More than half the country will travel near and far during the coming weeks to gather with family and loved ones for the holidays. If they don’t already, most families will have someone—often a parent—who needs help with everyday living for an extended period (long-term care or LTC).
Families of the 1950s—married parents, 2.2 kids, and one dog—with extended family living in the same city are no longer the norm. Think for a moment how family relationships are affected by these modern caregiving situations:
- Sandwich generation—a parent takes on a second job as primary caregiver for their parent, while maintaining their own career and raising their own children.
- The surprise!—your parents long-term care plan is you, but they never told you—surprise!
- No family—individuals with limited family or no children? Is a friend going to step in to help?
- All over the map—a parent needing care lives in the same city as one of your siblings, but everyone else lives in other locations. Who will be responsible for coordinating or providing care?
- Blended families—will biological adult children take the caregiver lead as passionately when a new step parent needs care (versus their biological parent)?
- Caregiving spouse—you are your spouse’s caregiver, but you may be physically unable to provide care or doing so impacts your own health and independence. Or caring for your spouse disrupted your retirement plans and changed your long-term financial goals.
These situations create a need for long-term care planning. So why November for LTC Awareness? It’s the perfect time to start having these discussions with family members you will spend time with during the holidays. Be prepared for denial; no one thinks they will need care. Try the following experiment when there is a lull in the conversation at family dinner:By show of hands, who believes they will need long-term care for an extended health care event, such as Alzheimer’s, dementia, or cancer?
Expect no hands go up.By show of hands, who knows someone that receives care from a home health care worker, at an assisted living facility, or is in a nursing home due to health issues?
Nearly every hand should be raised.
This disconnect is typical. Most of us expect to maintain our lifestyle in good health until the end of our days. But only 10% of the population owns long-term care insurance, yet nearly everyone will need some type of care beyond age 65. Most individuals needing care did not plan for this and too often family is surprised by an extended caregiving event, impacting households of all incomes and wealth levels, physically, financially, and emotionally.
Awareness is the first step, which can be taken by starting these important conversations with your family members. Determining the type of care and how to fund it—often the greatest source of tension—is the next step.
Many resources are available to help guide your conversations.
- American Health Care Association, www.ahca.org
- National Association of Insurance Commissioners, www.naic.org
- National Council on the Aging, www.ncoa.org
- America’s Health Insurance Plans, www.ahip.org
- U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, www.longtermcare.gov