The Senior Care Fiscal CliffThe term fiscal cliff has been much in the news the past several months, as our government leadership worked (and fought) over coming up with an acceptable budgetary agreement.  The “cliff” might have been a bit of an exaggeration, but it was meant to indicate the looming crisis that was predicted if the standing provisions went in to place. So what does any of this have to do with senior care?

Well, before we get in to the personal side of things, such budget decisions are very important to watch, especially to monitor impacts on various programs.  Various cuts can affect senior care programs, Medicare, Social Security and other things on which you or your senior loved ones rely.  No matter where you stand on various issues, it is good to follow what is going on and make your voice heard if you feel strongly about a particular senior care program.

But, we also see many families on the verge of a personal senior care fiscal cliff, facing a potential crisis in long term care financing or facing unpleasant, limited choices due to fiscal issues.  One of the biggest reasons we write our blog is in order to try and make seniors and families more aware of some of these senior care issues ahead of a crisis.  We talk to families every day who are shocked to find out that Medicare will not help with most of the senior care they need.  This is only natural, as most people don’t want to think ahead to needing help and few of us explore all the details of what Medicare (or even our employer healthcare) covers.

So, in light of that–we hope you are looking at this before facing a senior care fiscal cliff and that this can help you in planning ahead, but we will also offer tips if you are looking over the edge.

1.  Don’t follow the example of our government leaders: plan ahead and avoid last minute stress.  If finances worry you, even if you (or your loved one) can currently pay for care, talk to a professional such as an elder law attorney (we can help you locate one if needed) or geriatric care manager.  You always have more options when you can plan ahead and understand how various programs and resources work.  Do not just take the word of a kind neighbor or friend, but make sure you really find out details about program qualification, parameters, etc.  Educate yourself on Medicare coverage and long-term care costs (we offer regular posts on these subjects if you want to subscribe and we also have a succinct paying for home health care fact sheet that covers the basics).

2.  In planning ahead, coming up with a custom care plan and addressing issues early can save a lot of money.  Just like preventative programs that save on larger costs tend to stick around in the government budget, senior care help can address a lot of concerns early to avoid more costly care.  Senior meal programs have demonstrated results in keeping seniors out of nursing homes.  Could good nutrition and an occasional visit/household assistance help your loved one stay out of more costly facility care?  That might be money well spent now.  Top areas to consider for safety and well-being needs include: home safety/falls prevention, medication management, and nutrition.

3.  One of the biggest challenges for Congress and families is coming to an agreement!  It is quite common for adult children to worry about aging parents and see the need for help, while the senior may be reluctant or afraid to spend money on services.  Sometimes you just need help with the approach.  Our Senior Care Consultant is a great resource if you want to talk that over and get ideas, and we also have some articles with suggestions such as Ten Ways to Convince Parents to Accept Home Care Assistance.

When it comes to costs (which can be a big barrier for elders), many adult children also decide that contributing to care costs is worthwhile for their own peace of mind and the long-term costs (both fiscal and emotional).  Those decisions are very personal and you have to decide what makes sense for you.  Siblings may also disagree over what is needed.  Getting professional input such as a geriatric care management assessment can help parties to see things from an outside perspective, as well as offer compromises.  If disagreement is creating conflict, you might also seek mediation services.

4.  In coming up with a plan and budget, it often won’t be the ideal.  The budget may demand some tough decisionsa balance between what is desired in an ideal world and what is realistic given the available resources.  This can lead to a lot of guilt, especially if you make promises to a loved one before you understand the possible realities.  Try to avoid specific promises, because it is hard to know ahead of time what might be best.  It can also help to talk to someone–who can reinforce that you are doing the best for your loved one.  Most families we come across care deeply and suffer a great deal of stress over doing the right thing.  Also, many times, the decisions you most dread turn out the best (especially when handled well).  We can’t tell you how few clients are happy about first bringing care in to the home–and how many of them come to truly enjoy the help and company of their home caregiver.

5.  Get creative-but with simple solutions.  Here is where you can be a lot more flexible and straightforward than our government leaders (you don’t have to make quite so many constituents happy)–most importantly, focus on the elder.  Prioritize what is needed now and find simple solutions.  Demand that care providers minimize the complexity in your life.  The attitude should simply be “yes, we can help”.  Find senior care providers who want to hear your story, know your worries…and help accordingly.  Sometimes it feel so overwhelming that you can’t see a solution that may be right in front of you–or you don’t know where to look.  That is why caring professionals are here to help.  Find a trusted resource you can go to for answers, rather than being shuffled around from place to place.

Want to talk to someone today about your senior care worries?  Want a simple listening ear to point you in the right direction?  Call us at 727-447-5845.

In 2013, we promise more great articles and resources on the fiscal issues of senior care, something our readers have told us is important to them.  We invite you to sign up for our blog or newlsetter updates, and feel free to leave us a comment if you’d like us to cover a particular issue!