Hate to be the bearer of bad news but there’s a chance that our own ability to live longer will have its own defeating cost detriment to wealth that has been accumulated. I speak from over fifteen years of experience in ensuring care for two parents through varying degrees of illness associated with age. It sets the tone for knowing what people need to examine for their loved ones, themselves, and the rising industry of elder-care. If you are considering long-term-care insurance or options for parental or spouse care, be aware of the fine print behind every presentation you are given.
Have a plan for yourself in the form of a living will, a list of trusted persons (in succession) who can act on your behalf in situations of health (durable power of attorney) and those persons (in succession) who can dictate your financial issues (general power of attorney). These need not be the same individuals for each responsibility and the specification of succession is simply a safety net to make sure that responsibility won’t be thrown to the state or other outside entities in the event that the first named person is no longer accessible. Encourage the same of elder relatives, as it can prevent extra court costs and internal family strife by having their wishes in writing. All the documents can be Do-It-Yourself and notarized, or can be prepared by an attorney. I recommend the DIY process because, if the documents are witnessed and notarized, they can still be used to prevent intervention in the care or disposition of the subject’s health or assets.
As one of the last activities you do for yourself of an aging relative while you are mobile, get the most current state identification possible (not a driver’s license, just an ID or passport). There is nothing quite as unpleasant as taking an infirm, impatient or angry older person to the DMV to get this done when the valid date has expired. The DMV has no alternatives to this process, even for seniors.
Leave a statement of evidence regarding your opinions on the boundaries of life and your opinions of faith and afterlife rituals. These opinions will help family members understand why decisions were made. This will ultimately dictate whether or not you want a Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) document or mortuary instructions that might defy your religious practice. Everyone needs support during trying processes and support from the subject is the best. I have no doubt that people dispatched with the tasks perform them, so if there are conflicts between your wishes and their training it’s best to document them. Depending on the resources available to the family, you might want to check the airline charges for shipping a non-military casket and add the charge of the funeral casket in which the final resting area will place the body. Death is very much like life, it is either pragmatic or excessive and it carries a price range to match.
As an example and perhaps a consideration, I’ll tell you about the DNR document that I was required to sign 24 hours (almost to the minute) before my father died. Firstly, I had received his care authority by power of attorney over my mother (his wife). She was no longer fully competent and cared for at home at the time of his final hospitalization, her dementia and self-care problems had intensified past the point where I could not responsibly render aid without a visiting nurse. Both Powers of Attorney were assigned to me by her, and that included authority over his care. I fortunately knew his heart, and found and sadly the bulk of his life and death played out within the fifty mile radius of his eternal resting place. He’d led a difficult life and never expected to live past his own father’s age at his death (43). My mother and I are fortunate because while he didn’t plan to live into his 80’s, he did plan and made no secrets of his opinions on life.
My father’s condition brewed for years but was finally assessed after he accidentally set fire to my parents’ house. He was calmed by medication and placement in an assisted living facility removed him from the stress of responsibility. He spent years in a private studio apartment with meals and activities on the premises, physical well-being checked and medication distributed as needed. The cost then was $1500 per month plus out-of-plan medications and it rose to $2000 over five years before he was evicted (yes, they can do that) for disruptive behavior. He needed a higher security facility to deal with his wandering and increased bouts with dementia. I had to secure the new facility with the first $4000 a month semi-private room payment, get to him, move him and get him an updated ID in the week between my final MRI and cancer surgery for myself. His total cost for more than ten years of varied stay in care facilities – $480,000, absorbed from his social security, VA, asset distributions and part of my mother’s pensions.
Care for a parent at home is contingent upon your health (mental and physical) and your honest ability to provide the appropriate care without developing resentment or hostility yourself. Provider care may not have all the touches of personal care that you would like to see, but that’s what visits are for. It is not a sign of giving up, as many times there is a greater risk to having a person in your home who can injure themselves or others; doors are left open, appliances are left on, and they can become lost in the truest sense. My uncle passed away years before my father did, dying from kidney failure after acute dehydration. He had fallen on the floor in his kitchen and remained unable to move or access the phone for three days. His wife, an Alzheimer’s patient who he cared for at home wandered past him every day, unable to understand his requests or even know who he was. They were found in terrible condition only after neighbors called the police to report the accumulation of newspapers near their front door. Dementia and other illnesses associated with aging require professional care and can devastate families from within if some sort of home-care or care-provider isn’t sought to assist.
Unlike my father’s situation, my mother has complete long term care insurance; she also possesses the proven genetics that assures her survival to the century mark. What people don’t read and what I learned through her case was that long term care policies have a cap (based on amount paid in), a limit per day based on the license of the facility, and insurance won’t begin payments until the deductable amount is satisfied. In her case, the deductable was $10,000. Now, her benefits will actually run out (which in my mind is better than leaving a balance), and her care will ultimately take all that’s left of social security, retirement benefits, and financial evidence of the life my parents led.
I know that I would have never made it this far through these experiences without some fore-thought by someone. Think about a plan because you and the people you love are worth it. Do not go gentle.