November is Long-Term Care Awareness Month

Long-term illnesses are very challenging emotionally, physically, and especially financially.  I should know, as I have lived through 3 grandparents, 2 in-laws, and one mother who all needed or still need care.  It is difficult to watch those you love lose the ability to do for themselves, and to experience the toll it takes on family and friends who are thrust into the role of caregiver. 

Some of these situations seem to come out of nowhere after a stroke, a fall, or a surgery gone awry, while others are slow and progressive, like Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, or cancer.  Regardless, if you are thrust into the situation over night or if it happens gradually, it will affect your spouses and children in many different ways:  Families will differ on the course of care that should be given: whether or not to keep a person at home or move them to a facility, who is available to provide the care or should they hire a professional to provide the needed assistance?  If a spouse is still able and willing to provide care, what toll might that take on them both physically and emotionally?  Is there someone at home who can help administer needed medications?  So many questions and details to manage!

Care coordinators (or geriatric care managers) are available to consult with a family concerning various options.  There is no need to go through this alone!  There are home care services that provide temporary care or longer duration care as needed.  Assisted living or nursing homes also exist if taking care of a family member at home is not an option.  Today, we also have progressive living communities that offer housing from independent living, assisted living residences, and full nursing home residence all on the same campus.

When one is put in the situation of caregiving for a friend or family member, it is worthwhile to utilize whatever resources are available.  If the person who needs care has purchased long-term care insurance, or has an LTC rider on a life insurance policy, care coordinators are usually provided under that policy and should be consulted.  If there is no insurance, then speak with friends or Google ‘Care Coordinators’ in the area.  If you have a family member who has cognitive or neurological issues and are concerned with their ability to drive, there is a program at the Beth Israel Hospital, in Boston, called Drivewise, where both a neurological and a physical driving test can determine if one is still safe to drive.  It is a good resource to consider if you don’t wish to be viewed as the bad guy or judge of whether or not to take a person’s keys away.

If you are still healthy, and are concerned about how a long-term illness will affect you and your family emotionally and financially, the best thing to do is to have a discussion about your wishes with family members now.  Perhaps someone in your family would want you to come live and assist them?  Maybe a family member would want to come live with you?  Many people have heard that long-term care insurance is very expensive, which it certainly can be if you are trying to cover the entire cost of care, but LTC insurance can also be used to offset just some of the costs of care, which can often prove to be more affordable.  Investigate different living options for later life if you haven’t already considered progressive living environments in your area.  Familiarize yourself with local service providers and do your best to make your wishes know before someone is thrown into the position of making them for you. 

If you are in the midst of dealing with long-term care issues or foresee them happening in your future, call us today and set up an appointment.