How to care for an elderly family member is a question all families have to face eventually. But while there are a number of options, they’re not all right for your family. This guide is designed to help families recognize when seniors need assistance and learn how to choose, and pay for, the appropriate care setting.
3 Signs It’s Time for Elder Care
When is it no longer safe for a senior to age independently? These are three signs that an aging-in-place senior needs elder care:
Growing forgetful, missing bills, or struggling to find their words are signs of mild cognitive impairment. If a senior parent is exhibiting cognitive impairment, it’s best to bring it up “while [their] mind is still sharp,” U.S. News explains. That allows you to discuss their options and get important end-of-life planning documents in place while your aging parents are still capable of making decisions for themselves.
2. Poor hygiene
Lapses in personal hygiene and housekeeping may indicate that a senior is struggling with personal care tasks. Since difficulty with the activities of daily living is the biggest factor in a senior’s ability to live independently, families shouldn’t brush off changes in appearance or home maintenance.
Home also comes with physical barriers. As seniors grow older, they may lose the ability to walk, bathe, and transfer safely by themselves. While there are things seniors can do to fight frailty, it’s important to seek help when seniors can no longer navigate their home safely.
Exploring Your Long-Term Care Options
There are two major factors when choosing senior living: a senior’s needs and a senior’s preferences.
Part-time home care and independent living are well-suited to seniors who are mostly self-sufficient but need light assistance. Meanwhile, seniors who require daily care need either assisted living or full-time home care. Of those two options, assisted living tends to be more affordable.
While many families recognize the need for long-term care, convincing seniors is harder. Seniors may be reluctant to move into assisted living or accept help at home, so it’s important to approach the conversation sensitively. The first step, Aging Care suggests, is touring a senior living facility. Many seniors have outdated views of what assisted living is like and change their opinion upon visiting a clean, modern assisted living community.
How to Pay for Senior Care
Cost is also an important factor when choosing a senior living option. Outside of medically necessary skilled nursing, Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care. Some seniors may qualify for assistance through Medicaid, but those who don’t will have to look to personal assets to pay for care.
Long-term care insurance is one option, although many seniors find the premiums too costly. For a flexible alternative, look to life insurance policies with long-term care riders. Unlike chronic illness riders, these add-ons pay both short- and long-term claims. Since there’s a risk the policy’s death benefit could be exhausted by long-term care costs, families may want to purchase additional life insurance coverage for final expenses. This offers the peace of mind of knowing you’ll be able to afford a funeral and burial. While buying insurance for a senior parent requires consent, family members are able to pay and own the policy themselves.
Outside of insurance, many families turn to home equity to fund assisted living. This can be done by selling a home, renting it out, or applying for a reverse mortgage. Reverse mortgages are a popular option in situations where one spouse will continue living at home, but they’re not without risks. Seniors and their loved ones should carefully consider the pros and cons of reverse mortgages before utilizing this financing tool.
The decision to move a senior relative to assisted living isn’t an easy one to make. However, that’s no reason to put it off. Families should discuss senior living options early and often to ensure that elderly relatives get the care they need, when they need it. By taking action to help senior family members transition to assisted living, you can rest assured that your loved ones are getting the care they need to age well.
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