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Senior Health: How to Educate Yourself about Your Loved One’s Health

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When you were growing up, your parents were the ones who provided the secure and loving home. Those walls felt like a fortress where you would always feel safe. Didn’t it seem like they always seemed to know what to do?

Now you find yourself in a reversed role. You’re the one tasked with finding a secure home for your aging parents. The task can seem insurmountable.

Follow these steps to finding the type of care that’s right for your aging parents. With a little digging, you can return the favor and find them a place where they can feel comfortable and secure too.

Evaluate Current Physical Needs

It’s important to know what your aging parents’ current physical needs are and what are they capable of doing on their own. Sometimes caregivers will create an inventory of personal needs divided into two categories called Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL).

ADL is a health care term referring to all self-care tasks a person can successfully do by themselves. ADLs are all those tasks we take for granted as adults, to get up in the morning and greet the day. Examples of ADL’s include:

  • Self-feeding (using silverware, cups or glasses)
  • Functional mobility (getting in and out of bed by themselves)
  • Dressing
  • Personal hygiene (includes brushing teeth or shaving)
  • Bathing or showering
  • Bathroom hygiene (includes getting to and using the toilet)

IADLs are activities which allow for independent living within a community. These tasks can be considered the routine chores grown adults perform every day such as grocery shopping or driving a car. Other examples of IADLs include:

  • Managing money and paying bills
  • Cleaning and maintaining your own home
  • Cooking Meals
  • Taking prescribed medications correctly

Consider Existing Finances and Available Entitlements

The next step is to evaluate your parent’s current finances. What level of care can they afford? Get a clear picture of what your loved ones can afford, knowing these expenses could continue well into the future.

The good news is there are also existing entitlement benefits which can help you cover some of the expenses associated with caring for aging parents. The Medicare Health Insurance program is managed by the US government to provide health care to US seniors aged 65 and over. The US Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), reports there are currently over 55 million Americans enrolled in the Medicare system.

Medicare can help pay for health care costs such as home health care services and nursing facility expenses. Some enrollees choose to sign up for Medicare supplemental plans (also called “Gap” plans) to help pay for long-term care assistance. These supplemental plans can be purchased through private insurance companies.

For example, Medicare Supplement Plans K, L, and M all have a similar structure when it comes to paying for nursing facility or hospice care expenses. Medicare Plan K will pay 50% of nursing facility and hospice care costs while Medicare Plan L will cover 70% of these like expenses. Medicare Plan M will cover 20% of these same expenses.

Research Existing Government Agencies and Supportive Resources

Many state, federal, and local government agencies can help answer your questions on caring for elderly parents. Areas Agencies on Aging (AAAs) for example, is a network of over 600 nationwide organizations serving elderly citizens within their local jurisdictions. Area Agencies on Aging provide resource and referral information on the following elderly services:

  • Home delivered meals
  • Nutrition counseling
  • Long-term care facilities
  • In-home care support
  • Caregiver Support
  • Medicare and other health insurance counseling

The US government’s Benefits.gov website is also an easy online resource for caring for seniors. Benefits.gov is a one-stop information source on all eligible senior’s benefits across multiple federal agencies. Check out their site to find out more about the benefits your aging parents may be eligible for.

Living Arrangements for Aging Parents

Now that you’ve evaluated your parent’s physical capabilities and existing funding sources, you’re ready to consider the many senior living arrangements out there. Each scenario has their own unique attributes which can help with caring for the elderly no matter what stage of life they’re at.

Below are some of the most common types of living arrangements available for aging parents.

Aging at Home

Independent living is a popular method for caring for seniors. This arrangement allows seniors to stay independent and in their homes as long as possible. Their house may need certain age-in-place alterations to their home as well as a network of visiting family or professional caregivers providing some home support.

Independent Senior Living Communities

Independent senior living communities allows seniors to buy or rent apartments, condominiums, or single-family homes in senior-friendly surroundings. Residents have access to nearby clubhouses and gyms and can enjoy other conveniences like onsite housekeeping and security services. This housing option also offers companionship through centralized social opportunities.

Assisted Living Housing

Assisted living housing is another option for caring for the elderly. This housing option rents rooms or apartment to seniors and provides onsite, personal care for meals, bathing, or dressing. Assisted living housing also offers other benefits such as community laundry facilities, housekeeping, or organized social activities.

Nursing Homes

Nursing homes are private institutions that provide housing with around-the-clock nursing care from health care professionals. Nursing homes are an effective model for caring for aging parents who don’t have chronic ailments or need rehabilitative care.

You can also read more here for guidance on how to choose a senior care home for your aging parents.

Next Steps

Now that you know the steps, it’s time to plan for the best type of care for your aging parents. Do an objective analysis of their ADL’s and IADL’s. Your read on how well they can perform these tasks will dictate which living arrangement will work best for them.

Contact your nearest Agency on Aging and schedule an appointment to gather information on programs your aging parents may be eligible for. These counselors may also be able to tell you if funding is available to help offset these costs.

Don’t forget to check our blog for more helpful advice on retirement and other insurance plans seniors need. Your parents were there to help take care of you. Now it’s your turn to help take care of them.

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