Have you been reflecting on the time spent with your family as the holidays have ended and the New Year is here? While you were visiting with your family, were you able to talk and spend time with the important people in your life. For many of us, this meant spending time with aging parents and grandparents.

While spending time with your aging parents, did you discuss their future? Because you were able to spend time together, did you become aware of any new issues or impairments that were not there during the previous year? Did you take time to discuss any new diagnoses or changes to their medications? Did they discuss long-term care planning at all? If not, did you?

Unfortunately for most of us the answer to the above questions is no. We may have noticed specific issues with our aging parents but during the holidays it is hard to tackle these issues. Instead, for most of us, the holidays were a time for being together, celebrating, and observation. Now that the New Year is here, however, we must reflect on the fact that there may be key long-term care questions that need to be answered. In our practice there are five important questions that we frequently hear from our clients and their loved ones and we want to share them and discuss them with you on our blog.

1. First and foremost, do you know if your aging parents have completed any long-term care planning at all? By asking this broad question you can begin the conversation to elicit information about whether your loved ones have taken any steps to plan for their long-term care. In fact, they may have a complete plan already in place. On the flip side, though, they may have not done any planning. Or they may have started long-term care planning years ago and their plan may need to be updated.

2. In regard to medical decisions, who do they want to make them if they become medically incapacitated? Now this was definitely not a holiday dinner conversation, but you need to know their wishes. If suddenly your loved ones become incapacitated, is there a family member or close friend who understands their wishes regarding medical care? Do your parents trust him or her to make medical decisions in line with their wishes? Most importantly, if there is such a person, have they completed their estate plan to give legal authority to this person to act if they are unable to?

3. In regard to financial decisions, who will handle their finances and make financial decisions? Again, as in number two, if they become mentally or physically incapacitated, who would they want to pay their bills or hire a caregiver or make financial decisions?

4. If your parents were unable to live alone, do you know if they would prefer to stay in their home or would they be interested in assisted living? No one truly wants to live in a nursing home should their long-term care needs become so severe that they cannot care for themselves. The most important conversation to have right now is to talk about what they want, so you can create a plan that allows them to live the way they want to as they age. Some people want to remain in their home at all costs, while others may become afraid and prefer to live in an environment where assistance is available. If your aging parents want to remain in their home, it may become necessary to make safety modifications or arrange for a caregiver. If they prefer assisted living, facilities should be visited and a plan for covering the cost discussed.

5. How will my parents pay for a nursing home if it becomes necessary? This last question is extremely delicate and very difficult to discuss but it must be considered. Statistics indicate that more than half of all senior Americans will eventually require nursing home care and the cost can be disastrous. You can help your aging parents understand that they may need to purchase long-term care insurance. Or, in the alternative they could create a trust for asset protection, which may allow them to qualify for Medicaid. Both actions could prevent them from losing their life savings to the cost of nursing home care.

Having conversations surrounding these questions will provide a great starting point in assisting your loved ones in creating a solid long-term care plan to meet their future needs as the New Year begins. Our mission is to provide the most comprehensive probate, trust, Medicaid, asset protection and elder care legal help in central Ohio. Our office can assist with the planning necessary to achieve their goals. While it may feel like an uncomfortable topic to broach, in the long run, helping loved ones plan for their future is critical. Elder care attorneys can help families navigate specialized areas of the law, including matters of long term care, social security, and health care directives, so loved ones get what they need no matter where they are in the continuum of care. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.