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Value of Care

Research the amount of care your loved one will receive with regard to the expense involved. You should reach a balance between your loved one’s current cost of living and the cost involved in his or her enhanced level of care received. Put these costs in perspective. Consider the types of services or items that may be included with the cost of an assisted living. Services such as laundry, housekeeping, and provided meals may end up providing a cost savings.

Making the Move

Moving into an assisted living community is a significant life transition. Ideally the move is planned over a period of time. Unfortunately sometimes this transition occurs suddenly due to a change in condition of a parent or significant other. Prompted by a recent inpatient stay at a hospital or skilled nursing facility, families often scramble to choose a new home with little time to prepare.

There may be a sense of losing independence. An elderly person may feel that they are now at the mercy of others to care for them. However, it is important to understand that accepting care when needed can actually prolong and improve independence and health outcomes.

Anticipating the Future

Uncertainty about the future is common among the elderly, especially during times of transition. The transition into an assisted living community can feel overwhelming. Worry, anxiety, fear, and helplessness are some emotions that the elderly person might feel.

While it is natural to have these feelings, there are some actions that can be taken by caregivers and family to ease their loved one's mind.

Give hope by focusing on the abilities that a loved one still has instead of the loss of certain functions. Set some goals to accomplish. Plan an outing or a special activity together at the community. Anticipating a future event or activity gives the elderly person something to look forward to.

Discussions with Mom and Dad

The birds and the bees were bad enough but what about the discussion concerning aging and end of life? Discussions with mom and dad about aging and how they feel about its associated care can be uncomfortable for both parties.

These discussions may be emotionally charged or slow and scary. If everyone thought of aging and end of life in a positive manner, perhaps these discussions wouldn't be so daunting. But the fact is, they usually ARE daunting.

Often, there is a role reversal taking place. Adult children used to turn to their parents for support and comfort, but now the course may be shifting. Parents may become more debilitated or confused and may not be as socially involved. They therefore may be relying more upon their children to fill their needs.

Discussions in Advance

Aging parents may feel the need to protect their children from the reality of physical or cognitive decline. Sometimes however, the children are confronted with the reality when prompted by an event such as a sudden health decline, fall, or financial change.

What then may then happen is decisions made in crisis mode with no time to plan. There may be little time to honor parents’ needs and desires in a circumstance when a quick solution is needed. There may be more pressure to act and options for care may be limited.

With these possible circumstances in mind, parents and their adult children may reduce the potential for last minute decisions, by having these important discussions well in advance.

Covering Care in Assisted Living

You may be surprised to find out that Medicare does not cover assisted living services for your loved one. The premise of assisted care is that a person can receive help with non-medical needs such as medication reminders, assistance with dressing or bathing, eating, mobility, and even housekeeping.

One would assume that since these basic needs are essential for the care and safety of their loved one, that they would be covered. This is not the case. Care and safety related services, sometimes referred to as “custodial” services, are considered non-medical/non-skilled care in the eyes of Medicare.

In the assisted living setting, room, board, and custodial services are paid privately by the resident. This means out-of-pocket expense for the resident or family members. Since the price tag on these services may be cost-prohibitive for some, there are a few different programs a person can use to help fund this care.

Veteran related assistance, long-term care insurance, and state-funded assistance may provide supplemental funds. These types of assistance all come with their own requirements and should be planned for in advance of actually needing them.

Medicare Coverage

Now that you have become involved in assisting with your parent's care, you are trying to figure out how their health insurance works. Your parent has Medicare. In your mom's wallet you find her red, white, and blue card. You don't know how it works but you know it seems to cover her well.

Most of us who have used insurance are used to commercial health insurance through our employer. Medicare coverage has different parts. Part A covers inpatient care such as hospital stays, rehab facilities, and some home care services.

Part B covers outpatient care such as testing and physician office visits. Part D covers prescriptions. What about C? Part C is Medicare Advantage or Medicare Replacement plan. It provides the same services as Parts A, B, and D under an umbrella plan.

End of Life Planning

Seniors are living longer and sometimes even healthier lives. Some of this is due to changes and trends in lifestyle. Some of this longevity is due to medicines and medical technology. Living longer should be a good thing, right?

Prolonged life comes with its own challenges. Living longer increases the need for end-of-life planning. This includes financial planning, management of one's own body with its normal deterioration, social changes, and navigating family dynamics, to name a few examples.

How does one identify the pros and cons of longevity versus quality of life? How does a senior begin the process of identifying and communicating his or her wishes regarding these issues? There is a big push in the medical setting to encourage people at any age to consider advance directives. What are advance directives and how can they help?

Advance Directives

Advance Directives can give a senior the voice to know feelings and wishes about end of life care are communicated and honored. These documents can assist in ensuring that medical decisions are in line with the senior's wishes.

This reduces the chance for being given too many treatments or perhaps not enough. It also reduces the potential for stressful decision making in time of crisis for seniors, their families, and caregivers.

Each state has its own rules and regulations about needed documents. When a senior moves to another state it is important to review these documents in the context of their new home.

It would be equally important for a senior to review their documents from time to time, due to changing feelings about one's circumstances and lifestyle.