Many adults are facing the need to help provide care to not just kids of their own, but to the parents and older family members who helped raise them.
If you’re part of this “Sandwich Generation,” you know the situation all too well. America’s population is getting older – and it is the baby boomers and Gen Xers who are left to fill in, and help provide long-term care to their aging family.
Unfortunately, there isn’t really one set path to follow when it comes to long-term care, and many members of the Sandwich Generation are left to figure things out on their own. Long-term care is tricky, for seniors and for the family members who love them. Long-term care can be a difficult topic to bring up, even under the best of circumstances. It can also be difficult to remain objective, and know the right time to get the ball rolling.
Long-Term Care By the Numbers
Long-term care is an incredibly relevant piece of the puzzle when it comes to providing for our seniors, yet many people refuse to acknowledge the vital importance of talking about and planning for long-term care, until it’s too late.
Every day, 10,000 people in the U.S. turn 65. America’s population is aging en masse. As many as 12 million elderly adults may need significant care by 2020. Looking further ahead, the AARP projects that by 2050, about 21% of the population will be 85 or older. As the AARP notes, this group of elderly adults “often requires additional caregiving and support.”
In fact, data from the Department of Health and Human Services suggests that 70 percent of those turning age 65 “can expect to use some form of long-term care during their lives.” A report from the insurance company Nationwide puts the odds at requiring long-term care at just 1 in 2. And yet? According to the AARP, “most Americans don’t believe they’ll need long-term care.” Data from Nationwide suggests that only 17% of baby boomers have planned for their long-term care needs – even though, by their estimates, the average senior is going to require long-term care at home for at least 4.5 years.
The Many Moving Pieces of Long-Term Care
Long-term care is crucial for helping seniors live longer, more fulfilling lives. Preparing in advance for long-term care can help make things easier, allowing your loved one to age in place – which 90 percent of older adults wish to do, according to recent reports. Finding the right long-term care strategy can help the senior in your life to remain independent, while having their most essential needs met.
As you look ahead, it’s important to keep in mind that many considerations go into long-term care, including:
Getting older can get expensive. As you think about long-term care, it’s also going to be important to think about the financial side of things. Many families may want to start budgeting in advance for long-term care. In other cases, you’ll want to look into payment options, including Medicaid and long-term care insurance. For other families, it may be essential to talk to seniors about gaining access to important documents, and assigning a younger member of the family to help manage the finances when necessary.
Where does your parent want to live, long-term? While the vast majority of older adults say that they want to remain in place, it’s also important to consider their needs. What is a practical set-up, in realistic terms? Can your parent remain at home with some additional assistance, or would they benefit from living in a facility where they can get full-time treatment?
Is your parent healthy enough to live alone? As your loved one gets older, it may be important to help them make lifestyle changes that will allow them to maintain their well-being and independence, such as improving their diet or cutting bad habits, like smoking. In preparing for long-term care, it will also be essential to get a full sense of your aging loved one’s health picture, so that you can create a care plan and get health providers, family members, and the senior on the same page.
On top of all of this, there is still one enormous thing to consider and ask about long-term care:
When Is the Right Time to Talk About Long-Term Care with Your Aging Family?
Talking about long-term care with an aging parent can be a sensitive subject. Your loved one may not want to discuss such weighty matters – and you might be reluctant to bring it up, as well. Still, it’s important to start these conversations early, so that you can begin the process and start planning for all of the moving parts that go into long-term care.
While everyone’s circumstances will be unique, and the situation will be different from family to family, here are a few guidelines that might help as you look for the right moment to begin planning for long-term care:
1.) Start early
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your aging loved one is to start the conversation about care as early as possible. As the National Institute on Aging (NIA) once put it:
“You can never know for sure if you will need long-term care. Maybe you will never need it. But an unexpected accident, illness, or injury can change your needs, sometimes suddenly. The best time to think about long-term care is before you need it.”
For one thing, your parent might be open to having these discussions before there’s a critical issue that needs to be addressed. When you begin early enough, these conversations can be more casual, with less pressure to make a decision as quickly as possible. Similarly, starting to plan for long-term care early gives you time to get all of the pieces together. This could mean gathering key documents, figuring out your senior loved one’s finances, coordinating with family and friends, talking to doctors/specialists, or preparing your loved one’s home for the future (for instance, making renovations or modifications that may allow them to age in place longer, like moving the bedroom to the first floor, or installing grab bars in the bathroom).
To make things easier, try to bring up long-term care topics when you have an opportunity. It could come up in casual conversation, or be prompted by a news story. At all times, be empathetic, be willing to listen, and be sure to remind your parent that you’re on their side. This is about empowering them, so be patient and be willing to hear their wants and needs. The more “buffer’ time you build in, the more time you give your parent and other decision makers to consider their options
2.) Be on the lookout for warning signs
In some cases, you might notice signs that indicate that your parent can no longer support themselves. There are many common “yellow flags” that suggest your aging loved one may need some additional support, such as:
- Changes in their appearance (rapid weight loss, bruising, poor grooming or hygiene)
- Unable to keep up with activities of daily living (such as cooking, eating, walking)
- Changes in housekeeping routines (letting the home get filthy, allowing mail to pile up, being unable or unwilling to water plants or take care of a pet)
- Poor eating habits
- Mental or behavioral changes (forgetfulness, irritability, mood swings, changes in social habits)
All of these changes are common signs that your loved one may need more care than you can provide.
Similarly, it’s going to be important to consider your wants and needs. Do you live in a different state? Will there be other friends and family around who can help out? How much time can you realistically devote to caregiving? Will you be able to keep up with caregiving and the rest of your life without suffering burnout? Your own schedule and peace of mind are important. It will benefit you and your loved one long-term if you’re realistic about what you can accomplish on your own, and where you might need to reach out for a helping hand.
3.) Know where you can turn for help
As you begin to think of long-term care in more concrete terms, take some time to look into all of the resources and options available in your area. For one thing, this may mean looking into things like caregiver support groups, as well as services like grocery delivery, laundry delivery, or doctors in your area who can make “house calls” for seniors.
Even more importantly, you’ll want to look into the care options in your area, and start to consider what may be the best possible fit for your senior loved one. Look into the costs and benefits associated with different care options, including assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and home care.
In our experience, many seniors and families ultimately find that home care with a qualified senior companion is the best fit. With home care, a companion can spend time with your senior loved one for as much or as little as is necessary, helping provide assistance and company in the safety and comfort of home. It is a significantly more affordable form of long-term care than other options, while also providing greater stability, freedom, and flexibility to seniors and family caregivers alike.
How Companions for Seniors Can Help
Are you a loving and supportive family member of an aging adult? If so, you may be wondering when the time will be right to start those important long-term care conversations – or if now is the moment to start putting a care plan into action.
Don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns. We’re here to help make things easier for family caregivers and their aging loved ones. Caring for others isn’t just what we do; it’s our passion. We’re always here to be an open and sympathetic ear, and we’re happy to help guide you in the right direction when it comes to all things long-term care.
Here at Companions for Seniors, our mission is to empower seniors to live independently and with dignity in the comfort of their own home by helping them to lead an active and enriched lifestyle, connecting them with their community, and nurturing meaningful relationships.
Our Companions are bonded and highly trained, and our team can help your loved ones develop and implement a personalized care plan, typically within just a few days. Our goal is to help the older adult in your life maintain a higher quality of life – physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually – while giving you a chance to get some much-needed respite.
Have any questions? Ready to start thinking seriously about long-term care? Don’t hesitate to get in touch today to get the conversation started, or give us a call at 866-910-9020.