November 2015 - Are Your Prepared to Care for An Aging Loved One?

Grandma and granddaughterNovember is National Family Caregivers Month, as well as the start of the holiday season. Spending time with family celebrating Thanksgiving and preparing for Christmas and Hanukah just might be the perfect opportunity to have that difficult talk regarding your loved ones’ future health care needs.

There are about 45 million seniors, aged 65 and older, in the U.S. today. By 2030, that number is projected to reach 70 million. At least two-thirds of this population is expected to require long-term care at some point and the vast majority of them – 90% – would prefer to get that care at home.

Currently, more than 10 million adult children are providing long-term care for sick or aging parents, dramatically reducing health care costs for their families. Nursing home expenses can easily exceed $100,000 a year. By comparison, annual out-of-pocket costs for home health care average about $5,500.

Before assuming this responsibility, have the following documents in order to help you manage your parents’ affairs while ensuring their wishes are honored:

  • A durable power of attorney authorizing you to conduct business and financial transactions on your parent’s behalf. Unlike a regular power of attorney, this document remains in effect even if your parent becomes incapacitated.

  • A durable healthcare or medical power of attorney (a.k.a., healthcare proxy) allowing you to make decisions regarding your parent’s medical treatment.

  • A living will outlining your parent’s wishes for end-of-life medical treatment. Restrictions on living wills vary by state.

Many caregivers are already juggling a full schedule of responsibilities. Fortunately, help is available either through a network of family and friends or through agencies managing home health care aides. Be aware, however, that:

  • Most states require criminal background checks but few require agencies to check criminal records in other states;

  • Only about half of all states have specific training requirements;

  • Only 15 states mandate periodic in-home reviews.

Before hiring someone, ask questions: Are criminal checks and drug screenings required? What training and/or certification do aides receive? How are assessments and supervision conducted?

Remember, also, to take care of yourself so you can continue caring for others.

As published in the November 2015 issue of the "Clinton Township Newsletter."
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