By Jane Glenn Haas
The Orange County Register
A couple of weeks ago, I said too many seniors are afraid to face death.
Five years after Terri Schiavo’s family battled to let her die by having her feeding tube removed, the “be prepared” lesson has been learned by fewer than 30 percent of the seniors.
The rest do not have a living will stating treatment choices if they become incapacitated. Nor do they have a health-care proxy naming another person to make those decisions if they cannot act for themselves.
Now gerontologist Ken Dychtwald tells me I missed a huge issue that could impact millions of seniors—who is going to pay for any long-term care needs?
Dychtwald’s company, Age Wave, and Harris Interactive conducted a survey for Genworth Financial, the largest of the longterm care insurers.
Here’s part of what they found out:
—57 percent of older adults view retirement as an opportunity for a new exciting chapter in life. Women are more likely than men to have this perspective.
—If they don’t have enough retirement money to feel comfortable, 60 percent hope to work longer.
—As people age, financial peace of mind becomes a huge priority, particularly for women.
—Uninsured medical expenses are the top retirement worry for those 55-plus.
—Only 37 percent of the seniors think they will need some type of long-term care. But 78 percent want to have needed care at home rather than moving to a facility.
—People are more than five times more worried about being a burden on their family than dying.
—92 percent of seniors have not discussed how they will pay for care, what care options they prefer and other care issues with their spouse. 95 percent of parents have not discussed their potential care needs with their children.
We worry and yet we do nothing to relieve our stress.
The obvious solution, Dychtwald says, is to talk to your financial planner about potential longterm care needs. Investigate insurance programs.
“Family dynamics and family economics are often major factors hindering people from making the best possible decisions about the long-term care of a loved one,” Dychtwald says.
“Discussions that include the entire family are imperative to navigating through the potential financial and emotional risks that an unexpected illness can impose. Yet families still avoid talking to each other about how they would potentially manage care.”
His suggestions include identifying preferred option and costs of care, for example nursing home vs. home care. Define the roles and responsibilities of family members who might oversee that care and then discuss possible sources for funding.
Does this sound overwhelming? Genworth has created a Web site dedicated to its “Let’s Talk” campaign. The site offers tips and advice on how to break the ice with family members, plus guidance from experts, helpful do’s and don’ts and advice from people who have “been there.”
See caringtalk.com for help in starting this conversation.
Now, you have three things to do: fill out a living will form; identify a health-care proxy to make decisions for you if you are unable; start a family discussion on how to pay for long-term care for loved ones.
Trust me. You’ll sleep better when they are done.