Preparing for Long Term Senior Care
The holidays are a wonderful time of year for fun, cheer and family gatherings. Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, presents will be exchanged, great meals will be shared and loved ones will be reunited after having not seen each other — sometimes for many months.
Amidst all these glad tidings, some families will experience an unexpected downside to the holiday season. Learn more about what to do if a senior loved one needs care over the holidays.
Preparing for Long-Term Care over the Holidays
It’s the holiday season, and it can be difficult to discover that your loved one, most likely your parents, have moved beyond just aging and are now at the stage that they may be in need of long-term care. The need for care and support can sneak up on a family, and after having been apart for a number of weeks or months it can become suddenly apparent that it is no longer safe for someone you care about to live alone any longer.
If this happens to you, know the warning signs and consider creating a blueprint for a family action plan this holiday season.
Warning signs include:
- Physical deterioration: Look for signs of rapid weight loss, physical injuries, inability to maintain balance, loss of strength or movement, incontinence and a loss of ability to execute what is known as the “Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s)” which are bathing or showering, dressing, eating, functional mobility, personal hygiene and toileting hygiene.
- Mental (cognitive) deterioration: If you see signs of forgetfulness, confusion of dates and locations, name mixups, inability to recognize family and friends, paranoia and delusions, these should not be blown off as “senior moments.” These could be signs of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, which is rapidly growing to be the most common affliction impacting seniors today.
- Environmental deterioration: Make sure you look around the house to see what kind of shape it is in since the last time you visited. Is it becoming disheveled? Are household items being put in odd places they should not be? Are there signs of damage such as a flash fire in the kitchen or automobile damage in the garage? These can be important visual clues that physical or mental deterioration is starting to take a toll.
Making a Long-Term Care Action Plan
If these signs are being recognized by the family, it is time to discuss an action plan for a senior loved one. Start by first coming together as siblings and in-laws to get on the same page of what you are seeing and what action needs to be taken. Taking action does not mean moving someone straight into senior living. There are many levels of care and many aspects involved that the family will want to work on together.
- First, assign jobs among everyone. Someone will need to be hands-on and in a position to drive to meet with care providers and tour possible residential care facilities. Someone will also need to take on the task of determining what kind of assets and income is available to help pay for the monthly costs associated with care. Consider whether someone may need to be established as Power of Attorney.
- You should also consider meeting with an elder law attorney to discuss estate planning and Medicaid eligibility requirements. It also makes sense to consider meeting with a geriatric care coordinator who can give their unbiased and professional opinion on care needs and options.
- Once you have your plan in place, it is time to sit down with your loved one to have an open and honest conversation. You will want to avoid any tone that sounds like you are imposing your will on them. This should be a mutual “discovery” process that leads everyone to the same conclusion that it makes more sense to find safety and security in adding long-term care support to their evolving lifestyle.
There are also a number of other options to be considered such as non-medical or skilled medical home care, assisted living and memory care. You should remove stigma by emphasizing the positives about moving forward in this direction. Often times, couples find themselves becoming a full time care giver and that stress or burden can be lifted. Also, there are more dining options, social activities, special events and transportation for shopping and outside activities for seniors as well.
If you see these signs this holiday season, be sure to discuss a plan to act with your family. Don’t ignore this subject because it is uncomfortable or unfamiliar. Use the time together as a family to bestow on your loved ones possibly the greatest gifts of all — health, safety and happiness!
About the Author
Chris Orestis, CEO of Life Care Funding, is an 18-year veteran of both the insurance and long-term care industries. A nationally known senior care advocate; he is the author of the Amazon best-seller book “Help on the Way,” a legislative expert, featured speaker, columnist and contributor to a number of insurance and long-term care industry publications. Chris is a frequent guest about senior issues on national radio programs, and has also been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, USA Today, Woman’s World Magazine, Fox Business News and PBS.
A former life insurance industry lobbyist with a background in long-term care issues, he created the model to provide a funding option for middle-class people who are not wealthy enough to pay for long-term care, and not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid. Follow his blog on senior living issues and reach him at email@example.com.
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