Have ‘the talk’ about long-term care

Don’t tell my boss, but I have to admit that I have a pretty great job. One of the best parts is that I actually get to bust out of the office and meet with hundreds of people at events across the country. I recently attended a Marine Corps spouse symposium, where I was part of a panel that included an elder law attorney and a health-care expert. The topic: planning for the care of aging parents. This is a broad, complicated and often emotional topic, so I thought you might benefit from a recap.

In a nutshell, the planning discussion boiled down to what you could call the four C’s:

Conversation - Have “the talk,” sooner rather than later. It’s far better to discuss important topics such as care preferences, goals, and financial resources and requirements well in advance of a crisis. Sure, it could be awkward and uncomfortable, but typically less so than when someone needs care and the topic hasn’t been discussed. The payoff will be a clear understanding of what you want to accomplish and who is going to do what.

Capability - The costs associated with custodial or supportive care are significant, to say the least. It doesn’t matter if the care is provided at home, in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home – it all adds up.

According to a 2012 MetLife study, the national average for nursing home care was roughly $90,000 per year, and the average cost for care in an assisted living facility topped $40,000. Making matters worse, this type of care is not typically covered by Medicare, Medicare supplements or health insurance. In light of these points, exploring available savings and investments, long-term-care insurance and veterans benefits like the Aid & Attendance allowance are all part of determining financial capability. But capability doesn’t stop with financial matters. The question also extends to a range of issues, from the ability of family members to provide care to the physical modifications necessary to allow parents to stay in their home. All these issues need to be considered and covered as part of the conversation.

Continuity - This is where the assistance of an elder law attorney could be crucial. Establishing a decision-making framework with medical and financial powers of attorney, final care wishes through a living will and a distribution plan are all part of continuity. An elder law attorney can also help families avoid missteps when it comes to Medicaid.

Care - This is where the rubber meets the road. Who, what, where, when and how will care ultimately be provided? Is relocation necessary? What role will various family members assume? The ultimate goal: plan for the future rather than trying to fix the present, and get everyone on the same page.

Whether you’re on the giving or receiving end of care, you can stave off significant headache and heartache by starting the planning process early.

J.J. Montanaro is a certified financial planner for USAA, The American Legion’s preferred provider of financial services. Submit questions for him online. www.legion.org/focusonfinances

This material is for informational purposes. Consider your own financial circumstances carefully before making a decision and consult with your tax, legal or estate planning professional.USAA means United Services Automobile Association and its insurance, banking, investment and other companies. Banks Member FDIC. Investments provided by USAA Investment Management Company and USAA Financial Advisors Inc., both registered broker dealers. USAA Financial Planning Services® refers to financial planning services and financial advice provided by USAA Financial Planning Services Insurance Agency, Inc. (known as USAA Financial Insurance Agency in California), a registered investment adviser and insurance agency and its wholly owned subsidiary, USAA Financial Advisors, Inc., a registered broker dealer. Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. owns the certification marks CFP® and Certified Financial Planner TM in the United States, which it awards to individuals who successfully complete CFP Board's initial and ongoing certification requirements.