When checking out long-term care, do your homework

A while back we all got into quite the discussion about dignity and respect and negotiation, which all had to do with the vagaries of providing “help” to elders who, presumably need it. We even talked about the reality of doing nothing, when nothing was all you (we) were allowed to do; well, what if you would very much like to do “something,” if you had the remotest idea what “something” was?

A reader phrased it this way:

“I’m the one without the kids or spouse (not even in my past). I suppose one goes to the kids of one’s siblings (one’s siblings are going to be just as old and debilitated as one’s self, methinks). My younger brother has only dogs. My older brother has 2 sons, who will probably have their hands full dealing with their parents. My plan is to get myself into a continuous care situation at some point … but, as I know from seconding my 97 1/2-year-old mother with dementia, there’s a whole lot of stuff the care facility can’t do for you. Like taxes! What’s a feller to do? Are there professionals? How does one find somebody who’s reliable?”

Here are my first two thoughts:

1. Don’t bet on the dogs;

2. Would it make you feel any better to know that this exact scenario is a MAJOR concern for a whole lot of childless Boomers?

I didn’t think so.

Oops! Here’s a third thought:

3. Are there “professionals?” Sure. There are professionals who will take care of pretty much anything and everything.

For a price; now, that’s not unreasonable, because everyone has to make a living, right? And “professionals” certainly have their roles and can be a huge part of the solution.

For a price.

Now, if we were all fabulously wealthy, we would probably just tell our “people” to go tell their “people” to start drafting 20-30 long-term care plans for us to review, and bring in two elder law attorneys and three accountants for a meeting next Thursday – but most of us aren’t; so, then what?

Here’s the nationally true answer: I don’t know. Nobody knows. That’s why it’s a national worry!

Did that make you feel any better? I didn’t think so. So…What?

So, each of us who is in this position is going to have to start getting creative, and we’re going to have to start by getting out of the “family takes care of family” box, because that’s not terribly helpful when there’s no “family” – if that’s what we can’t do, what can we do?

Wisecracks aside, remember that money helps – a lot. Well, it does. So, if we aren’t saving and/or investing as much as we could for another time, we might want to get serious – now.

Could long-term care insurance help? Maybe, so look into it. I could rattle off some “conventional wisdom-type” observations about LTC, but they may or may not apply to your situation, so go do some homework. If you don’t understand what’s coming at you, give me a holler.

And remember, too, that in the absence of dementia/Alzheimer’s, the reason most folks need “care” is that they can’t do this-or-that for themselves, so the more you move, socialize, think and take care of yourself, the less apt you are to need a lot of “care.” Did that make you feel any better?

This isn’t going very well, is it?

Maybe one reason this isn’t going very well is that we’re trying to “solve problems;” now – Lord knows. That’s my strong suit and I can solve problems with you forever. But maybe we need to backup a bit.

When most of us say, “I want to stay in my own home,” what most of us really mean is that we want life to look – as much as possible – the way it looks right now. I get it – me, too. But maybe we need to think a bit about what’s really important to us about life as it looks right now:

*Is it getting up when we’re darned good-and-ready and eating oatmeal in our jammies in front of a “Leave It to Beaver” rerun?

*Is it the twice-a-week bridge game?

*Is it the garden?

*Is it the dogs? (…well…)

*Is it being left alone to just enjoy a book? And then another? And then…?

*Is it friends? Particular friends?

*Is it volunteering? Church? Yardwork? Karate?

*Is it NOT being a “burden” to anyone else?

*Is it…? You’re getting this, aren’t you? What’s important?

Of course I’m being kinda facetious – kinda. But the truth is, if we stop and really think about it, most of us can figure out rather quickly what’s really important to us, and it isn’t necessarily sitting in this chair in this room. It just feels like it is.

And that’s the difference between a “habit” and a “life.”

Mark Harvey is the director of Senior Information and Assistance for Olympic Area Agency on Aging. He can be reached at harvemb@dshs.wa.gov or 532-0520 in Aberdeen, (360) 942-2177 in Raymond or (360) 642-3634. FACEBOOK: Olympic Area Agency on Aging-Information & Assistance.