see for yourself how they are doing in their home.
During the holidays, do not miss the opportunity to talk to your parents and grandparents about their long-term care planning. Although this can be a sensitive conversation to have, the sooner you can have it, the better. Research tells us that for Older Americans there is a 68% chance of becoming disabled in two activities of daily living or becoming cognitively impaired, in the future. We know that while you are face-to-face it is important to take the time to talk about the future and we want to share the following conversation starters with you.
Is their estate planning current?
Estate planning is a critical part of long-term care planning. In your loved one’s estate planning, he or she will be able to choose financial and health care decision makers, as well as, plan for their income, assets, and themselves in the event of disability or death. Estate planning, however, may only accomplish what your parents or grandparents want if it is current. Do not wait to ask them when their plan was created and, most importantly, when they last reviewed it with their attorney.
Have they chosen the right decision maker?
Needs change over time. While your loved one may have initially chosen a spouse or oldest child to act as their advocate in times of crises under their original estate planning document, this may not be who they need now. For example, a spouse may no longer be capable of managing finances or an elder child may now live much farther away. Discuss as a family who is the right person to be “on call” as the decision maker in the event of a crisis.
Can they live at home safely anymore?
Are your loved ones, such as grandparents and parents, still able to live safely at home? Are stairs an issue? What about meal preparation? Is it more difficult for them to drive at night? These are important questions for you to ask during your visit over the holidays. Even more importantly, however, are your observations. It may be uncomfortable for a parent or grandparent to volunteer their difficulties, but, when you share what you have seen, it may become easier for them to open up and talk to you.
Have they started to plan for the costs of long-term care?
If they could no longer live at home, where would your loved one want to live? Although this can be a very difficult conversation to start, it is essential to ask. There are many different types of long-term care facilities today, ranging from skilled nursing facilities to assisted and independent living facilities. Costs vary widely based on the type of facility and level of care needed for your loved one. Start the discussion now of how your loved one can find good care and pay for it. Remember, this may be the right time to schedule a meeting with your loved one’s elder care attorney to discuss planning options.
Do not put off this essential discussion with your loved ones. Remember the old adage, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If this article raises more questions than it answers, do not wait to contact us to ask them.