Have you ever thought about planning for long-term care? If you have considered it, chances are that the initial thought is as far as you got. If you managed to get past the initial thought and actually take some steps toward legal and financial planning, CONGRATULATIONS! You are in the minority and don’t need to read this article. The majority of Americans fail to plan for the possibility of needing long-term care, despite attempts in recent years by government and private agencies and service providers to raise awareness about the importance of this issue. I’m not just talking about care in a nursing home either. Long-term care takes place in many different ways across many different settings, and NOBODY is exempt from the possibility of needing it.
So what’s your excuse? There are a number of reasons why individuals and families choose not to plan ahead.
- “I will think about it later, I’m too busy now.” Later will be here before you know it, and by then it may be too late. Good intentions won’t help you in a crisis.
- “It won’t happen to me.” Do you have a crystal ball to verify that a stroke, severe fall, or other catastrophic health event isn’t in your future?
- “It’s too expensive and too complicated.” Planning does require some effort, and thinking about the cost of care can be overwhelming, but ignoring it doesn’t make the possibility of needing long-term care disappear.
- “I don’t want to think about it.” Yes, the thought of losing one’s health and independence is frightening and distasteful, and human nature leads us to avoid unpleasant thoughts and tasks whenever possible. But isn’t it more unpleasant to think about someone else taking control of your life?
- “My family will take care of me.” Maybe this promise has been made, or is an assumption on the part of the individual. Regardless of the background, unless one has prior experience with caregiving, it is difficult to understand the emotional, social, physical, and financial effects that the responsibility of caregiving can impose on families.
- “I don’t know where to start, or who can help me.” Try one of Keystone Elder Law’s free seminars! We can introduce you to the basics of how long-term care works and various topics you should consider based on certain life situations. Our next seminars are coming up on Thursday, Sept. 18th. Please call our office for details.
Let’s turn the discussion around and now explore some reasons why you SHOULD choose to plan ahead for long-term care.
- You can maintain greater control over your own life related to medical and financial decision-making.
- If a health crisis arises, transitions between care facilities and management of general responsibilities will be easier.
- The benefit of stress relief for family members because they understand your wishes.
- Pre-planning may allow for choices that would not be possible otherwise (such as being able to afford home care).
- Some assets may be able to be preserved for family instead of everything going toward the cost of care.
- People are living longer, meaning there is a greater chance that long-term care will be needed.
- The elderly population is growing rapidly, creating an increasing demand for services, some of which currently rely on limited government funding.
- The birthrate is decreasing, which means that fewer family caregivers will be available to meet seniors’ ongoing care needs. Family caregivers currently provide the majority of long-term care in this country, at 71% of all hours of care given across all settings (as stated by the National Care Planning Council – www.longtermcarelink.com).
“Aging in the Commonwealth, and around this country, has been the topic of an increasing number of studies and there is no denying the demographic trends that have been described as a silver tsunami of seniors that will overwhelm the system already struggling to meet rising demand for services…The current system serves vast numbers of consumers, both in facilities and with a variety of home care programs, but coordination is loose, funding is compartmentalized, and other barriers exist.” (From the report of an advisory committee of the PA Joint State Government Commission, August 2014. This report can be viewed at www.jsg.legis.state.pa.us). The frustration of navigating a complicated system of long-term care can be mitigated somewhat by seeking information and making some decisions before a crisis occurs. While the current overall long-term care system requires improvement, no matter what changes are made, educated consumers will always have greater peace of mind. You can choose to be proactive and plan ahead, or accept without complaint the choices others will make for you when a crisis occurs. Which do you prefer?
Karen Kaslow, RN