As our population enjoys increasingly longer golden years, many adult children are put into a position of becoming caretakers for their aging parents. Intentions are good many people don't know where to start.
Elder care is certainly not an exact science, but options are plentiful and careful research is of ost importance. Read our basic tips, below.
Communicate early and gather as much information as you can about not only your parents' wishes but also their medical, legal and financial situation. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recommends you talk to your parents before an emergency so you have all necessary information at your fingertips. And if you live far away, AARP says it's not a bad idea to introduce yourself to your parents' friends and neighbors and to get their phone numbers the next time you visit. This way you'll be able to contact them if there's ever a problem.
Look into long-term care insurance as early as possible. The insurance company Axa Equitable says it's important that long-term care insurance is purchased long before it is needed as the premium depends on your parents' age and the type of benefits they choose.
Investigate housing options and discuss them with your parents. Sometimes only small changes are necessary to enable your folks to stay at home. A private geriatric care manager can help make this decision. The National Association of Geriatric Care Managers can help you find one.
The Department of Health and Human Services also offers the Eldercare Locator, a tool that helps find local agencies that offer services like home care, meals and transportation.
You should also know what low-cost and/or free options are available, such as Meals on Wheels, which provides community-based senior nutrition programs.
Be sure you know what impact elder care will have on your taxes. Axa Equitable notes that if you eventually choose to have your parents live with you, you may be eligible for a tax deduction by claiming them as dependents or for a tax credit that will allow you to deduct a portion of the cost of in-home care.
Paying for Care
Know the different types of insurance options for your parents and how they can help pay for care. They include Medicare, Medicaid, and Medigap.
Medicare: The federal insurance program for Americans age 65 and older. Part A helps cover inpatient hospital care and skilled nursing facilities, but not long-term care; Part B pays for doctor services and outpatient care. The Medicare Rights Center, which works to ensure access to affordable health care for older adults, offers an interactive site -- Medicare Interactive -- that provides information and advice on Medicare.
Medicaid: The joint federal-state program for low-income individuals that has income and resource requirements that vary by state. According to AARP, it is possible in some states for individuals with high medical bills to "spend down" their income to become eligible for Medicaid benefits.
Medigap: Private insurance that helps fill gaps in Medicare coverage.
If you become a caregiver to your parent, see what options your employer offers. AARP notes that under the Family Medical Leave Act, large employers are required to provide up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave with job protection for individuals caring for an ailing parent.
Take advantage of low-cost and/or free resources out there from Aging Parents and Elder Care to the National Council on the Aging. Many of these sites also provide print publications and can help educate yourself and your parents further on available options.
Elder care is a complicated and emotional issue, but advanced planning helps identify options that increase the odds of an ideal outcome for all parties involved.