Don’t let long-term care needs spring up on you – plan ahead

Most of us have spent the better part of the last seven months bundled up or buried in snow, but the time has come to shed the layers and ditch the itchy, bulky sweaters and start anew.

For so many of us, this means spring cleaning. The washing of, or planting of or for some, the planning of what’s to come, whether it be summer vacations, family get-togethers or the eye-rolling, heart beating, palms sweating conversation about long term planning for you or for your loved ones.

We understand, it’s not at the top of everyone’s list – but it should be and here’s why. The truth is, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, at least 70 percent of people over the age of 65 will need some form of long term care services and support, and most are not prepared for what’s to come.

Many people may avoid having this conversation, thinking that Medicare, Medicaid or other supplemental health insurance covers long term care – but that’s a myth. Medicare generally covers skilled nursing home care after a hospital stay of at least three days, but its coverage for other long term care services is very limited. Medicaid can contribute toward long term care, but it requires recipients to use their income to pay for care and spend down most of their assets to qualify and care must be received in a state approved facility. Most forms of private health insurance do not cover custodial or personal care services. If health insurance does not cover long term care services, it is typically only for skilled, short-term, medically necessary care. The truth is, being proactive, educating yourself on what your options are, and developing a long term care plan is a great way to ensure financial and emotional stability for you and your family.

No one understands this better than actor Rob Lowe, whose father was abruptly diagnosed with lymphoma at age 50 the same week he won the Dayton, Ohio golf and tennis championships. Additionally, when his mother later fell ill, he and his brothers took time off from work to help care for her. For most, however, caring for loved ones is not always an option due to geographical and financial constraints. Knowing that this is a growing trend, having a conversation about long term care planning is something Lowe now encourages everyone to have – sooner rather than later.

“Being a caregiver for my mother was a profound experience for me. I’ve learned that staying silent about long term care planning could mean getting caught off guard,” says Lowe. “No one wants to believe they’ll be anything other than what they are at the height of their powers, which is what makes having ‘the talk’ so difficult yet so important.”

The first step is always the hardest but these tips from Genworth can help you have “the talk” with friends and family this spring:

Be open – Come out and tell them that you’d like to talk about these issues and ask if they would mind talking about them. Everyone thinks about these things and worries about what the future holds.

Be reflective – Some time when you’re together, ask them about their past, their childhood, and their parents. Learn about them. Then move on to the future. What do they want most? How do they perceive the future? What worries them?

Discuss someone else’s situation – Chances are that you, your spouse or partner or your parents know someone who is already dealing with some aspect of aging or long term care. Talking what’s good or bad about their situation can be a useful launching point.

Mention an article or website – Give them a clipping, or link to information about planning ahead, family conversations, long term care costs, and move forward from there.

Ask for advice – This is a great way to get the discussion rolling. Tell them that you’re starting a retirement account or preparing a will and ask for advice. Then ask how they planned ahead and if they feel fully prepared.

Grab an opening – If, for example, your mother is talking about a family member who’s in a nursing home, and says, “I don’t see how she can stand it,” ask her what she means. What would your mother want in the same circumstance? If you miss the chance, bring it up another time. “Hey Mom, remember when you said you couldn’t stand to live in a nursing home…”

Write – If you find the whole thing too daunting, write a letter or e-mail outlining your concerns and what you would like to discuss. This can be particularly helpful if you live far away and only have a weekend to have these talks. You can pave the way and get them to start thinking about it before you get together.

Get help – Maybe you have a sibling who is more at ease talking with your parents. Maybe your parents are more comfortable talking to someone else in the family about finances or health. Don’t be offended. You just want someone to know what’s what.


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