Tuesday, March 12, 2013
Your needs have changed and so has your vision. It has nothing to do with eyeglasses and everything to do with the way you embrace life. We have a web page dedicated to those who have gained that wisdom.
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Is It Time For a Nursing Home?
It happened again. I went looking for my eyeglasses.
I walked into the bedroom and spotted the overflowing laundry hamper. I'll grab it while I'm here and throw a quick load in the washer, I'm thinking. In the laundry room, I notice the trash can suffering the same affliction. Better change it before I forget.
As long as I'm taking the trash outside, why not take the dog along? It's almost time for her walk anyway. Before I come back into the house, I'd better take something out of the downstairs freezer to make for dinner tonight.
I return to my desk, only to remember that I still needed my glasses. Along the path back to my bedroom, I realized I had started to fill the washer with water and detergent but the dirty clothes were still waiting to join the party. And the trash can needed a new bag.
This is not a bad Internet joke. Eventually I did remember to grab my glasses and got back to work.
I'm not as old as this episode may suggest. I'm in what I like to think of as the "Gold-tween Years." Old enough to earn AARP discounts and young enough to enjoy them, still too young to qualify for Social Security retirement benefits. Sort of like how being a pre-teen prepared you for becoming a teenager. These years prepare us for our golden years.
My lapse of memory isn't yet severe enough to consider a nursing home. But as we enter the gold-tween years, many of us are facing that dilemma for aging parents. Memory loss can be a sign of dementia. As the condition progresses, our parents may need more care than we're able to provide.
If you have concerns about your loved one's safety, their ability to track their medications or their eating habits, it's time to start looking for a place that can assure their needs are met.
Have you noticed a change in their behavior? Are they forgetting to pay bills or missing play dates with friends? Have they lost interest in their favorite hobby?
If you're worried about frequent falls, whether they can clean up after themselves or ability to drive despite their insistence otherwise, it's time to make new living arrangements.
Not everyone needs a full-scale nursing home. Those who can care for themselves but have limitations may do well in an assisted living facility. We offered tips on finding a good one in our April 3, 2012 edition of GCFlash.
When choosing a nursing home, certain indicators will tell you more than you'll hear from the admissions staff who will guide your tour. Above the obvious smell of urine or haunting eyes of wheelchaired residents lining the hallways, what telltale signs indicate a place to avoid?
What is the staff to patient ratio? Experts recommend a one to five ratio for daytime staff. The evening shift should have ten staffers for each resident, overnight can drop to one for fifteen.
Try to meet the administrative staff members. Talk to the head of nursing, the facility administrator and executive director, too. What is their mission? How are a resident's changing needs addressed? How long have they worked at the home? If they're all new hires, there may be a high turnover rate. The quality of healthcare may suffer.
What activities do your loved ones enjoy? Are they provided by the nursing home you're considering?
Conduct your visit around mealtime. You'll see what the residents are being fed, and how much.
Talk to residents and staff members about what they like and what they would change if they could. Don't ask "What's wrong with this place?" They may be apprehensive about sharing negative issues but willing to discuss how it could improve.
Give your loved one time to adjust to their new environment. Try not to visit the first two weeks to give them opportunity to bond with the staff and other residents. When you do visit, do it often. The residents who have the largest family support network often get the best care.
Long-Term Care Insurance - Part 1
As people are living longer these days and the American population is growing older, more and more people are faced with the question of figuring out how to pay for long-term nursing home care or home health care. And while the older generation is more likely to need long-term care, the need can come at any age if you suffer an accident or debilitating illness. We all know that health insurance pays your doctor or hospital bills if you get sick or injured, but who pays the bills if you need long-term medical care?
The first key thing I want to point out is that I am just talking about long-term care. Most health insurance policies, including Medicare, cover a percentage of short-term care expenses following hospitalization. These articles are about who pays the bills once your short-term coverage runs out or if your short-term coverage does not cover your situation.
The first step is to learn exactly what I mean by long-term care. Long-term care includes all the assistance you could need if you suffer a debilitating illness or injury that leaves you unable to care for yourself for an extended period of time. If you cannot perform basic "activities of daily living" (ADLs) or if your cognitive ability is impaired due to senile dementia or Alzheimer's disease, you may need long-term care.
Some common ADLs that are used to determine whether long-term care is needed include bathing, dressing, eating, getting out of bed and into a chair, and using the toilet. Long-term care can be provided in nursing homes, assisted living facilities, or in your own home. They can include visiting nurses, home health aides, physical therapy, adult daycare, skilled/intermediate/custodial care in a nursing home, alternate care, chore services, and home-delivered meals, just to name a few.
The cost for long-term care can be very expensive. It varies greatly depending on the type of care or service you need and the region where you live. One year in a nursing home can average anywhere from $65,000 to $130,000 a year or more.
Home health care is usually less expensive, but it can still add up quickly. A home health aide coming in three days a week for two to three hours each visit to assist with ADLs and basic chores can easily cost $2,500 a month or more. And that is just for basic assistance. If you need skilled help, such as a physical therapist, the cost can be much higher.
The average monthly fee for an assisted living facility is $4,000-$5,000, but could be significantly more depending on the level of care needed. And costs are rising all the time.
The burden of paying for long-term care rests solely on the patient. Most health insurance plans do not cover long-term care; neither do Medicare or supplemental Medicare insurance plans. Medicaid only pays for long-term care for patients meeting federal poverty guidelines or for patients that have exhausted all their own personal savings. Forget leaving anything to your children. Long-term care can wipe out your savings in a flash.
In order to help pay for long-term care, many people are turning to long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance is generally available to groups and individuals, with group insurance usually being offered through employers. Contact your human resources department to see if a group policy is available where you work.
As with long-term care itself, the cost for long-term care insurance can vary greatly. Premium determining factors include the age when you purchase the insurance, where you live, the type of policy, the policy benefit limits, the number of days before benefits begin, whether or not an inflation adjustment provision is included, and whether or not a waiver of premium provision is included, among other factors. A licensed long-term care insurance agent or a financial advisor can help you decide whether or not long-term care insurance is right for you, and if it is, what policy features are best for your situation.
Look for Part 2 of this article in an upcoming issue. We'll review various policy coverage options, things to look for in a policy, what typical policies do not cover, and what information to gather before you start shopping for a long-term care policy.
If you are in need of long-term care services or for additional information on long-term care, you can contact your local Area Agency on Aging or Office on Aging. To find your local agency, call the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116.
Tip of the Week
Tax scams abound at this time of the year. Learn about the most common.
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