Money in the Middle

Sandwich Generation Talking About Money Up, Down and Across Generations

Long-term care crisis looming-time to talk

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5 Generations

If we needed long-term care tomorrow, most of us are not financially prepared. 

If our parents needed long-term care tomorrow, most of us have no idea what financial resources they have or their expectations and desires for where to live, who will care for them.

Statistically, 72% of Americans will need some level of care later in life. 

The crisis in long-term care is coming.  For many of us, it is already here.  So what do we do about it? 

I attended a session on Women and Aging 2010:  America’s Emerging Crisis last week in Washington sponsored by the Volunteers of America.  They have a robust senior housing program including a program that helps those who want to stay in their home or community (Aging with Options program at Volunteers of America). 

Good research, good discussion by a good panel – but no answer to the question of how do we even begin to have the family conversation about long-term care and finances.  Parents – especially the GI Generation _ don’t want to talk about money.  Baby boomers are generally in denial that they will ever need care.

Everyone agreed we need to have family discussions about this topic.  But, no one had an answer on how to have that conversation before crisis mandates it. and that, of course, is the worse time to try to make any decisions about money or long-term care.

Michelle Singletary, a finance columnist from the Washington Post (her column on the panel)  recommended starting the conversation with children now – hopefully once you need care, they’ll know what you have and what you want.  She also joked that her long-term care plan is that she has 3 daughters (and long-tem care insurance.)

But what do you do if you are caring for a parent now?  As a friend said to me today after her 92-year old mother went to the hospital with a hip fracture – “If I just knew what to plan for now –how long, what resources, what’s next. ”  But as those of us who have found ourselves in caregiving mode, planning need to happen a long time ago.  We just bump from crisis to crisis now – juggling life and catching our breath when we can.

This is a particularly important topic for women because we live longer and generally have lower incomes to support ourselves as we age.  The Volunteers of America survey said that among women caregivers, almost half (48%) say the recent economic downturn has made it harder for them to care for older loved ones.

And this is a middle class problem. As panel members noted — lots of money and you can pay for care, no money and you’ll qualify for government programs.  But a pension, Social Security and some savings and you’ll be figuring out how to pay for this care on your own.

 It’s not just the conversations at home – it’s flexibility in the workplace.  Almost half of the women surveyed (ages 45-65) expect to be called on to provide care to an older family member at some point in the future.  Yet elder-care doesn’t get the same flexibility in the workplace.  And the nature of eldercare giving is different – lots of doctor’s appointments and crisis events.

Volunteers of America says this is the beginning of a year-long discussion about women and aging.  That’s a good thing.  Because we’ve got a lot to talk about – and hopefully it can begin at home with a conversation today – or around Father’s Day if you need an event – to begin to talk about long-term care before the crisis hits.  It’s not just about money (though it’s an important part of the conversation)  it’s gaining the emotional intelligence so when the time comes you feel like you are on the preferred path.

 Michelle Singletary begins her column:  “The time has come.” 

Yes, it has.

America’s Caregiving and Aging Challenges, Volunteers of America research

video of Women and Aging panel discussion

Aging with Options program

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Written by Laura Rossman

May 18, 2010 at 7:08 pm

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