A challenge for the sandwich generation: Placing a parent in long-term care

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Dr. Janet Seabrook

By Dr. Janet Seabrook, Gary Crusader

They have started families and are raising their children while also caring for their aging parents. They’re the Sandwich Generation – “sandwiched” into a lifestyle where two groups of loved ones are depending on them, and let’s not forget the need for self-care in order to maintain a healthy life balance. One of the greatest challenges of being a part of the Sandwich Generation is when a parent(s) requires placement in long-term care.

The process of securing long-term care for a loved one can be complicated and, at times, frustrating. The plot thickens when determining what facilities will accept mom or dad based on their healthcare coverage. Recently, a close colleague shared the difficulties he encountered as he explored options for placing his father, who has been battling multiple sclerosis for years, in a long-term care facility. Here’s an excerpt of what he shared:

“What I know for sure, is that without proper planning and counseling, securing long-term care for a parent can be a daunting task to complete. On one hand, you need to be below the poverty level in order to qualify for Medicaid. The problem arises when your income exceeds these limits but is not high enough to cover the cost of $7K – $9K per month at many quality long-term healthcare facilities.

Another concern with Medicaid we encountered is the requirement to relinquish my father’s income to the government to cover medical costs. If the decision is made to turn over his funds, then where does that leave his wife, who is also on a fixed income? How does this impact full coverage of the household expenses?”

Fortunately, my colleague was able to retain a lawyer who secured all of the necessary power of attorney documents to allocate the patient’s income to his wife. This ensures coverage of the household expenses while her husband transitions into long-term care.

This circumstance sheds light on the obstacles that so many people face as they advocate for quality healthcare for loved ones. My colleague also mentioned the challenges he faced identifying a facility that would accept his father in a “Medicaid pending” status. Many long-term care organizations will either not admit clients until funding is finalized or only have a limited amount of “Medicaid pending” beds available.

I penned this column to spread awareness and encourage those who are caring for senior-aged parents to begin making plans for their long-term care. Here are a few initial tips:

  1. Have a conversation with your parents about their medical and life insurance coverage including all existing policies, medication, outstanding debt, etc.
  2. Remain updated on the information above by staying in contact with your parents’ healthcare providers, physicians, insurance agents, etc. in case the status of their coverage or medical condition changes.
  3. Consult with a lawyer regarding any power of attorney designations that may be required in the event that your parent is no longer able to make decisions for him/-herself.

While every situation may be different and sometimes emotionally draining, there are always actions you can take to be better prepared. Our parents took care of us, so it’s only right that we take care of them!

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