As foolhardy as it may sound, some of us still don’t give much thought to what we would do if a parent were struck by an accident, stroke, or debilitating mental illness. Having to deal with a slew of unplanned for contingencies, or “winging” it, would inevitably prove costly and highly stressful. Instead, here are a few basic elements that would comprise the contingency planning needed for those of us who have aging parents.
Long Term Care Insurance (LTC insurance)
Long term care insurance is a must-have item. There are literally hundreds of such insurers, and some of the popular names include:
Mutual of Omaha
You may also vet other insurance companies by calling the American Association for LTC insurance at 818-597-3227.
LTC insurance covers long term care, be that at an assisted living facility or with professional caregivers at home. The exact coverage you get is up to you, for you can choose from countless options. You only get access to your benefits however when you have bona fide medical needs.
At age 40 or 50, you may purchase reimbursement of a specified daily amount for a particular number of years (for example, $175/day for 3 years). By scaling up the daily reimbursement rate or the number of insured years, your monthly premium would naturally increase. Buy insurance at an older age and your monthly premium would also escalate, prompting all of us to obtain that kind of insurance for our folks (as well as for ourselves) at as early an age as possible.
Get your parent(s) to sign (HIPAA) release documents authorizing physicians to share their medical information with you.
Get your parent(s) to sign over to you “health care proxies” that enable you to step in and take medical authority for them when they are incapacitated.
Get your parent(s) to sign over a living will, better known as an advanced health care directive; this will advise third parties whether your parents wanted, at a time when they were still of sound mind, resuscitation or tube feeding should they stop breathing.
A decision has be made, while the aging parent(s) are still in relatively good health, as to where they will reside if one of them should break a hip, or have a debilitating illness. The siblings should also have a plan of what to do with the surviving parent if and when one of the parents should pass. If the goal is to remain at home for as long as possible, the house would need to be turned disabled-friendly: wider doorways, special bath stalls and grab bars, wheelchair accessibility, possible stairway lift, and other features. If by contrast an assisted living facility (ALF) is in consideration, it might be a good idea to have the parent(s) try living in a nearby ALF for a couple of weeks while they are still in relatively good health. This would be a good step towards avoiding you surprises later on when a crisis is in the air.
If transitioning into a facility becomes the preferred path, and your parent is happy with that, then you should start preparing the house for showing. When ready, you would commission a realtor to put it up for sale. Just imagine if you had to get all that accomplished when you may have a parent in hospital or worse.
A financial consultant
It should be a no-brainer that you would want to get all your parents’ financial affairs in order while they are still running the show. The rule of thumb there is that all assets that can be turned into cash should thus be converted. This includes 401(k)s and other old stock accounts or real estate holdings that they may have. It would be a good idea to consult with a financial broker and to acquire signatory powers over your parents’ bank accounts.
Who’s in charge?
You should finally have a meeting of the siblings and decide who will be in charge over specific parts of the overall responsibility. It is easier walking into a sudden crisis knowing precisely how others will be helping you out than having that uncertainty hovering over your head.
About Mike Takieddine, the author:
With 20 years behind me in non-medical at-home senior care, and with a currently active career as a home care consultant and in content and copywriting (with articles published in several media as well as my main platform, Elance.com), it gives me great pride and joy to be able to combine those two skills to produce material of interest to baby boomers with aging parents among others.
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