Long term care can change everyone, everything
Somewhere around 10,000 baby boomers turn 65 each day and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that more than 70 percent of those over 65 will require long-term care services at some point.
But few people make preparations for this inevitable part of life that can drain a family both emotionally and financially.
When the need for long-term care approaches the crisis level, several family members may be thrust into participation whether ready or not, said Chris Orestis, senior health-care advocate and CEO of Life Care Funding (www.lifecarefunding.com).
“In many situations the need for care will creep up on a family,” Orestis said. “Suddenly, people realize they have assumed duties that take up more and more of their time, and take a toll on their lives.”
Over the years, he said, he has seen these family members gravitate naturally to roles that fall into several stereotypes.
• Caretaker – This person provides care for the loved one at home and, without realizing it, becomes a full time caregiver. Usually, this is a spouse or an adult child, most often a daughter.
• Bookkeeper – This person focuses on the financial aspects, trying to determine what assets or insurance policies are available to help with the costs of care.
• Chauffeur – This family member drives the loved one to appointments, runs errands, makes grocery runs and eventually may drive the aging loved one to tour assisted-living facilities.
• Guardian – This family member takes on such roles as power of attorney or trustee, assuming the legal responsibilities within the family.
• Denier – This person can’t accept or admit that the loved one, or they themselves, need care.
• Know-It-All – Most annoying of all, this family member constantly questions decisions, or lobs suggestions from the back bench, but isn’t near the situation or involved hands-on.
With such a lineup, it’s easy for resentments to build, Orestis said, but that needs to be avoided because the focus should be on the aging loved one and easing the transition if a decision is made to move into a nursing home or assisted-living facility.
Eventually, once it’s clear professional long-term care is needed and a plan is in place to make it happen, a conversation needs to take place with the loved one, who may be apprehensive or even resistant, Orestis said.
The conversation should be handled with compassion and delicacy, he says. Emphasize that not only will this move improve their health and safety, but there will be numerous opportunities for social activities, games, art, entertainment and great food.
“The key is for the family to come together,” he said. “Look for the signs that care is needed, formulate a plan, communicate effectively with your loved ones and change the perspective about long-term care from a negative to a safe, healthy and enriching experience in the continuing journey of life.”