As parents become older, having open communication about their long-term elder care options makes this life transition much easier for all parties involved. Encourage your senior parents to discuss their wishes openly with family members. Having a “family meeting” involving as many family members as possible to express themselves and their feelings is important. Senior parents need to be sure their children are aware of their medical and insurance coverage so that the identified family member can transition into becoming involved more smoothly.
Michigan State University Extension says that some of the medical items that need to be addressed are as follows:
- Senior’s date of birth and social security numbers. You will need this information to access many services.
- Names, phone numbers and addresses of seniors doctors, dentist and a preferred pharmacy.
- Copies of health insurance policies and a photo copy of the front and back of the individual receiving care insurance cards.
- If senior is 65 years or older, a copy of their Medicare card.
- Make a list of all their medications, both prescription and over-the-counter drugs and vitamins they currently are taking, including the dosage amounts and instructions for taking them.
- Date and results of recent medical tests, including exams, x-rays, CT scans and MRI’s.
- Complete health history.
It is advised that you also find out if your senior parent has the proper legal tools and documents in place. Have they discussed their wishes for end-of-life care? Seniors don’t like to think they will need skilled nursing care in their later years, but it is better to discuss the topic and formulate a plan. Contacting an attorney who specializes in elder law would be a good place to start helping formalize a written plan.
Some topics to discuss or think about are:
- Health insurance coverage: What kind of coverage do they have, if any? Are they eligible for Medicare benefits or Medicaid? Do they have a long-term care insurance policy? If so, what does it cover? Do they have any coverage through a private pension plan or retirement package?
- Explore other available financial resources: What assets does your senior parent have? Do they own real-estate? How much is their home worth? How much is in savings accounts, IRA’s, stocks and bonds and other investments? What is their monthly income through social security, other government programs, private pension plans, CD’s, other bank accounts, annuities and investments?
The average cost of an extended stay at a nursing home is more than $7,000 per month or $84,000 per year! This issue may be the number one concern for many senior citizens today. Understanding how the Medicaid system works is vital for helping plan your parent’s end-of-life plan. Medicare will help pay for these costs only after you have spent down your assets. Countable assets must be spent-down for costs of long-term care, in order to qualify for Medicaid. These countable assets are: Bank and credit union accounts, money market accounts, mutual funds, bonds, stocks, cash value in whole life insurance policy exceeding $1,500 in initial death benefits, an IRA, other retirement assets, non-homestead real property, boats, a second vehicle, a home in revocable trust.
Start early and have conversations with your parents about elder care issues before the acute care is needed.