Five steps to help your family avoid the elder care "stress bomb"

Senior Resources

mom fell and broke her hip. She wants to recuperate at home, but is that a realistic option? Dad shouldn’t be driving any longer and is showing signs of dementia. Should we move him into an assisted living facility? Are there alternatives? And where’s the money to pay for all of this going to come from?

Elder care is fast becoming an important topic in American society. When families are faced with elder care decisions, everyone may have a different opinion. Family members may not know where or how to get information to address the situation. Pre-planning can save money and time (and often careers) while helping to preserve family dynamics.

Jo Holman was in her early twenties when she cared for her dying older sister while trying to keep the family together. “You can either let this experience change you for the better or for the worse,” says Holman, who went on to become a certified senior advisor specializing in elder care. Now she has made it her mission to educate people about the importance of having a plan in place, before it becomes an emergency.

Having a plan in place will save time and money, and reduce family stress.
“Elder care is something no one wants to talk about, and no one thinks they need, until it’s too late,” says Holman. “Because you don’t know what to do, you may end up paying a lot more. You’ll spend more time making decisions because you have no real roadmap to follow, and fewer last-minute options. Plus, when families are forced to make decisions under duress, the situation becomes riddled with needless stress.”

Where should you start? Holman outlines five basic steps:
1. Prepare a binder where you can compile all important information. “Do it now. If mom has had dementia for five years and all of the sudden can’t make decisions, what happens?” asks Holman. “The binder should include emergency numbers, bank account and investment information, and a plan that says what the loved one would want to do if they come to a point in their lives when they need extra care, such as a living will, advanced directive or durable power of attorney. If a senior is at home now, and caring for herself, she needs to write a plan so that her advocate has something to follow. Having a plan in place will also help to diffuse some of the emotionally charged agendas that may erupt later on.”
2. Investigate the options. “If a loved one wants to stay at home, what type of plan should you put in place? In-home elder care, for example, is a viable option that many people don’t know about. My job is to figure out what mom needs and wants. Sometimes it is a facility, but most want to stay at home. I see people at the end stage of life. I have had clients whose children assumed it wasn’t possible to keep a parent at home, then the parent ends up passing away sooner. A lot of your living at that age is driven by emotions. If you’re in an environment you don’t want to be in, you may lose the will to live.”
3. Learn how to choose a home care provider. “Avoid hiring a caregiver on your own because there are a lot of financial and legal implications. For example, if that caregiver leaves and files for unemployment, you may be listed as their last employer and may be liable for employee and payroll taxes, workers compensation, minimum wage requirements, overtime requirements and possibly more, depending on your state’s laws. You’ll also want to know important details, such as what type of duties are legally allowed. The best approach is to ensure they are W-2 employees of a bonded and insured agency.”
4. Know how you will finance the chosen options. “A reverse mortgage may be one option for paying for home care. Another is to sell mom’s life insurance policy on the secondary market to a company such as GWG Life, LLC. It’s a process that could enable Mom to have a large lump sum of cash when she needs it most. Having that money to hire a home care professional may also mean that a family member won’t have to quit work, move in with Mom, or otherwise drastically alter his or her lifestyle.”
5. Create a dream team of trusted professionals. “Consider what services you might need, and invest the time now to find the right people. They might include an elder care advisor, an estate attorney, a life settlement company, a hospice service, a banker who specializes in reverse mortgages, a home care placement service and a realtor. You may not need them all, but having them on your team can give your family more peace of mind.”

Elder care is not a fun topic, it is being discussed by more and more people every day. Having a plan in place can make your life and your family’s life much less stressful.

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