Holiday Season a Time to Pay Attention to Aging and Health Issues
The holiday season brings families together. This gives family members an opportunity to see how aging relatives are doing since many times we don’t get to see them as often as we like. You can watch the older family member interact in their environment and see if they have lost independence.
The issue, however, is more than just about the aging parent, grandparent or an aunt and uncle. It is a good time to think about how you have planned … or not planned … about aging and the extended health costs which will impact assets and create a burden on your loved ones.
With multiple generations of family getting together, the holidays provide a good time to carve out a number of these concerns. First, with aging relatives, you need to spot changes in older family members that may indicate a greater need for attention and Long Term Health Care. This is the crisis planning that needs to be addressed hopefully prior to an actual crisis.
Many experts say it’s not unusual to spot personality or behavior changes that go unnoticed by those who see your loved one on a regular basis. It is important to speak-up about these issues with other family members.
Some of the items to look for include:
- Neglect of physical appearance or basic hygiene
- Neglect of normal medical needs
- Trouble performing routine household tasks and activities
- Personality changes
- Wobbliness, clumsiness or history of falls
- Lack or delayed response to sudden sounds or loud noises
- Wearing inappropriate clothing
- Difficulty answering simple questions
- Repeating the same story over and over again
If you observe these issues the family should discover how advanced the problem may be, does it have an immediate impact on health and well-being and are the financial issues being addressed.
“Your estate or elder law attorney will help prepare key documents such as powers of attorneys and healthcare directives. A good estate lawyer can also help the family feel confident that they are making the best possible decisions for future financial security and peace of mind during an otherwise challenging time,” said Kristina R. Hess, a San Diego estate planning attorney.
Family members should see if the loved one has Long Term Care Insurance, a will and power-of-attorney and other documents which will protect them and the family.
The next question to ask is how have you planned any differently from how your loved one has planned.
“As Americans live longer lives, it is more vital than ever for families to address vital issues including Long Term Care planning,” explains Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI).
The AALTCI is a national consumer advocacy and trade organization. They established November as Long Term Care Awareness Month in 2001 with the goal of encouraging discussions between generations.
“Even a few minutes to cover some key issues can avoid years of family stress and angst,” Slome notes.
The Association’s studies have found that too few families discuss the issue prior to the time when an actual need for care arises.
Long Term Care Insurance has become an important part of retirement planning. Over 8 million people have active policies in place but many times family members and friends have no clue.
“I often refer to it as the ‘silent purchase’ because few aging parents tell their adult child they have this protection in place,” Slome said.
It may be too late for an older family member to purchase a Long Term Care policy since health underwriting and age may prevent them from obtaining coverage. This is a major reason why the purchase of Long Term Care Insurance is something people do in their 40’s and 50’s when premiums are much lower and health is generally better.
“People today understand the physical, emotional and financial burdens that Long Term Health Care can have on family. Most of the people I speak with are ages 45 to 60 and have lived through an extended care event of a parent, grand-parent, friend, neighbor even a co-worker. So many people have some personal experience they know they must address the issue prior to retiring, said Matt McCann, a leading specialist in Long Term Care Planning.
There are a number of resources for consumers to help them educate themselves on Long Term Care planning.
The AALTCI has a website with consumer information and can help you locate a specialist to provide additional information: www.aaltci.org.
The US Department of Health and Human Services has a website devoted to this issue: http://longtermcare.gov/
The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) has a full section on their website to Long Term Care: http://naic.org/index_ltc_section.htm
U.S. Surgeon General Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy, M.D., M.B.A. says the issue of aging is a very important public issue.
“All of us are aging no matter what age we are at, to be clear,” said Murthy.
The Surgeon General said he has had a conversation with his own parents about aging and their future needs.
“The conversations we have had is how they can stay healthy and independent as they get older recognizing they want to be part of their children’s lives but they don’t want to be dependent on their kids for everything,” he said.
The consequences of aging impact you and your family. A retirement plan which includes Long Term Care Insurance can safeguard your future retirement income and assets and ease the burden on your family members down the road. Make this holiday season a time to discuss these issues and make plans for yourself and your family so crisis management can be averted.