As we age and live longer, financial, legal, healthcare and long-term care issues affect families, not just individuals. This guide was created to help families “face the facts” about these important topics. This overview addresses some key areas of concern, suggested questions to ask, and ways in which families might initiate conversations about these often difficult to discuss topics with their aging parents.
Last month’s article addressed conversation approaches and key considerations. In Part 2 of this article, we provide a conversation checklist.
Families may avoid potential problems and be in a good position to deal with later life needs by understanding and being prepared to face the following issues.
1. Financial Organization: There are many financial resources that your loved one might already be receiving or be eligible for. Social Security is the federal program that provides retirees a regular income based on work history, and benefits to disabled workers. Long-time workers usually have pensions that are retirement compensation plans either fully managed by the employer, or involve employee contributions, such as Tax-Deferred Annuities (TDAs) or Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs). Some people have “lost” a pension they earned, while others forget about a retirement account set up many years prior. Low-income and disabled individuals age 65 or older could also be eligible for monthly cash benefits through Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- What type of retirement income do you receive?
- Are pension savings from all jobs over the years being collected?
- Is there a need to apply for Supplemental Security Income benefits?
- Who can access your important financial information in case of emergency?
- Where do you keep these important documents?
2. Legal Preparation: Wills and power of attorney may not be topics your relatives want to discuss. However, these issues need to be addressed before it’s too late to make sure that their assets are properly taken care of and that their medical treatment preferences are known. A will directs how a person wants property to be distributed after death and appoints a trusted person to be the executor; and a durable power of attorney provides written authorization for a person you name to act on your behalf for whatever financial or health care purpose you spell out. An advance directive is a legal document that provides directions for your health care if you are unable to speak for yourself.
- Do you have a will?
- Have you executed a durable power of attorney or considered who you might want to handle your finances or health care decisions in the event that you are unable to so?
- Are important legal documents up to date?
- Where are these important documents kept?
- What other legal matters are you concerned about?
3. Health Insurance: Health care is a high-cost necessity, so it is crucial to know what is available to meet your family member’s needs, and what they are eligible to receive. Most adults over age 65 are covered by Medicare, the federal health insurance program that helps pay medical expenses for older Americans and younger people with disabilities. But Medicare does not cover all needs, and Supplemental Insurance (also called Medigap insurance) might be necessary to cover additional health costs. Medicaid, on the other hand, is the federal and state insurance program that helps pay the health care costs of low-income individuals of any age. Long-term care insurance is available through the private market to assist individuals to cover the cost of long-term care services such as home health and nursing home care. These policies are often expensive, however, premiums are usually lower if the policies are purchased at a younger age. Having a long-term care insurance policy ensures that your loved one can make their own choices about what long-term care services they receive and where they receive them.
- As your health status changes, are you prepared to meet your long-term health care needs?
- Do you have proper health insurance coverage (not too much or too little)?
- Are you comfortably able to pay for prescription drugs and other out-of-pocket health care costs?
- Who are your doctors and how can they be contacted?
- Where do you keep your insurance card, Medicare information, and other important healthcare documents?
Social Security Administration
National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care Information
American Bar Association – Commission on Law and Aging
Image courtesy of adamr at FreeDigitalPhotos.net