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Health Care Tips for Children of Aging Parents

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Being prepared for a crisis as your parents get older is essential, but the conversations are tough, and it’s hard to know where to start. In the end, taking these steps to prepare now will make life easier. This article is part of a three-part series on Tips for Children of Aging Parents.

Tip 1Know your parents’ health care providers and preferences. Initially gaining this information is easier if you have the conversations before your parents begin to experience mental or physical impairments. In fact, it would benefit all of the family to have a family health history and list of medications that parents take. Talk to your parents about contingency plans for adapting to aging-induced changes.

Do your parents want to stay at home, if possible, if their health care needs increase, or do they want to go to a facility? Most people want to stay at home and age in place.  However, a few do want to go to a facility, because they have friends there and/or they do not want to be a burden on their children. Even if your parents want to stay at home, options should be discussed in the event that they cannot age in place, e.g., it is unsafe for them to do so. Do your parents have a preference of a facility? Set up tours of local facilities when your parents are well. Eat there, visit at different times of the day or on the weekend, and talk to the residents, the staff and the visitors.

Is your parent’s spouse or significant other going to assist in care? Ask. Don’t assume you know what the answer is. Ask again at a subsequent discussion. The answer may change. Having a caregiving spouse or significant other can affect the health and happiness of the spouse both positively and negatively.

What are your parents’ caregiver agency or lay caregiver preferences? Typically, parents have heard about friends’ experiences and have formed an opinion.  Advantages to a non-family caregiver are that the child does not have to take a leave of absence from the child’s job and/or the spouse doesn’t overextend and get hurt.  Caregiver stress is also a very real phenomenon.

Tip 2Be aware of current benefits, numbers and contact information.  Does either or do both of your parents receive a retirement pension? Would that pension payment continue to the survivor in any percentage upon the death of the recipient? Are your parents’ Medicare supplemental insurance premiums paid out of that pension? Does coverage for the survivor exist, and at what cost, if any?

Do your parents have a Medicare supplement and with which company? Is the cost covered by a pension, auto-debited monthly or quarterly or billed through the mail?  What are the out-of-pocket expenses that need to be paid?

Are your parents receiving a Veterans benefit? Is it a survivor’s pension, a disability pension, aid and attendance or housebound benefits? Where is the original discharge paper (DD 214)? If appropriate standards are met (low income and modest net worth), the Veteran or the widowed spouse can receive a monthly amount to cover home care or personal care home care. Learn more about veteran’s benefits.

Do your parents have long-term care insurance? Where are the policies? Is the coverage for nursing home, personal care home, home care or some combination thereof?

With your parents’ permission, take a picture of their Medicare (or Tricare) cards, Medicare supplement cards, Medicare Part D cards, driver’s license, and DD 214.  Make a list of your parents’ prescription drugs, and keep it in your cell phone and update as needed. Also, have the contact information for their primary care physician and pharmacy in your cell phone.

Tammy A. Weber is a Certified Elder Law Attorney and the Managing Attorney of the law firm of Marshall, Parker & Weber, which has offices in Williamsport, Wilkes-Barre, Jersey Shore and Scranton. For more information, visit www.paelderlaw.com/10-tips-children-aging-parents/ or call 1-800-401-4552.