The issues associated with long-term care are not as far off as we might like to think. Indeed many of us have already had to confront these issues as they relate to our parents or other loved ones. And inevitably we will need to face them for ourselves. Fortunately, Arlene Saks-Martin, a local geriatric care manager, has some guidance for all of us.
First of all,� she says, �don�t delay in making decisions about your long-term care wishes.� You need to determine where you would ideally like to receive care, at home or in a facility, what type of facility you would prefer, and under what circumstances you would want to enter a facility. And, you need to make these decisions known to your family. �One of the most important things to people of all ages is their right to choose. In order to have that opportunity, it is important to make these major decisions before it is too late.� It can become a terrible burden on family members if they have to make these decisions for you without any guidance.
In order to make the best choices in terms of long-term care, you need to get educated. There are a lot of misperceptions out there about what is available. According to Ms. Saks-Martin, many older people say, �I�m not ready to move into a retirement community. I�m not old enough and I don�t want to be around all those old people.� It is important to understand that there is a wide variety of facilities to meet the varying needs of older people today, from independent living to nursing home care. �People can still come and go as they please, if they are able. They are just adding safety, security, and supervision, if needed.�
In fact, there are many more choices among long-term care facilities for people who are still active and healthy. In what is known as a continuing care community, people will find all three levels of care: independent, assisted and nursing. Charlestown in Catonsville, Maryland is a well-known example. These facilities will have very active retirement communities, but will also be able to provide increasing care if needed. �If you wait until you become infirmed and disabled to select a facility, you may not have the same opportunities.�
So how do you determine the best options available to you? There are a number of resources to help you. Retirement Living Magazine provides a guide to the facilities in our area and lists other resources that may be necessary, such as elder care attorneys and geriatric care managers. It also provides pertinent articles to people facing these decisions. In addition, the Maryland Department of Aging can provide you with a list of licensed continuing care communities and assisted living facilities. Finally, you may want to hire a geriatric care manager. A care manager will conduct an initial assessment for a flat fee. Then he or she will work on an hourly basis, using their extensive knowledge of the facilities and resources in the area to help you find the best match for your needs. That may mean coordinating in-home care services or finding an appropriate facility. You can get a list of care managers in your area by going to the Mid-Atlantic Geriatric Care Managers website.
A large consideration in making any of these decisions will be cost. There is a wide variation in the costs of facilities and care services, some of it quite expensive. If you want to ensure flexibility when it comes to choosing a facility or care option, you may want to consider long-term care insurance. At BWFA, we always include long-term care analysis as part of a comprehensive retirement plan. This allows us to determine if long-term care insurance is appropriate for you.
Making decisions related to long-term care can be difficult. �However,� Ms. Saks-Martin says, �starting early can ease this process and help ensure that you have the most choices available to you.� When it�s time to get started; make sure you turn to the many resources that are out there, especially geriatric care managers. Their expertise can help ensure the best match for your needs.
Long-Term Care Resources
Mid-Atlantic Geriatric Care Managers � www.gcmonline.org
Maryland Department of Aging � (410) 767-1100
Retirement Living Magazine � (800) 394-9990