Howard Gleckman’s Caring for Our Parents

October 23, 2009

I’ve been reading Howard Gleckman’s book, Caring for Our Parents, in which he examines the long-term care system of today and the future. Essentially, if we keep on doing things as we are now (expect people to use up their savings to stay at home or in assisted living, have Medicaid pay for nursing home – with a few other public programs thrown in here and there), then the elderly of the next few decades are in for quite a shock.

My conclusions are these:

1. Write a Health Care Proxy and a Medical Directive, or Living Will My version of this is to give clients Your Way, a fantastic workbook that helps you spell out to your family what care you would want in various end of life situations. Long-term care is astonishingly expensive, as you know if you are currently coordinating at-home care or other support for your parents. If you don’t want that kind of money spent on you – if you don’t want certain procedures done or decisions made – tell your family now. During an emotional crisis, it will be very difficult for them to turn down a medical option without you having previously given them that moral permission.

2. Get thee to a financial advisor. The current long-term care system depends in large part on the consumer paying her own way. The Boomers are notorious for not saving money. Work with an advisor to see what kind of cushion you can build up.

3. Get involved in politics at the grass-roots level. As currently structured, the Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and long-term care insurance systems are projected to crash in on themselves. Additionally, Boomers don’t have the numbers of children that their parents do to share the workload. Your parents will be OK – an elder law attorney can help them stretch out their assets to stay at home for as long as possible. But the Boomers will not be OK. The system needs to be overhauled, dramatically. I don’t have answers, but Gleckman outlines the models that some other countries use. I’m sure there are other brilliant policy makers in the US coming up with excellent ideas, as well. But ideas become law only if the Boomers use their sheer numbers to push the system to provide the care they expect. Without big change, the Boomers will be in for quite the surprise in their frail old age.