What Happens if a Family Member Becomes Incapacitated?
The Unpopular Topic of Discussion Every Family Needs to Have
Just bringing up the possibility of someone in your family becoming mentally
or physically incapacitated is often difficult. We tend to think of only
the very elderly needing long-term, hands-on care, but a recent
report by the Alzheimer’s Association found that one in nine Americans
age 65 or older currently have Alzheimer’s. With the baby boom generation
aging and people living longer, that number may nearly triple by 2050.
Dementia isn’t the only reason for long-term care, of course, but
almost everyone knows someone already affected by it.
Waiting too late to plan can throw a family into confusion about what the
Mom or Dad would want, what options are available, and what resources
can help pay for care. Rushed decisions are often the most costly. Having
the courage to discuss the possibility of incapacity now can go a long
way toward being prepared should that time come. By the way, because anyone
can become incapacitated at any time due to illness or accident, the entire
family would benefit from planning for every family member.
Care Options: Depending on the type and expected duration of care needed, options range
from in-home care to adult daycare to assisted living facilities to nursing
homes. Assistance with activities of daily living (ADL), which include
eating, bathing and dressing, are generally not covered by health insurance.
Professional care can be expensive; the national average for basic assisted
living services is now about $42,000 per year. Care for those with dementia
can last longer and cost more. Family caregivers, who provide the bulk
of in-home care, are often unpaid, and the emotional and financial tolls
can be considerable. Your discussions need to realistically consider family
finances and circumstances.
Finances: Where will the money come from to pay these expenses? What resources will
be available? Health insurance does not cover assisted living/nursing
home facilities or help with ADLs. Medicare covers some in-home health
care and a limited number of days of skilled nursing home care, but not
long-term care. Medicaid, which does cover long-term care, was designed
for the indigent; to qualify, the person’s assets must be spent
down to almost nothing. VA benefits for Aid & Attendance may be available
for veterans and their spouses. If there are significant assets, you can
self-insure and pay the costs as you go. Home equity and retirement savings
can also be a source of funds. If you want to protect these assets for
your family, long-term health insurance may be an option. (Premiums are
much lower when you are younger.)
Documents: Everyone over the age of 18 needs basic legal documents. These include
an advance health directive or healthcare power of attorney (legally appointing
another person to make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make
them yourself); a durable financial power of attorney (legally appointing
another person to make financial decisions for you if you cannot make
them yourself); and a trust and/or will.
Having the Discussion: Your parents may be harboring secret fears about what will happen to
them if they need long-term care. Talking about this honestly, listening
to their fears and desires, and putting a plan in place before it is needed
can help reassure them (and you). If you want to talk to your children,
reassure them that you are just being realistic. Starting with a story
about someone you know or an article you read can be a good way to break the ice.
How to Get Help: An attorney who specializes in Elder Law has already helped many families
in these same situations, and will be able to make recommendations that
will save you considerable time, money, and stress. He/she can also work
with other advisors (financial/investment, insurance, CPA, etc.) to help
put together the best plan for your family’s circumstances.
Contact Kelli Y. Allen Elder Law to discuss these concerns and take important
steps toward protecting your family.
Sourced by Eldercounsel