Starting Hard Conversations about Long-Term Care During the Holidays

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The holidays are upon us! Time sure flies, doesn’t it?

One of the joys of the holiday season is family get-togethers. As technology has ”shrunk” the world, we’ve moved further from our families, leaving the holidays as one of the precious few times we have with extended family members.

Most of us prefer to spend these times enjoying our loved ones’ company, leaving serious business to the rest of the year, but family get-togethers offer an opportunity many of us won’t have at any other time of the year. Whether we’re keen to admit it or not, we’re all aging, and the younger generations play a crucial role in ensuring that we remain independent and happy  as long as possible.

The unfortunate fact is that most families doing “long-term care planning” are in a crisis situation. While we can make last minute, emergency decisions about where we and our loved ones will live during our golden years, outcomes are always better when we plan. They say you can’t plan for everything, but I believe that we can come pretty close if we act in time.

Planning six months ahead can make a huge difference, and a 5-year plan changes everything. Without advanced planning, many seniors end up in a nursing home long before it’s otherwise necessary or end up losing everything they’ve worked a lifetime to accumulate.

With a plan developed well in advance of long-term care needs, at-home care options as well as independent living and assisted living options that reduce the level of intervention and increased quality of life may be an option. Waiting until the last minute often ensures institutionalizations at a skilled nursing facility.

So what does it take to put a long-term care plan in place? The task can appear daunting, so we’ll break it into 7 steps.

1.       Have the conversation.

The first step is to have the conversation. You won’t know unless you ask. Would your loved one prefer to stay at home as long as possible, or would her or she prefer to move into a smaller living space like an independent living apartment? Does your loved one want to take steps to protect his or her assets from long-term care costs?

2.       Assess where things stand.

Another important step is to assess where things stands now. Have you noticed mom or dad slowing down? Have there been any cognitive changes since last year’s gatherings? It’s the last thing we want to consider, but 1 in 9 Americans age 65 and older has Alzheimers, and 3 in 9 age 85 and older have the disease. Early intervention makes all the difference.

3.       Put a written plan in place.

Putting a comprehensive written plan in place can be overwhelming. Most families don’t know where to begin or even which questions to ask. Professional help from an elder law attorney who is willing and able to put together a comprehensive long-term care plan will remove the uncertainty and get everyone on the same page. Many attorneys offer only documents even if they claim to do “planning.” Be sure your attorney is looking at the big picture.

4.       Visit facilities well in advance of need.

There are a huge number of options for long-term care. Your elder-law attorney should have the experience to steer you toward facilities that will  best serve your needs—and budget. In our experience, last-minute decisions rarely result in optimal living conditions.

5.       Review the plan regularly.

Everyone should understand their roles and its overall objectives. We recommend reviewing your plan at least every three years, but in many circumstances, an annual review is necessary.

6.       Update your plan.

Circumstances change, and your plan should keep up with your evolving family dynamic.

7.       Follow your plan.

If you’ve followed the prior six steps and have a caring advocate at your side, your plan should unfold with minimal confusion and discomfort. You’ve done the hard work ahead of time. It’s time to focus on what’s most important… your FAMILY.  

If you're unsure whether your or your loved one's long-term care plan is adequate, give us a call and schedule a time to sit down with one of our attorneys for an honest, no-cost assement. We can be reached at info@sovelaw.com or 937-985-1843.