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    Caring for the Caregiver

    Life as a Caregiver

    Figuring Out Finances and Legal Issues continued...

    These are difficult to discuss, especially when the family member is still fairly healthy. "People would rather talk about sex than money," Kelly tells WebMD. "It's very difficult to talk about the financial status of an older person while the person is still cognitively intact. But the earlier you can arrange those legal and financial affairs, the better.

    "One of the most common myths is that Medicare will cover long-term care," she says. "It won't. Medicare is for acute, short-term hospitalization; it doesn't cover long-term care expenses."

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    By planning early, the family can make the best use of the person's assets, says Kelly. "Once the person becomes cognitively impaired, there are fewer options."

    Long-term care insurance is another option -- one that Vivian discovered too late, she says. Such policies pay for a variety of nursing options, including day care, home care, nursing home care. But to qualify for these plans, the person must be in good shape mentally.

    "We looked into it, but unfortunately mother didn't pass the verbal test on the phone," says Vivian. "She couldn't tell them her birth date, even though I was coaching her." While premiums on such policies are "pretty expensive, it would have helped with some of the anxiety about how we were going to deal with financing."

    Caring for the Caregiver

    Vivian cared for her mom a long time at home -- about seven years. She admits that it wasn't easy. She found a part-time caregiver who came in during afternoons, when her mother wasn't in day care.

    "I was very fortunate to find someone who stayed with us the whole time," she tells WebMD. "Mother knew her and felt comfortable with her. I knew I would get a phone call if anything was wrong."

    But in the evenings and on weekends, it was Vivian who looked after her mother. The physical demands of it all -- including constantly having to lift her mother from bed to wheelchair -- were very, very difficult. Vivian was afraid it was going to permanently hurt her back.

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