Jane M. McNamara, Elder Law Attorney
It is well known that our elderly population is rapidly increasing. The fastest growing segment of the United States population is those over 80 years of age. However, most people over 80 have multiple chronic long-term medical conditions. Their required prescriptions read like a grocery list. Macular degeneration, stroke, dementia, and Parkinson’s disease are only a few of the many conditions common to our aging adults. And statistics show that most of our elderly population require (or will require) assistance with activities of daily living, increased medical care for multiple issues, and regular caregivers on either a full or part time basis.
The caregivers for this fast growing elderly population are typically baby boomers, with many caregivers being the adult children. However, this baby boomer generation is also getting older, with over 10,000 each day turning 65. These boomers are joining the ranks of the elderly, are developing age-related illnesses themselves, and will also need caregivers. AARP has predicted a shortage of caregivers in the years to come, due to the aging of the baby boomer population.
"The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap” was published by AARP. The report offered very startling statistics. The number of people young enough to provide care to the rising elderly population is shrinking, while those needing care is increasing rapidly.
Despite these realities, more than two-thirds of Americans still believe their adult children will meet their needs when long-term care is needed. The facts, however, show a different scenario. Family members will simply not be able to meet the chronic and long-term care needs of their elderly loved ones, or the demands of caregiving. Family members will either be elderly themselves, have their own chronic health issues, have significant personal demands on their time and energy, such as careers for both men and women, living in different states, or dealing with own children. Rather than relying on family members, outside professional care will be needed more than ever, and demand for caregivers and professional care facilities will increase.
Unfortunately, the quantity and quality of California’s typical care facilities need significant improvement. Presently, there are simply not enough quality care facilities. Most care facilities are very expensive to the average senior, requiring the senior to use their life savings on care. As studies show, the demand will increase, and put a strain on an already insufficient supply of caregivers and quality facilities. Resources are already scarce, budgets are being slashed, and medical professionals who specialize in geriatrics are in short supply. Medicare and other insurance does not pay for long-term care, and privately funding the care needed is simply impossible for most families.
Those with aging family members can be prepared by asking some very important questions, such as:
1) What private funds are available to pay for long-term care, either in the home or in a long-term care facility?
2) What type of care can the senior afford when the time comes, and what benefits can the senior qualify for (VA, Medi-Cal, etc.)?
3) Are legal documents such as Durable Power of Attorney, Advance Health Care Directives, and HIPAA authorizations current, and properly prepared?
4) Do those who will be called on to help have the necessary legal power, as well as a copy of the legal documents?
Knowing change is coming is the first step. Getting prepared for this change is the next, and most important step.
Jane M. McNamara is the principal attorney of the McNamara Law Firm, PC located in Valencia, California. The Law Firm handles Elder Law issues, including Medi-Cal for long-term care, VA benefits for seniors, asset protection, and incapacity issues. (661) 287-3260; www.theMcNamaraLawFirm.com.