Paying for senior care is a tough topic, especially if your aging parents don’t have a long-term care policy or savings.
This problem will only escalate as the older generation ages — and as adult children continue to be torn between raising their own families, saving for retirement, and helping their aging parents. There just isn’t enough money to cover all the bases!
Of course, the best time to save for elder care is always 20 years ago. But what should your family do if that didn’t get done?
Take stock of the situation as soon as possible. Facing the extent of the true problem is always better than hiding your head in the sand. Once you understand what is needed, you can explore your options.
Here’s a list to get you started.
Learn what’s available
It’s easy to get discouraged when your family doesn’t have the savings and the long-term care policy. To start making progress, you need to be creative and do some research.
Start with the website for the National Council on Aging (www.BenefitsCheckup.org). There are programs to help you save on everything from medications to home care. This website includes information about state-sponsored programs that go underused because people don’t know about them.
If your aging parent is a veteran, there are programs that provide housing assistance, pensions, home aid, rehabilitation, and other benefits. You will have to establish that your parent has served full-time as a member of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps, Coast Guard, or a handful of other services. Yes, there are requirements to meet — but they do not include serving in a war or serving for a certain length of time. Many veterans don’t realize they are eligible for these programs.
Look into PACE
PACE stands for Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE). This is a small but growing Medicare and Medicaid program created to allow frail seniors to remain in their homes.
To get started, visit www.hhs.texas.gov and search for “PACE”. If your parent is eligible, the program will cover in-home care, checkups, dental and doctor care, hospital and nursing home stays, prescriptions and some transportation.
Check their life insurance policy
If your aging parent has a life insurance policy, read the terms for a possible accelerated death benefit.
That means the insurance will pay a certain amount per day or per month to cover long-term care costs. There are policy-specific caps and maximums — and choosing an accelerated benefit does mean forgoing the full death benefit later. However, if your parent needs the funds right now, this may be the bridge they seek to be comfortable and live in a safe and familiar environment.
Reverse mortgage is another option
For many aging seniors, the single largest financial resource is the equity in their family home. Tapping into that equity and turning it into cash to pay for care is one way to monetize the home while still living in it.
If your family is considering a reverse mortgage, be sure to work with a reputable professional who can explain the program. Ask your financial planner to run a projection. If there is a possibility of running out of equity and still needing care, you need to know that now. Finally, remember that your parents will still have to pay all the house bills and the taxes.
This is another little-known way to pay for elder care if you are a primary caregiver. The federal government funds a respite voucher program that can give family caregivers a much-needed break. Additionally, private organizations like the Easter Seals, the Alzheimer’s Association, and the ALS Association fund vouchers.
Lean on your community
Research local organizations that offer senior assistance. Programs like Elder Helpers or Senior Companions provide help with daily tasks. This kind of help can allow your parent to live independently. Meals on Wheels, local churches, the United Way, and other non-profit organizations also offer help.
Websites like www.MealTrain.com will help you organize friends, family, and neighbors to bring meals to your parents as they recover from a surgery or a hospital stay.
Finally, in this age of reach and scale powered by the Internet, there are websites like www.GoFundMe.com. It’s not for everyone, but if you are comfortable with sharing your story and reaching out to your community for financial help, crowdfunding can lift you out of discouragement and provide a cushion of emergency funds to pay medical and care bills.
Remember that most families have to build a patchwork of resources to pay for elder care. So, don’t beat yourself up. Start now. Get creative. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.