“Does mom want to live in a nursing home?”
“What does dad feel contributes to, or takes away from his idea of ‘quality of life’?”
“Do mom and dad have legal documentation in place that ensures someone can act financially on their behalf if they are unable to?”
These are just three of many questions local residents are encouraged to ask their parents and aging loved ones during Sandwich Generation Month, a month-long observance in July of each year that focuses on the legal and financial burdens facing adults who are caring for young kids and their older parents at the same time.
Without knowing the answers to such questions, families could be left battling over long-term care, struggling financially, and not truly honoring their parents’ wishes in the event of a future healthcare crisis.
Far too many families avoid talking about aging and long-term care until it’s too late. Especially from a legal standpoint, if you don’t know your parents’ wishes or the documentation they have in place (or don’t), you could be left with a huge mess on your hands if they become sick or disabled.
This month, it’s advisable for adult children to have 5 specific conversations with their parents as soon as the opportunity presents itself:
- Long-term care preferences – Do mom and dad want to live in a nursing home or would they prefer in-home care if the need presented itself? If they prefer a facility, what amenities and activities are important to them at this point in their life? If they want to live alone in their home, will that suit their personality or will loneliness and depression result? These are questions that if discussed in advance can make the transition into an assisted living facility or a home-health care program much easier on everyone when the time comes.
- Current Legal Documentation – It’s imperative that adult children find out what legal documentation their parents have in place before incapacity occurs. This includes making sure their parents have a financial durable power of attorney, health care directive, and HIPAA documents so someone can easily step in to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf. Otherwise, the family will be forced to petition the court for control over their parents’ affairs if they passed the point of legal capacity.
- Medical Preferences and Wishes – Adult children should find out what type and how much medical care their parents want as they age, or following a debilitating diagnosis such as Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Do they have specific wishes about life support or other end-of-life medical treatments? Who do they want to make such decisions on their behalf? The answers to these questions will help your parents to feel secure knowing their wishes will be carried out during an otherwise emotionally-charged time.
- Current state of financial affairs – To ensure finances are properly managed, adult children should start asking tough questions about their parents’ financial affairs. This includes finding out the location of any safety deposit boxes, bank accounts, investment or brokerage accounts, long-term care insurance, outstanding debts, or other assets unknown to the family. Otherwise, necessary assets needed to cover long-term care or other expenses could go overlooked and unaccounted for. You should also ask your parents how they plan to pay for long-term care. Most expenses are not covered by Medicare or private insurance. Medicaid may be able to help, but you will likely need an attorney to help you create the right kind of trust or utilize other planning strategies in order to meet the income and asset thresholds and protect your assets from being “spent down” while qualifying for benefits.
- Important contacts and information – While their memory is still sharp, adult children should work with aging parents to compile a list of important contacts and information that will be useful to the family. This includes documenting key doctors, professional advisors (e.g. accountant, attorney, financial advisor), and important passwords for online accounts.
While these conversations are certainly not easy to have, families can make the transition into a parent’s senior years easier by planning ahead. Not to mention, mom or dad will appreciate your willingness to make sure their wishes are honored if and when incapacity, sickness or disability occurs.
For more information and help, please download our FREE guide, “Surviving The ‘Sandwiched’ Years: How To Protect Your Parent’s Assets, Honor Their Wishes & Provide Long-Term Care….Without Losing Your Money—Or Your Mind!” by clicking here.
One of the most common issues that Marietta elder law attorneys deal with is how to help clients when it comes to both short-term and long-term care. Folks are living longer than they ever have before due to advances in both health care and technology. Certainly, this is what people have been hoping would happen for generations, but it does bring with it some new challenges. High on that list is the increased need for short-term care (to recover from an illness or injury, for example) and long-term care. What people so often want their East Cobb elder law attorneys to explain is how they can afford it and whether Medicare or Medicaid can help.
The answers to these questions are, of course, fairly complicated; but it’s worthwhile to have at least a little knowledge to get started. In the case of Medicare and Medicaid, you will find that both of them can help when it comes to paying for rehab services, but under different guidelines. This is something that Marietta elder lawyers spend a lot of time researching, and with laws constantly changing, it’s best to confer with someone knowledgeable about the current status of these programs.
If you are over 65, then Medicare might be a reasonable option for you. While similar to health insurance, Medicare is a federal program. Whether you live in Georgia or any other state, you can expect the same benefits and requirements. For example, to qualify, you need to transfer to a rehab facility (or nursing home) only after staying three days and three nights in the hospital; and the move needs to take place within 30 days of the hospital stay.
Basically, Medicare is there to help when an unexpected illness or injury arises so that you can get through it and recover. It’s not a plan for long-term care, rather it’s for those who need skilled care as they’re making their recovery. For that reason, Medicare will only pay for 100 days of care, and the last 80 days require a co-payment from the patient.
Your elder lawyer will tell you, however, that Medicaid is a state-run program. It is in place for those who have a demonstrated financial need. And that need must be pretty significant. In fact, you may have to prove that you have less than $2,000 in assets to qualify, and if you have more, you might have to get creative in how to reallocate it to qualify. Again, and elder law attorney in Marietta, Georgia, may be able to offer advice and suggestions on how to do this appropriately. The good news is that there are some exemptions to this $2,000 worth of assets rule, and you may be able to keep your house and your car while still qualifying.
Getting the most out of Medicaid can be difficult to figure out, so gaining clarification from an East Cobb elder law lawyer is definitely recommended. Social workers and staff at the hospital may also have suggestions and recommendations. This is one of those times when it pays to be prepared in advance, too, so that you know what your options will be and can set things up to work to your utmost advantage should you need to rely on Medicaid.
If you are a caregiver and you want to learn more about Medicare, Medicaid and long term care planning for your elderly loved one, please check out my free guide, “Hope For Caregivers: ABC’s of Long-Term Care and Legal Planning.” You can download it by clicking here.
As our parents get older and begin to lose their independence, many will turn to their adult children to help them navigate the complicated and costly world of long-term care.
Yet for adult children already caring for young kids of their own, this new role of “caregiver” can be a difficult one to assume. It’s no wonder this group of people is known as the “Sandwich Generation” as they are literally ‘sandwiched’ between the pressures of raising a family, holding down a job and managing mom or dad’s growing medical and financial needs.
As tempting as it is for Sandwich Generation Kids to bury their heads in the sand and deal with long-term care issues as they arise, failing to plan far enough ahead can cause your family to miss out on important benefits, long-term care opportunities and the ability to stay in control during mom or dad’s final years.
Here are 5 planning steps to help ensure your parents are afforded the most protection, flexibility and financial security during their golden years:
1. Find out if your parents have an estate plan and whether it’s been updated in the past 5 years- The will, trust, powers of attorney and health care directives your parents created years ago may not reflect their current wishes and long-term care needs now. Find out what they have in place and have it reviewed to ensure their documents have stayed up to date as their life and the law has changed trough the years.
2. Determine How You’ll Pay For Long-Term Care- Nursing home and assisted living facilities can cost up to $8,000 a month and Medicare will not pick up the tab. In-home care can be equally burdensome for the average family. Medicaid may pay, provided you are hovering around poverty level. The only other option is pay out of pocket—unless, of course, you plan ahead. By acting in advance and not waiting until your hands are tied in a crisis, tools such as long-term care insurance, trusts and annuities may be available to help your parents pay for their care without losing everything they’ve worked so hard for.
3. Get The Legal Authority Now To Manage Their Affairs and Maintain Control- If your parents do not have a powers of attorney or health care directives that allow you to communicate with doctors, access medical records and manage their financial affairs, it’s a good idea to create them now while mom or dad is still in good health. Otherwise, if a sudden medical crisis strikes or your parents no longer have mental capacity to sign legal documents down the road, you’ll be forced to petition a court for control (read: major time and money lost).
4. Document Their End-of-Life Wishes- Thousands of families each year are torn apart trying to decide what their loved one “would have wanted” in serious medical situations. Avoid the stress and conflict by asking your parents their wishes about things such as life support, feeding tubes, organ donation, etc. and legally document their choices to ensure everyone is on the same page.
5. Get Organized To Avoid Last Minute Scrambling- Gather your parent’s important information now to avoid any confusion and delays in the event of a medical emergency. Some important documents to collect would include their insurance information, front and back of all ID cards including drivers license, prescription cards and military ID card, prior medical history, names and numbers of doctors, copies of their living will, health care directives and a list of current medication and doses.
By being proactive and planning for these issues in advance, you can help make sure your parents always receive the care they need without worry or financial struggle. You’ll further avoid many costly legal headaches that adult children face when they are not prepared for their parent’s incapacity or ongoing care needs. It’s never too early to get started, so talk to an estate and elder attorney to determine the best ways to protect your parents, their assets…and your own sanity during the golden years.
To receive our FREE e-book, “Surviving the ‘Sandwiched’ Years: How to Protect Your Parent’s Assets, Honor Their Wishes & Provide Long-Term Care . . . Without Losing Money – Or Your Mind!”, please visit: GeorgiaSandwichGeneration.com