I’m Rachel and I care for my grandma, Barbara. I’ve been doing it for three years now.
The first thing I want to tell you is it’s not the government’s job to take care of you when you get old or have a disability.
A lot of people live with the misconception that the government takes care of people when they get older. The fact is, the responsibility lies solely on us to make sure our loved ones receive the best care in their golden years in accordance with their wishes. If you are not prepared, you will not know what is available to you when the time comes for you to care for an aging relative or someone with a disability.
The good news is, with a little research and planning, you can have conversations now that will help everyone in your family have a direction for a good life, even when someone needs help.
The second thing I want to tell you is the current LTC system is not and will never be able to take care of everyone who needs help.
Silver tsunami. Baby boom. No matter what you want to call it, our country is facing a demographic nightmare.
With all of these people getting older and eventually needing help themselves, there is a shrinking pool of human bodies to fill the gap. Nursing facilities and home care agencies all face the same issue. Finding people to care.
Older Americans use Medicare for their health coverage. Medicare covers a lot of ancillary services, and even home health after a hospitalization, but it does not cover long term care. With terrifying news reports claiming Medicare will run out within the near future, we have to be aware of how we are going to help our aging relatives be healthy and safe. Shrinking budgets means less funding, and you know as well as I do that social services are normally first to be cut.
The fact remains that for many government paid services, you have to be eligible for Medicaid, which means you are living in poverty. Most middle class people simply do not qualify for these kinds of supports. They have to leverage private insurance and their own assets to pay for care.
The majority of older Americans want to live at home. We cannot (and should not) just dump our loved ones in nursing homes. We owe it to our elders to honor their wishes. So we have to figure out how we can support them as their needs change.
As millennials, and the ones who will be soon caring for our parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles, and friends, we have a responsibility to learn about the current status of formal and paid long term services and supports. We have a responsibility to educate ourselves on the policies and practices around aging and family caregiving in America today, so we can make our voices heard for change.
We have to learn about what’s available to everyone in the community that we can build on. We have to explore how innovations in technology and basic tools we use everyday can help keep our loved ones safe and happy at home.
Most importantly, we have to think differently about what long term supports really means. Aside from community and governmental services and supports, we ARE the long term care system in this country. We will be the ones making sure our folks are healthy, safe, and happy. It is OUR JOB.
We need to start having these conversations now! If you wait until your loved one needs help or you’re in the throes of caregiving, it’s too late.
Don’t live under a rock.
LeadingAge.org is currently leading a campaign to raise awareness around long term supports and services. Learn more at http://www.leadingage.org/carrytheconvo