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Planning for elder care

Get family alignment with expert advice

When it comes to planning for elder care, financial considerations are only part of the picture. The journey to planning for a seamless retirement that may include health issues can be fraught with emotions.

In this two-part blog series, Newport connected with our network of experts and some of our clients to understand the complex issues that need to be considered when making elder care choices. Their sage advice can help you today as you plan for a loved one’s care – and may even give you food for thought to plan for your own future.

In part one, we considered the care options available for seniors and the questions you should be asking to assess what’s right for your family members. We also pointed out how a simple tax planning initiative can be set up that allows expenses to be tax deductible to the adult child providing money for elder care support.

In part two, we focus on the supports you need – including all-important family alignment and expert opinions – to ensure that the road ahead is smooth.

Plan Ahead, Where Possible

If you’re considering seniors’ care options for a parent, Newport Managing Director Peter Churchill-Smith recommends having those discussions early with all family members who may be involved in the decision-making process. Talk about retirement care and living preferences as your parents age: How do mom and dad want to live? What are the care expectations based on their current lifestyle? What are their wishes with respect to community living versus stay-at-home options? Are they realistic?

“Those conversations can be difficult, but they need to happen sooner than later, with the elder’s wishes documented so there’s no confusion when the time comes to enact their care plans,” Churchill-Smith says. “Ideally, adult children in their 50s or 60s should be involved in the financial planning process so they can understand the situation and rest easy knowing their parents can have a comfortable retirement and pay for senior living.”

And although you may be in the prime of life, with retirement and downsized living seemingly decades away, it’s wise to have those same conversations with your immediate family. Think ahead to your own time of care, and confirm your family understands your wishes. It will not only provide clear guidance to those closest to you; it will also ensure that you and your partner are aligned in the desired outcomes for both of you.

Get Help to Get Family Member Buy-In

There are the desired outcomes, and then there are the realities of your aging loved one’s situation. While independent living may be the goal, health issues may make that reality more difficult to achieve. Agreeing on the best care options for elder family members will likely involve input from the entire family and, most importantly, should always reflect the elder’s wishes.

The first question: can mom and dad still live on their own? Or do they require assisted or full-time care?

Families often need help making that assessment—a conversation that requires both honesty and sensitivity. Unfortunately, many leave the discussion too late and feel guilty they didn’t act sooner.

As Sue Lankford, Leasing and Sales Manager of Villagia in the Glebe, recalled:

“One man visited our home on behalf of his father, but his siblings—who were both living in the U.S.—felt their dad wasn’t ready for retirement living and decided that he shouldn’t be here. That made it far more difficult for the brother who lived in Canada, because he had to continue providing support for their parent while working and raising his own family. We were able to be the honest broker in the situation to help provide an objective assessment.”

Lankford helps families assess the need by asking first: What is precipitating the move? What changes have you seen in mom or dad that is prompting this? “Often, families will come in thinking independent living is the best option but by the time a decision is made things have progressed and it is clear that memory care is a better, safer option. It’s a collaboration to find the right combination of care and often helps to get buy-in of all family members.”

(We looked at some of the many options available for retirement living in our first blog post. To better understand the different seniors’ housing options available, click here for an overview.)

Get Help from Experts

Getting help from objective experts who act in your best interest can ease the process greatly and help to align all family members because it takes the pressure off any one individual.

Dr. Kim Panovka, Medical Director and Co-Founder of My Healthcare Concierge, a health care navigation service for the elderly and people with mental health issues, says having an independent medical expert can help mitigate tensions when the elderly person is resisting additional help. “I’ll offer to meet and explain that the whole idea of bringing in care is to help them maintain their independence for as long as possible – not to take it away. It could be something minor like using a walker: 99% of people don’t want to use one, but once they do, they realize it increases their mobility.”

She cautions that sometimes these conversations can take a great deal of time, often taking six months or a year before they accept the help. “You can’t push it,” Panovka adds. “And even though the whole idea is to be preventative, unfortunately sometimes it takes a fall before the situation is resolved to the elder’s benefit.”

In cases when a move is being made in response to a crisis, it can be helpful to have a guide. Companies like Panovka’s know the staff and reputations of various residences and can help guide families. Services are paid by the client so you can be certain the advice you are getting is in your best interest.

There are also referral services that will help with a search but often they are paid a referral fee by the retirement home – make sure you ask how they are compensated and if the fees are aligned with your interests.

One client recalled a period of a few years when his mother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s, could no longer be kept at home. “We chose an assisted living facility instead of memory care and we brought in our own private 24/7 care through Dr. Panokva’s team while my father remained in the family home. He would spend each day with my mother and felt more comfortable visiting an assisted living home. Having the expertise to help us navigate the retirement residence options and hire good help for both my parents was a godsend.”

Making Informed, Not Emotional, Decisions

It’s not only an emotional time for your elders – it’s an emotional time for you too. Seeing family members in poor health, at a crisis crossroads, or just overwhelmed by the options – and costs – that elder care entail is difficult for the entire family.

Whether you’re considering care options for yourself or someone else, start those discussions early and be direct with family members. And be sure to bring in expert advice to help everyone stay focused on the best possible outcome.

If there’s one thought we would leave you with, it’s that planning ahead and being prepared may be the most critical step you can take to ensure a safe haven for your parents, and a secure future for yourself. By thinking about your own future care needs now – and the financial modelling needed to build wealth for the retirement lifestyle and care you want tomorrow – you’ll have benefited from the lessons learned through your parents’ journey.