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50+: Live Better, Longer

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Stuck in the Middle with You

The new rules of the "sandwich generation" can mean making decisions for your aging parents and meeting new demands on your time.

Planning Ahead continued...

There are several separate documents that will make it much easier for you to act on your aging parents’ behalf when taking care of them:

  • A durable power of attorney, authorizing someone to sign checks, pay bills and make financial decisions on their behalf.
  • A durable power of attorney for health care, authorizing someone to make medical decisions.
  • A living will.

The National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization offers free advanced care and financial planning resources online at http://www.caringinfo.org.

It’s not an easy thing to bring up, admits Carol Bradley Bursack, author of Minding Our Elders: Caregivers Share Their Personal Stories. “It can sound like you’re waiting for them to die. But you can try leading into it by talking about yourself: ‘You know, I’m only 35, but I could be in a car accident or something. I’m going to fill out a living will.’”

Another important issue to explore with your aging parents, before there’s a need: long-term care insurance. According to the AARP, about 12 million elderly people will need long-term care by 2020, but only about 30% of people over 45 have long-term care insurance.

Less than a quarter of people surveyed came within a reasonable estimate of the annual cost of assisted living; they were even more off base when it came to the costs of nursing homes. The average monthly cost of long-term care for older people with chronic conditions and disabilities is about $3000 (as of summer 2007). A good place to start when looking into long-term care insurance is on the Medicare web site: http://www.medicare.gov/LongTermCare/Static/LTCInsurance.asp?dest=NAV%7CPaying%7CPrivateInsurance.

A Place for Mom or Dad

Make sure that when you talk over the future with your parents, you include a frank, open discussion of future living arrangements. One of the biggest conundrums for sandwich generation adults caring for aging parents is the question of where parents should live. In their own homes? With their children? In an assisted living facility or nursing home? Each choice comes with costs  -- emotional and financial -- and trade-offs.

Ideally, most seniors would like to stay in their own homes as long as they can. How do you know if that’s realistic? “Make an objective evaluation of what the parent can do for herself and what she needs help with,” says Abaya. “She needs to be able to bathe, get dressed, cook, go shopping -- all the normal activities of daily living. Identify the areas where help is needed, and then assess what resources you can bring into the home to help her stay there.”

Those resources can include other family members, neighbors, friends, church and community organizations, and in-home aides. The Eldercare Locator (http://www.eldercare.gov), a service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, can help you find caregivers in your area.

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