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Long-Term Care Reality Bites: Gen X Talks Senior Care with Aging Parents

Dana Larsen
By Dana LarsenJanuary 29, 2013
Gen X Talks Senior Care with Aging Parents

Now that Generation X is all grown up, they’re the latest group of adult children who are caring for their aging parents. Stereotyped as an apathetic, nihilistic generation, a 20-year long-term study of Gen Xers released in 2011, found this group to be quite the opposite: highly educated, active, balanced, happy and family-oriented.  Given their indie ethos, how is Gen X approaching the thorny topic of senior care with their parents?Gen X Talks Senior Care with Aging Parents

Terrence Thomas, SVP of Marketing, shares more.

My Tough Conversation: Talking Senior Care With My Aging Parents

If you are like me, you are a member of Generation X: the slacker generation born between 1965 and 1980.  We grew up with Baby Boomer parents whose mission was to change the world and in the process, left us with a set of latch keys to let ourselves in the house.  Our generation is a self-sufficient bunch, so it was in the spirit of self-sufficiency that I had the “tough conversation” with my parents who are in their late 60s and early 70s.

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My father is a Vietnam Era Veteran.   He really does not talk about his time in ‘Nam or the service for that matter.  What he loves to talk about, however, are his VA Benefits. In particular, the Veteran’s Aid and Attendance benefit.  He likes that not for himself, but for the fact that it is transferable to my mother.  Knowing about this benefit enabled me to connect with my parents without causing any significant alarm.

A Practical Approach

I took a practical approach to the conversation.  Since I work in the senior living industry, I have insight into the crises that families face when a loved one takes a turn for the worse.  The lack of preparation around finances and transfer of family assets is probably the biggest challenge that families face when crisis hits. As a self-reliant Gen Xer, I found myself feeling very uncomfortable asking my parents about their finances, so I had to frame it in a way where it would not cause any alarm due to any perceived lack of funds or the threat of insulting them for not preparing in advance for their retirement.

I started the discussion by explaining the pricing disparities between upscale assisted living and memory care places and Medicaid funded facilities.  I was able to “ease” the financial sticker shock of the upscale communities by explaining to my parents that their veteran status will cover a portion of the cost if they are approved for the VA Aid and Attendance benefit.

Confronting the Reality of Long-Term Care

Another issue I had to face was my mom’s expectation that I would take care of her in her old age, which any good son would do.  What my mother did not know was that I only have a CPR card, so her level of care if handled by me would be commensurate with my medical training. Since I am only qualified to provide CPR, if her medical condition requires anything above that, she would have to call an expert. She got this and understood this to a tee, especially after witnessing me trying to change my nephew’s diapers. After explaining my lack of medical qualifications and the cost of quality care, I was able to build the framework for a really fruitful discussion about health, finances and senior care with my parents.

Accepting the Fact That Our Parents Will Age

When we finished our conversation, we had an outline of a plan that will provide them with 3-to-5 years of quality care.  I even learned that my mom had the foresight to obtain long-term care insurance.  God forbid if something catastrophic happens, but now I have the peace of mind that I will know how to deal with the issue and more importantly, I have the information I need to share with my siblings if a crisis occurs.  If I have any advice to share, it’s to turn worry into comfort by accepting the fact your parents will age and have the long-term care conversation as soon as possible.  The outcome of this will be inevitably be a combination of preparation and action.  I can’t stress enough how empowered I feel now that I’ve started this process.

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Dana Larsen
Dana Larsen

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