As time passes, a family’s health circumstances can change, sometimes slowly, with degenerative illnesses such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, but often very suddenly. We can’t count the times that a client has called us to let us know their spouse or their parent, who had been healthy and independent just a short time ago, had suffered a fall, a stroke or an infection that had suddenly made it unsafe for them to live at home.
The spouse at home or the adult children are suddenly left with an enormous predicament—what can they do to help their loved one? What are their options? And what can they afford to pay for care? A recent article in the New York Times, Deciding on Care for Elderly Parents in Declining Health, addresses some of the issues and options when you or a parent can no longer live alone.
Is it safe at home?
Most of our clients who live in their own homes would prefer to stay there as long as possible. However, after an illness, that may not be safe. One way to find out about your options is by consulting a geriatric care manager, a professional who can assess the situation and help you determine what kind of help is necessary to make the home safe. Can the loved one cook? Remember and manage medications? Handle stairs?
Debbie Gitner of ElderCare Resource Services, a geriatric care manager and member of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers (www.caremanager.org) helps clients gather information and resources to match available services and the community organizations that provide them with the families who can benefit. Geriatric Care Managers like Debbie can also help navigate health insurance issues, including what to do if health insurance is being stopped.
Debbie has made some suggestions to consider that will enable people to stay at home for longer periods, such as: adding mats to slippery bathroom tiles, hip protectors, socks with adhesives on the bottom and alarms on the bed in case someone tries to get up in the middle of the night. Other improvements, such as adding grab bars, stair lifts or widening doors for wheel chair access, may be more costly, but worth it to make staying at home a safer alternative.
A care manager can also help you determine what other assistance is necessary—home health-aides and licensed care givers can visit and provide services as diverse as helping to pay the bills and manage the books to managing medication schedules or cleaning the home. However, depending on how much help is needed, these services can become very costly. If you have one in place, a long term care insurance policy with an in home care benefit can be very valuable in making staying at home a real possibility.
Adult Day Care
For spouses or adult children caring for a parent at home, facilities such as adult day care fill a critical gap in their planning. Local choices, including Whitney Place and others provide other care during the day while the primary at home care giver is able to work or take care of the family’s personal or financial business.
While most people would prefer to live at home it isn’t always safe or financially feasible. An Assisted Living facility, providing more support than is available at home, but less costly than a nursing home, can be a life saver. In addition to medical and practical support, an assisted living facility can provide a senior with social support—a community of staff and residents available to them, rather than isolation at home.
Making the decision of which Assisted Living Facility is the right one for you is a difficult one for any family. We offer a free guide to choosing an Assisted Living facility or nursing home, The Massachusetts Nursing Home and Assisted Living Guide at our website.
Nursing homes are often a last resort for families when declines in health have become too great to stay at home or in an assisted living facility. Nursing homes can be financially ruinous, with costs averaging $10,000 – $12,000 a month in Massachusetts. However, even if you do not have long term care insurance, with the right planning there are state and federal programs available to help your family pay the costs.
Many people believe that Medicaid is only available if you are completely impoverished. However, with proactive planning, families can take advantage of options to protect your home and other assets and avoid nursing home poverty. The sooner you start planning, the more you and your family can protect, but even if a nursing home is imminent, it’s not too late to plan. We offer a free guide Consumer’s Guide to Medicaid, Nursing Homes and Asset Protection Planning to help you review your options.
Upcoming Client Workshop
Whether you are newly retired and just beginning to think about what alternatives are available as you get older or you or your parents need help right now to stay at home or move on to the next stage of life, it is important to know what resources are available to you.
That is why we are planning a client only workshop this summer with a Geriatric Care Manager as a guest speaker. She will discuss options for around home to keep your loved one safe in the community as well as the best way to chose Assisted Living facilities or nursing homes. If you would be interested in attending please email us at education@DSullivan.com and we will keep you updated when the date, time and location is finalized.
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