If you come from a close-knit family, there may be the unspoken understanding that younger relatives will be there to take care of you as you age. However, an increasing number of families are now relying on elder care facilities to look after aging loved ones instead.
Before my father passed away after a long illness, my mother took on the role of full-time caretaker. Being the protective mom that she is, the difficulties and challenges of that role were largely kept hidden from both my sister and me. It was only after his passing that we fully understood what an almighty toll it had taken on her. Now living at home with her two daughters, Mom is surrounded by the positive energy that comes from togetherness, love and affection. My sister has gladly taken on the role of full-time caretaker—a sacrifice we had both been willing to make.
Not your typical conversation starter
For families with three generations living under one roof, elder care planning may not come up often during dinner-table conversation. Especially if that family comes from a culture where taking care of elderly relatives is a given, and assisted-living facilities are far from the norm. Dedicating a portion of an already squeezed paycheck to cover long-term care premiums just isn’t on the radar for many families; state-run facilities are not always an optimal choice, and are therefore seen as a last resort.
Why insurance can save your family money in the long run
It was only after my father passed that I made the decision to take out a long-term care insurance policy: I’d witnessed first-hand the heavy burden my mother had silently shouldered—something I wanted to spare family members from in the event I one day become incapacitated. The data shows that most 65-year-olds will require some form of long-term care one day.1 This may include assistance with such daily activities as bathing, dressing and moving a loved one from a bed to a wheelchair. Even if there are relatives on hand to provide this care, it can take its toll physically as well as emotionally. If living at home becomes too difficult, insurance may also help cover the expense of an assisted-living facility.
Although Medicare covers some of the costs of long-term care, it will only do so for a short, limited time. After that, you are expected to pay for such things yourself, otherwise known as out-of-pocket expenses, often making it necessary for you to tap into some of your family assets, like your home’s equity or life savings. In comparison, having long-term care insurance can help reduce out-of-pocket payments for qualified expenses not covered by federal programs like Medicare or private medical insurance.
Why childless women may particularly benefit
A 65-year-old Hispanic woman today has a life expectancy of 89, compared to age 85 for women overall.2 That’s great news, but for single women like me, it potentially means a longer period of elder care—without the support usually provided by adult children.
Remember, the earlier you start paying premiums, generally the less you will pay per month. The policy that I purchased years ago would cost me significantly more if I signed up for it today.
Nobody enjoys talking about the likelihood of one day needing professional elder care, or that families have limits in terms of what care they can provide. But it’s important to consider the possibility that your loved ones may not be able to continue living with you for the rest of their lives—something they may have taken for granted. We all want to age in as comfortable an environment as possible, and planning ahead will obviously provide more options.
When it comes to caring for elderly loved ones, an increasing number of families are facing tough choices, emotionally as well as financially. An honest discussion about elder care is something every family needs to lay on the table.
1 The Basics,” LongTermCare.gov website, accessed September 2016
2 “Hispanics and Social Security,” Social Security website, https://www.ssa.gov/people/hispanics/, accessed September 2016