Who are you, and why are you reading this blog?
Maybe you’re a senior who knows you need long-term care. Maybe you’re a family caregiver who needs help supporting an elderly loved one. Perhaps you’re the child of an elderly parent who has shown a need for companionship that you know you cannot provide. You may be a senior coming to terms with your own limitations that are surfacing with age, and wondering about your options. Maybe you’re reading to find answers to questions that will help you navigate important care decisions.
Regardless of your place or role in care decisions, here are seven important questions to answer as you start assessing your situation, planning payment and shopping for providers of long-term care. Starting here, families and seniors who are new to the long-term care process can find some direction amidst the whirlwind of confusion that can surround this time. Aging well under quality care that makes a positive impact is what we want for any senior in need, especially those we love. You’ll find that the task of securing this care can be easier than it initially seems once you have the right knowledge and resources.
1. What challenges do seniors face?
General aging brings a normal set of challenges for senior loved ones. Especially if you are the adult child of a senior who lives alone, you may want them to have home care out of precautionary concern. Protecting your senior loved one from risks like isolation and senior falls would be good reasons to find them home care if general aging concerns are the only issues you’re dealing with.
On the other hand, a temporary illness or injury may be a bigger reason for needing long-term care. Once a senior has suffered from a fall, cardiac disease or other common illnesses and injuries that happen to seniors, they may have to undergo intensive care in a hospital. Even when it looks like they will make a full recovery, you may not know what will happen after a hospital discharge. Seniors recovering from temporary illness or injury will generally get well sooner with home care that provides support with things they may not be able to physically do.
In the unfortunate event that a senior is experiencing progressive disease, it is very clear when they start to need long-term care. Progressive diseases like Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, emphysema or cancer can worsen and spread causing serious debility until death. As the ranks of the elderly continue to expand into their 80s and 90s, more older adults will need in-home caregiver support to be able to live with a chronic health condition. One celebrity example is rock guitarist Eric Clapton, still performing in his late 70s, who recently revealed he suffers from peripheral neuropathy, a progressive condition that likely will end his career.
While seniors with progressive diseases are nearing the end, they are in most need for quality care. Usually, a family member providing informal care labors to the extreme out of loyalty and love for their elderly. This may be a spouse or an adult child. However, informal caregivers supporting seniors with progressive disease are in even more need for help with care because respite can actually save their mental, physical and emotional health.
2. Who is the appropriate person to make decisions about care?
This may be a difficult question to answer, especially in some family situations, but it is very important to think about because confused decision-making about senior loved ones’ care can rip families apart and subject vulnerable seniors to harm. Unless they are suffering mental decline, the senior receiving care should have the first word on making decisions about care, like how to pay for it, who provides it and whether they need it in the first place.
A senior can specify their preferences for aging needs in a living trust, which might decline against the further treatment of terminal illnesses or designate a decision-maker to act on their behalf, for example. But with or without such documentation, families may still find themselves in conflict over who decides things about long-term care. Seniors who cannot accept dependence on care from others for reasons of pride or mental impairment may refuse care that they truly need against the advice of doctors or concerned family. They can stubbornly refuse to hand over decision-making authority, even to someone with good intentions.
In addition, family members may become confused over who has the “right” to manage the care of an incapacitated senior loved one. This conflict can occur among adult children, between spouses and in-laws and especially if money is involved, among stakeholders or beneficiaries. Remember that conflict and confusion is anything but what a senior needing long-term care wants, and that responsible, respectful communication should sort it out.
3. How much care does the senior require?
It is good to answer this question before going to care providers or insurers. It also may be a question that you cannot answer alone. Determining how much care a senior needs is subjective to many factors. For one, a doctor’s orders that may come after a regular checkup, treatment in the hospital or continued treatment of a progressive disease should strongly dictate your measure of care the senior in question needs. The doctor may specify things that his or her patient should not do without assistance, like activities of daily living. Trying to do these things without help is against a professional’s best advice and can even cause harm. Use help, especially if a doctor says you need it.
Once you are advised by a doctor, you may have a good idea of how much care you or your senior loved one requires. In other situations, you may be the family caregiver who has seen a progression of limitations that inhibit your senior loved one from performing tasks that they used to be able to do on their own. You may have had to carry the brunt of their daily living helping with hygiene, cleaning, eating, dressing or toileting. You, as an informal caregiver, would have a very intimate knowledge of how much care your senior loved one needs. These time measures can put a good label on your answer for this important question:
Does your senior loved one require care…
- Several times/week?
- Every day, from 9AM-5PM?
4. What services do you need?
Long-term care entails services that cover a variety of medical and non-medical needs. Typically, caregivers providing long-term care will help with non-medical daily activities, household duties, transportation and companionship. People who receive long-term care because of chronic illnesses or disability cannot care for themselves for a long period of time. They may require more care than help with daily activities, such as medical care from skilled professionals and outpatient treatment from a hospital. Take a look at this list of services in long-term care, and assess what you or your senior loved one might need:
Amada Senior Care caregivers assist with:
- Meal preparation/feeding
- Medication reminders
- Walking/ambulating/exercise assistance
- Most non-medical assistance
Other providers, like nursing homes, rehabilitation facilities or hospice assist with:
- Physical, occupational or speech therapy
- End-of-life services
- Fitness and wellness programs
- Disease prevention and management
- Medication prescription refills
5. How will you finance care?
Payment for care can come from three options:
- Government Aid (Medicare, or Veterans’ Benefits)
- Personal Funding or Private Pay
- Long-Term Care Insurance
Use the Genworth calculator to estimate what long-term care would cost you and your family. From Genworth’s summary of 2016 Cost of Care Survey findings, you will notice that homemakers or caregivers make a national median hourly rate of $20; assisted living facilities cost a median of $3,628 monthly; and a private nursing room home will cost $253 daily. These numbers are not meant to scare you, but to provide an honest generalization of the rising cost of long-term care.
Most people will find it extremely difficult to fund long-term care on their own spending, out-of-pocket. Middle-class families will find themselves in limbo between needing government assistance, but not qualifying for it. Making a long-term care insurance claim can seem a beast of a challenge, especially dealing with multiple calls, records and approval processes. Find yourself an advocate from Amada Senior Care when you need care and can’t find a way to finance it. Especially if you have long-term care insurance, Amada will be able to guide you through the process of reviewing and filing a claim so that you can start receiving your benefits as soon as possible. Find a location near you here.
6. Who will provide care?
Your answers for questions from above will be very helpful when you decide who will provide senior care for you or your loved one. Know that there are many providers competing for your business and that you, within the constraints of your regional location and the payment options you have, are definitely able to find solutions that are best for you or your elderly. Depending on the level of care you need, you may find yourself choosing between these care provider options:
- Licensed Agency
- In-Home Private Caregiver
- Independent/Assisted Living Facility
Caregivers can be contracted independently to help seniors needing long-term care. However, independent caregivers may not have liability protection in the case that they cause harm to a senior or if they become injured on the job. This creates a dangerous risk for lawsuits that can carry on for ages. Licensed agencies like Amada Senior Care fully screen their caregivers and hire them as employees under sufficient coverage. You will find trustworthy caregivers from Amada. Furthermore, if you or your senior loved one must live in a facility to receive care, an Amada advocate near you can help you with placement.
7. How will you monitor care?
In old age, the family becomes important in new ways. With time, families change. All age, including children who were once cared for by their now-elderly parents. Roles may flip when children become the care providers instead. This may be done through managing hired help or by the children and spouses close to a senior providing the care themselves. But when family is far away, it is even more important to monitor the care of an elderly loved one. How would you be able to do this?
Maintain close bonds with your parents from afar by engaging in constant communication through telephone, letters or technology. Inquire on their wellbeing by speaking with them thoroughly, as well as other people who see them regularly. With Amada Senior Care, you can closely monitor the care of your elderly loved one with the BeClose technology that uses sensors in the home. Read more about it here.
“Answer These 7 Questions When you Need Senior Care,” by Michelle Mendoza, Amada Blog Contributor.