As we age, certain conversations start to take place. Sometimes we initiate them, sometimes they’re initiated by our loved ones, and sometimes we simply can’t escape them as the folks around us get caught up in them. One of the most prominent is the growing realization that long-term care is an increasingly common part of aging.
In the past, many of us have had older loved ones live with our families. As life expectancies are growing longer, that option has become less and less feasible. As seniors, we may need additional help as we age, but we also plan to be moving and grooving for a long time to come, so crashing with our children may not always be the best choice.
That is where most conversations tend to start. Will we move in with our children? Which one? Will we move into a care community? Again, where do we go? But, here’s a conversation that happens far less frequently: What do we do if we don’t age at the same rate as our spouse? Sure, many of us have a plan for when we move into a community together, but a sinking feeling can begin to set in when you realize that your loved one requires care, while you do not. Old vows of “in sickness and in health” ring out and clash with the realities of the present.
This isn’t an easy situation for any couple to navigate. It’s compounded all the more if it involves dementia care. Not only are we faced with a situation we didn’t plan for, we’re facing it with our partner further from our side.
We hope this post will serve as a starting point for your own conversations, even if you’re only ready to have them with yourself.
Make a Plan
As you start to look at the possibility of life apart from your spouse, it’s helpful to make a plan of what that life would look like. Depending on the cognitive state of your spouse, you can begin to formulate this plan together. The goal, of course, is to preserve the routines of your marriage to the fullest extent possible. Is it important to share dinner together? Whether it’s sharing a daily meal or watching a favorite weekly television program together, you can begin to look at facilities with easy commutes.
Perhaps there’s an activity you’ve always enjoyed together, or one you’ve been meaning to try. Most long-term care communities have a robust schedule of activities. An in-house crafting group can provide an opportunity for you to join your spouse in an activity. A group setting provides a way to engage without emotional pressure, especially if their care needs have increased significantly and one-on-one time together could be difficult.
Talk With the Facility
As you formulate your plan, it will be easier to know what you’ll need from a potential community, and you can come ready with questions in-hand. We strongly encourage you to be open with all of your needs. Make sure the plans you’ve made are possible at the facility you’re considering.
Understand the Financial Aspect
There are a number of methods of payment for long-term care services. The following information has been compiled to clarify the eligibility requirements and benefits of each and to help you determine which source best suits your needs.
Medicare is a federal health insurance program for people age 65 or older and people under age 65 with certain disabilities. Medicaid is a state-administered health insurance program that covers long-term care for low-income elderly and disabled people.
Additionally, the full cost of services (room, board, meals, medication, etc.) may be paid entirely from private funds. We will not at any time prohibit anyone from applying for Medicaid program benefits and, thus, will not require anyone to remain in private pay status for any period of time. It is imperative, however, that the resident or resident's family inform our social services director before personal funds will no longer be available so that we may assist in applying for financial assistance.
Long-term care insurance is a private insurance policy that can help pay for many types of services, both skilled and non-skilled. Since coverage can vary widely, policy provider must be contacted for more details.
Veterans administration is also available for veterans.
Brace for Changing Emotions
A plan is a great thing to have, but even if you and your spouse have a clear picture of what you expect life to be like after one of you makes the move to a care community, circumstances are never guaranteed and emotions are far from predictable.
Many of us have served as our spouse’s primary caregiver for a long time. Even if we’ve longed to be free of those responsibilities, surprising emotions can surface as someone else takes over our loved one’s care. We may feel guilty or suddenly lack direction. While sometimes difficult, providing care can also bestow a sense of purpose, even if we don’t realize it. When our loved one’s care needs are being met, we’re suddenly tasked with finding a new direction for our days.
Acknowledge Your Own Needs
The transition can be just as challenging for those of us who stay at home. It’s crucial that we take time to focus on our own needs and our own care. Whether that’s therapy, reconnecting with friends we may not have seen in a while, or embracing new activities, we have to make these needs a priority, not an afterthought. Building new aspects of our life separate from our spouse doesn’t mean we’re ignoring their needs. Rather, it’s giving us the support and fortitude we need to be there for them in whatever capacity we can.
For more information, please give us a call at The Woodleigh of Baton Rouge at 225-272-1401.