Thinking about the end of a loved one’s life is uncomfortable, but when it comes to legal and financial planning it’s almost always necessary. Getting a senior’s affairs in order can help bring everyone peace of mind in knowing that their desires will be carried out after they’re gone, particularly if they are leaving things to certain loved ones. In addition to an advance directive, also known as a living will, experts recommend that all adults have a will (this is different than an advance directive); a durable health care power of attorney; and a durable financial power of attorney.
When crafting a will, start with these questions:
A question sure to be on anyway’s mind as they begin thinking about senior care: How do I pay for it? There is no one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a number of ways families can piece together funding based on their own care needs and finances. One thing that is certain, though, is the necessity of planning given the high costs of care. According to the 2018 Genworth Cost of Care Survey, the annual national median costs of senior care are as follows:
To cover these costs, families may use any combination of Medicaid, Medicare, long-term care insurance, veterans benefits and personal savings, among other means of payment. Again, what families qualify for and have access to will vary greatly by personal circumstance. Some families may spend down their assets to qualify for Medicaid while others may work with an elder law attorney to formulate a financial plan. No matter how you pay for elder care, always be on the lookout for scams, as they are unfortunately prevalent in senior care.
When you embark on caring for a loved one it’s natural to want to focus on the care recipient. What many new caregivers don’t foresee is the impact a caregiving role has on other relationships, whether with a spouse, siblings or other family members and friends. While caregiving can bring family members closer together and offer wonderful moments for creating lasting memories, it can also cause strife and discord. It’s almost guaranteed that there will be times when you disagree with the other caregivers — or even the care recipient — on the best course of action.
So first things first: Set the stage with the senior needing care. If this is your parent, it may feel awkward — like your roles have reversed and you’re now acting as the parent. In fact, according to a 2015 AARP survey, 49% of caregivers are caring for a parent or parent-in-law. But there’s a difference between being a care partner and a care enforcer. Here are a few tips to ensure that seniors and their caregivers all feel respected and that you can keep tensions at bay.
No matter how much help you have, and how you plan and pay for care, caregiving is bound to come with some amount of stress. And for many caregivers, the stress can be high and hard to manage. But the good news is that you don’t have to manage it alone — even if you’re the sole caregiver. There are support groups — both in-person and online — just for caregivers where you can talk through the trials of caregiving with people in situations similar to your own. Along with gaining support and learning new tactics to help in your role, you may even gain a new friend or two along the way.
In addition to support groups, there are ways you can lean on friends and other family members in healthy ways, as well as seek professional help to guide you through this time. Remember, you can only be a good caregiver as long as your own health — physical and mental — is accounted for. Learn how to find the help you need and figure out how to take the breaks you deserve so that caregiving can remain the rewarding experience that it should be.