Thursday February 8, 2001
In her recent article "Few Families Make Plans for Care" (Seattle Times, 2/6/01), AP reporter Lisa Lipman profiles a family's struggle with finding and financing care for a parent with Alzheimer's disease. One of the adult children involved told Lipman, "Our parents were always healthy. It seemed like a few weeks earlier, they were doing great—and then we were at this point where we thought, 'How did this happen so quickly?'"
Lipman reports that a recent AARP survey of seniors 65 and older with children 35 or older revealed that 67 percent had not talked with their children about their likely future needs.
According to Suzanne Mintz, president of the National Family Caregivers Association, "We don't look at death as a natural part of life.... We fear it, so we don't want to go there. I think that's one of the primary reasons that people don't talk about end of life issues with their parents. Some don't even want to talk about it with their spouse."
According to the article, Mintz's own family had intended to plan for her ailing father's care when he had a medical emergency requiring institutionalization. "'Instead of being a proactive meeting,' said Mintz, 'it became "Wow, we have to find a nursing home this weekend." You never know when that major problem is going to occur, and it pays to put in order what you can, as soon as you can.'"
In addition to recommending a geriatric assessment and end-of-life care plan, Lipman's article
quotes AARP's manager of long-term care and independent living, Elinor Ginzler, recommending long-term care insurance. The article states incorrectly, however, that LTCI is only for wealthy people. LTCI is eminently affordable for most Americans if they plan early and consider all possible funding streams. (See the Center for LTC Financing's report titled, "The Myth of Unaffordability: How Most Americans Should, Could, and Would Buy Private Long-Term Care Insurance" in .pdf format at http://www.centerltc.org/pubs/Myth%20Report.pdf.) Even AARP's Ginzler advises "you're best off if you purchase [LTCI] way, way, way ahead of when you need it because...premiums increase with age."
Reporter Lipman's article concludes with a quote from Dr. Muriel Gillick, physician-in-chief at Hebrew Rehabilitation Center in Boston: "Children trying to protect parents have a hard time bringing up frightening things, but it's something that needs to be done." On this theme, Center for LTC Financing President Stephen Moses tells audiences, "Talking to your parents about long-term care is every bit as important as talking with your children about sex. The consequences of silence can be just as great."
As an aside, we note the irony that Lipman's article appeared in the same day's newspaper with two opinion pieces lambasting Washington Governor Gary Locke's proposed state budget plan to cut adult day-health care funding by 50 percent. Both opinion pieces ("Proposed Cuts Would Cripple State's Adult-Care System" and "Help Ensure Our Elders a Life of Safety and Dignity"), authored by the executive director of the Washington Adult Day Services Association and the Archbishop of the Seattle Archdiocese respectively, argue that more public funding is necessary to shore up Washington's struggling long-term care infrastructure. Neither contains a single mention of the role private financing can play to relieve the budget pressures to which Governor Locke is responding.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record: If more people would plan ahead for the risk of long-term care by saving, investing, and insuring, our public programs could well provide high-quality care at the most appropriate level to the truly needy. Planning ahead not only helps protect you and your family, but promotes a healthy long-term care system for everyone.
Lisa Lipman, "Few Families Make Plans for Care"; Sara Myers, "Proposed Cuts Would Cripple State's Adult-Care System" and Alexander Brunett, "Help Ensure Our Elders a Life of Safety and Dignity," Seattle Times, February 6, 2000, www.seattletimes.com.
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