Eldercare Essentials: How, What, and Why
The prospect of needing hands-on care support as we age is daunting. The thought of relying on others for assistance with daily tasks that we once managed independently can be unsettling.
However, amidst this apprehension, an opportunity exists to take control of our future.
Being proactive now leads to greater peace of mind and better outcomes. Preparation emerges as the key to embracing the evolving chapters of life while maintaining a sense of control and independence.
What is eldercare?
Eldercare refers to the comprehensive support and services provided to elderly individuals to address their unique needs associated with aging, including medical care, assistance with daily activities, and emotional well-being. It encompasses a range of resources and strategies to promote a higher quality of life for seniors in various settings.
In a recent webinar on “Proactive Planning: Navigating Eldercare” hosted by Brighton Jones, speaker Lisa Mayfield of Aging Wisdom shared practical advice ranging from assisting aging parents to planning for your future.
Let’s walk through Lisa’s key recommendations for proactively navigating eldercare:
1) Assemble Your Support Team
We all need a tribe of people to call on. Eldercare planning is no different. Surround yourself with knowledgeable professionals who can offer guidance and expertise, including the following:
- An estate planning attorney ensures up-to-date legal documents like power of attorney and advanced directives. This gives others legal authority to manage finances and medical decisions if you become incapacitated.
- A financial advisor analyzes assets, projects future costs, assesses insurance options such as long-term care policies, and develops a financial plan to fund anticipated care needs. Learn how to select the right financial advisor for your needs.
- An aging life care professional, or geriatric care manager, formulates a comprehensive care plan encompassing health changes, family dynamics, housing, hands-on assistance, and more. They also can assist in implementation.
Having a team of trusted experts by your side offers more than just practical advice; it provides essential emotional support. Contemplating your well-being or that of your loved ones in elder care can be emotionally overwhelming, given the weight of responsibility it entails.
However, understanding that you retain control over certain aspects of this phase of life helps to separate the practical considerations from the emotional ones. This separation allows you to approach the situation with a clearer perspective, enabling you to make well-informed decisions while also tending to the complex emotional dimensions of caregiving.
2) Review and Update Legal Planning Documents
Documentation defines the roadmap toward elderly care. You can’t rely on good intentions and presumed norms to codify a plan—you need a paper trail. This includes:
- Confirming your designated powers of attorney for finance and healthcare decisions. It’s best to ensure the nominated people understand what you are proposing to sign them up for—many do not. Frame the request like a flight attendant talking about sitting in the emergency exit seat. (“Do you understand the responsibilities of a power of attorney, and do you agree to the proposed actions?”) Additionally, identify backups if the primary powers of attorney cannot carry out their obligations.
- Checking if powers are effective immediately or only upon proven incapacity. Understand what constitutes proof of incapacity and ensure everyone signs off on it.
- Reviewing your advanced directives outlining wishes for end-of-life treatment. Educate your healthcare power of attorney on your preferences.
- Keeping copies of your will accessible so others can act quickly and decisively on your behalf in the case of an emergency. A safe deposit box is not always the best place to keep your will since it may not be easily accessible upon death.
Review and update documents every five years or whenever a major life event occurs (e.g., marriage, children, or divorce) to ensure that your documents align with your wishes.
3) Review Your Finances—With an Expert
Being comfortable with your elder care plan is important, but you should also run it past a financial advisor. A financial reality check allows you to make any needed adjustments to your investment and withdrawal strategies. Key topics to cover include:
- Review overall assets and projected retirement cash flow. Ensure you can fund daily lifestyle, healthcare, and legacy goals.
- Discuss projected costs for in-home care or retirement community fees if assistance with daily living activities is needed. Understand duration based on life expectancy and health factors.
- Determine if long-term care insurance or hybrid policies could offset projected costs, allowing assets to cover other expenses. Purchase by mid-50s for affordability.
- Assess if you can self-insure for care costs or need insurance to preserve assets for a surviving spouse, legacy goals, etc.
A financial reality check allows you to make any needed adjustments to your investment and withdrawal strategies.
4) Think Through Your Future Care Plan
Many don’t want to think about our aging. Whether it’s a form of evasion or a discomfort with acknowledging our mortality, the subject often evokes resistance. Instead, establishing a well-structured plan is a buffer against existential angst and roots us in the practical. Envision how you would wish your care needs to be handled in the future. Important considerations include:
- Housing: Do you want to age in place or open to a retirement community? What home modifications or relocation timelines feel comfortable?
- Hands-on Care: Do you prefer a spouse or partner to be a caregiver? Or professional in-home caregiving? How would needs evolve from intermittent to round-the-clock care?
- Coordination: Who will schedule medical appointments, oversee care providers, pay bills, arrange transportation, and handle emergencies if you cannot? What support system is realistic given family proximity?
- Health Changes: How would care needs shift if faced with illnesses like cancer, stroke, Parkinson’s, or dementia? What adjustments feel aligned with your values?
Having a vision for your ideal care experience will guide preparations. Share wishes with family members so they can support your choices.
5) Identify Local Resources in Advance
Professionals like aging life care managers can be invaluable guides before and after care needs arise. From the predictable (“I can’t do it all, I need help.”) to the unplanned (“I need a backup for the backup.”), an aging life care manager can orchestrate and source what you need when you need it. This includes:
- Formulating care plans encompassing health, family, finances, and housing. Recommendations are customized and supported by a deep knowledge of local options.
- Coordinating care implementation – hiring home helpers, touring communities, tracking health issues, advocating with doctors, and handling crises.
- Identifying quality care solutions for out-of-town parents so adult children don’t have to steer blindly.
Senior centers often have social workers well-versed in regional resources if there is no local aging care expert.
Preparing a list of local professionals you can turn to will simplify accessing care. Having trusted partners enables quick action when situations arise.
Proactive Planning for Potential Eldercare Needs Delivers Multiple Benefits.
A customized plan provides greater confidence that your future care will align with your values, interests, and finances. Involving family members and professionals creates a support network for navigating changes.
By tackling key legal, financial, housing, and caregiving decisions now, you reduce stress and increase options later.
While no one can predict precisely how needs will evolve, thoughtful, proactive preparation means you can quickly adapt. With a trusted team, you can focus on enjoying each day, knowing resources are available.
The time spent planning today brings peace of mind—now and for tomorrow.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does Medicare cover eldercare?
Medicare provides coverage for certain aspects of elderly care, but its scope is primarily focused on medical services rather than long-term care. Here’s a breakdown of what Medicare covers related to elderly care:
- Medical Services: Medicare Part A (Hospital Insurance) covers inpatient hospital care, skilled nursing facility care (for a limited time following a hospital stay), hospice care, and some home health care services if certain conditions are met.
- Medically Necessary Services: Medicare Part B (Medical Insurance) covers outpatient medical services, doctor visits, preventive care, diagnostic tests, and some home health care services considered medically necessary.
- Prescription Drugs: Medicare Part D offers prescription drug coverage, which can be essential for seniors managing their health conditions and medications.
- Medicare Advantage Plans: Some Medicare Advantage (Part C) plans may offer additional coverage beyond original Medicare, including benefits related to vision, dental, and hearing care.
Does Medicare cover in-home care?
- Medicare can cover limited in-home care services if deemed medically necessary. This may include intermittent skilled nursing care, physical therapy, speech therapy, and occupational therapy.
- Medicare may cover home health aide services, such as bathing and dressing assistance, but only if they are provided as part of a care plan established by a physician and if the individual meets specific eligibility criteria.
- Custodial care, which includes help with activities of daily living (ADLs) like meal preparation, housekeeping, and personal care, is generally not covered by Medicare.