The first question is: “ If one of you becomes disabled or requires long term care where do you plan to live?” The answer to this question requires that your parents evaluate their home for accessibility and safety. Is their bedroom on the first floor or are there steep stairs to negotiate to get to bed? Is the bathroom and shower accessible by wheelchair? Is it possible to get into the house without climbing steps and if not can a ramp be added to make it accessible? It might be very valuable to test accessibility by borrowing a wheelchair or walker and have one of your parents try to negotiate travel around their home.
The second question is: “If one of you needs continuing care, who will provide it? Is one spouse capable of taking care of the other? Or do they expect a daughter or daughter-in-law to be the caregiver? Are they going to seek outside help? If they expect a family member to provide care have they discussed this possibility with them? Do they understand what the job requires and are they up to it? It would be tragic to expect someone to take on the role of caregiver without knowing the difficulty and responsibilities that they will face.
The third questions is:“If one of you needs long term care, how do you expect to pay for that care? If your parents have long term care insurance, make sure you understand what conditions are covered, how much the policy will pay and how a claim is processed. It would be very helpful to review the policy with the agent who sold it to them. If your parents don’t have this insurance, it’s important for your family to understand that most likely your parents will have to pay for care with their personal resources. Many people expect that Medicare will cover long-term care. However Medicare is limited to providing rehabilitation services for up to 100 days after a patient has been in a hospital for three nights. And there are copays that need to be paid after the first 20 days in rehab.
The answers to these three questions will give you a much clearer understanding of how to develop a plan for your parents to meet their long term care needs.