Friday, June 25, 2010

Eldercare Tip: Medicaid Q-A

Perhaps, like many Boomers, you worry about money. Especially when your aging parent's health begins to fail. Medical bills soar. The bank account drains. You may ask: Will my aging parent's money run out? And if we apply for Medicaid, how can we assure that Mom or Dad won't have to move?

First the question: "Will my aging parent's money run out?" We don't have a crystal ball, nor do we know if your parent will be the rare person who lives to be 105. But some figures may help. An average assisted living community charges roughly $4000 to $5000 a month; approximately $48,000 to $60,000 or more annually. Private pay skilled nursing costs on average $100,000 yearly. Wow!

If you know your parent's net worth, you can estimate a range of how long the money might last, barring some financial catastrophe. Long term care insurance helps the nest egg last longer.

Second: "How do I find assisted living, adult family homes or skilled nursing facilities that accept Medicaid?" Eldercare Locator, a national website sponsored by the United States Administration on Aging, offers a data base and phone line with a trained professional on the other end. Or you can obtain a list of Medicaid certified facilities from your local senior center, hospital or Department of Social and Health Services.

Third: "My parents can pay privately for a few years before needing Medicaid. Can they move into assisted living, and remain there after they run out of money?" It depends on the community. Some assisted living communities accept private funding only. When residents can't pay, they must leave. Other communities require new residents to pay privately for a specified length of time--often a year or two-- before switching to Medicaid. They can then stay. Other communities accept Medicaid funding from day one.

Fourth: "How available are Medicaid openings?" The majority of skilled nursing centers nationwide accept Medicaid and have openings. Availability of Medicaid openings for assisted living and adult family homes varies from state to state. In Washington State, it is easier to find an adult family home accepting Medicaid than an assisted living facility. Early research will help as you seek to find a good place for your aging parent. So will flexibility and an openness to accept a good community that may not be in your back yard.

Can you tell us about your search for a Medicaid-funded community for your aging parent?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Help! I've Lost My Way Searching for a New Place for Mom

Something is not right. Those words from Miss Clavel, the stern schoolmarm in the Madeline children's storybooks, may describe your aging parent. He or she needs eldercare NOW, and you don't know where to turn.

If you're like many Boomers, finding the right home for your aging parent quickly is akin to strolling into the casino at Monte Carlo with a fistful of Euros, hoping to hit the jackpot.

You don't have to go it alone. Free help is available nationwide through a myriad of senior care referral agencies. These organizations help families find the right level of eldercare that will match their parent's needs: home care, retirement or assisted living, adult family homes or nursing facilities. Once the family signs a contract and their loved one moves in or receives services, the provider pays a referral fee.

To find these organizations, look in the phone book or online for "senior care advisors," "eldercare advisors" or "eldercare referral services." Some are affiliated with a national organization, such as A Place for Mom. Others operate in a designated region, such as CHOICE Advisory Services,concentrating in parts of Oregon and Washington. Still others, like A Change is Afoot, focus locally, serving families in Northwestern Washington.

How do these agencies work? Some eldercare advisors work exclusively by phone. For example, suppose your mom is in a nursing home for rehab, needing to move to assisted living. You inquire by email or by phone. The organization hooks you up with a local advisor, who phones to chat about your mom: Her needs? Interests? And what about your specific wishes?

The advisor chooses as many as a handful of communities which might work. Marketing reps from the selected communities contact you to set up appointments. You tour and choose the winner. (It's a bit like The Batchelor!) The goal of the phone technique is to give you several tailored choices so the process becomes easier.

Other eldercare advisors work face to face. After their initial phone visit with the family, the advisor schedules an in-person visit, bringing together as many family members as possible. Once all needs are out on the table, the eldercare advisor will accompany the family to several selected communities, taking time afterwards to ask, "What did you like best?" "Did you notice this?" "How would you compare the strengths of community A with community B?" He or she will not tell you what to do, but will guide you in making an informed choice.

Does this type of service work? As a marketing director at Evergreen Court Retirement and Assisted Living Community in Bellevue, Washington, I've worked with some great eldercare advisors. One helped a woman who had few assets. Since she was most concerned about affordability, he took her to three budget-priced communities. Afterwards he developed a spreadsheet to help her in making the decision. The woman is moving into our community within two weeks. Best of all, she's happy with her choice.

I definitely prefer the in-person approach. With both methods, you'll find many eldercare advisors who shine, while a few lack follow-through. As a whole, though, these professionals provide a helpful service to families.

Before investing your time with a senior care advisory organization, check out their reputation with the Better Business Bureau.

Do you have an experience with a senior housing and care advisor? Tell us about it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

How to Sell Your Parents' Home in Seven Days

By Susan Peters, Guest Blogger

Susan Peters has more than 20 years experience selling real estate in the greater Seattle area. Like many realtors nationwide, she has developed an interest in helping seniors and their families market their home. Here is a true success story.

My clients were recently faced with the challenge of placing their parents in an assisted living facility and selling their home. This is how we did it, step by step, in seven days. (From the time we listed it!)

1. The adult children moved their folks into the assisted living facility before they even talked about selling the house. This is the most important part! Having your house on the market is stressful for anyone, but there is nothing more distressing for elderly sellers than having strangers tromp through their house day in and day out.

2. We set a budget of $15,000 for improvements that would give the best return. This included: paint, refinishing hardwood floors, new sink and counter tops in the kitchen, some new lighting fixtures, and a ton of yard work.

3. After the work was done, I brought in furniture, artwork, and accessories and then staged the living daylights out of it!

4. Instead of using my traditional real estate sign, I had a custom sign made that mimicked my flyer. On Sunday afternoon, over 200 people came through my open house. By Sunday night, we had a full price offer and we closed in 30 days.

The photos above show the biggest improvement: painting out the fireplace. Lightening up the drab green wall color paint helped to wake up the entire room.

If you'd like to sell your parent's home in seven days, give me a call!
The Better it Looks...The Better it Sells!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Eldercare Tip: To Your Aging Parent, the Written Word Has Power

Perhaps you've heard your aging parents say, "Put it in writing." You know they love your voice. But often they want to see your message written across the page.

Seniors' preference for the written word stems from many sources. Our parents' brains processing speed is diminished. So they compensate. To prod their memories, they scribble notes to themselves. To tackle technical information, they revisit words again and again. Those with hearing loss have another reason to prefer the written word. It fills in the gaps left by unheard verbal messages and opens up new horizons!

Seniors share a culture that honors reading and writing. They are among the most devoted readers of daily and weekly newspapers. Over the years, many elders enjoyed Time Magazine, Saturday Evening Post and Readers' Digest condensed books. They wrote love letters, corresponded with friends and penned letters to the editor.

How does this affect your relationship with your parent? If you're discussing new and/or difficult information, it's great to write a synopsis of what you covered. And when it comes to showing your affection, thank-you cards, birthday cards and even handwritten letters pack lots of power.

When my father-in-law was dying of cancer, friends and relatives sent cards and messages of support. And in the aftermath of his death, sympathy cards arrived. I remember many times walking into the house to spot my mother-in-law, her lap filled with an overflowing basket of cards. Reading them brought comfort.

Words. They're powerful. And writing them often helps.

Has the printed word been a tool for your relationship with your aging parent?

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Eldercare Tip: Your Aging Parent Won't Budge? Try Plan B

My friend Terri wrestled with a problem common to Boomers with aging parents. "My parents are accidents waiting to happen."

Indeed. Her dad, a 92-year-old cardiac patient who popped nitro as if it were candy, knew the hospital emergency room personnel by name. To add to his stress, he cared for Terri's mom, who had dementia. Their home had several flights of stairs.

"I brought up the subject of retirement and assisted living facilities, time and time again," she said. But her dad's answer was always: No way, no how.

Are you dealing with aging parents who need care but won't admit the problem? Instead of wringing her hands, Terri wisely came up with Plan B. See if her steps might work for you.

1. Think through the legal issues. Terri was able to convince her parents to execute a durable power of attorney, a legal document that gave one of their children authority to make financial and health care decisions for them, if they became incapable. Her parents also executed advance directives, spelling out their wishes for end-of-life issues. Even the most stubborn parent will usually understand the importance of making these decisions ahead of time. Offer to go to an attorney with them.

2. Research options. Even if your parents won't budge now, that doesn't prevent you from visiting possible retirement or assisted living communities or checking into home care, if you think that would work. Terri did her homework and told her parents about her research "for the future," or "in case you might need care sometime." She invited her parents to come along, too.

3. Avoid power struggles. Don't hammer your point into the ground.
And when you do bring up your concerns periodically, use "I-messages," such as "I'm worried that you're not eating properly" or "Those stairs are so steep; I would feel badly if you fell and hurt yourself." Discuss interim steps such as installing a pendant-type emergency response device or a sit-down shower stall.

4. Implement your plan. Work together with your siblings so everyone is on board. And then sit tight, knowing you've done your best. Later if an emergency arises, or if your parents change their minds, you'll be ready.

Have you developed a "Plan B" you'd like to share?
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