There is nothing more devastating for a family than to learn a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, especially an aging parent. When you learn the news, so many questions rush through your head: How much time do we have? What do we need to do? Is there a cure in sight? What health care needs will they have now? What can I do to help? Do they need a second opinion? These are just the start of the list of questions you need answers to that may be going through your mind right now.

We know, as experienced estate planning attorneys, these are just how concerning a cancer diagnosis is. Now is the time to not only think about your aging parent’s health care needs right now but also time to think proactively about the future. You will want to ask questions to determine:

  • Does your mom or dad have an estate plan in place?
  • Is it current to reflect their wishes?
  • Do they have advanced directives in place such as a durable power of attorney?
  • Who do they want to make financial decisions if they cannot?
  • Who do they want to make their health care decisions if they cannot?
  • Who is the backup decision maker?
  • Do they want life sustaining measures taken? 

The bigger question that arises, especially with an aging parent, is whether or not they will be able to care for themselves. You may be concerned and have serious questions related to how to find and pay for necessary care, now and in the future as their healthcare needs change. Healthcare support can come in all forms for your aging parents. Consider options in the community such as:

  • Meal delivery programs
  • Transportation assistance to go to doctor appointments and treatments
  • Hiring a housekeeper
  • Medication management assistance and prescription delivery
  • In home assistance programs

The journey to finding care for your aging parents can be a heavy responsibility, and one you may not be able to complete without help when you work full time and have a family of your own. Your parent’s health may also decline to the point where they cannot live alone or need to be in a safe environment such as an assisted living facility or nursing home. While the first step is identifying the care they need, the next one is to find the funds to pay for it. 

Do your parents have the ability to pay for the care they need? Medicaid and Medicare, for instance, may provide financial assistance with a cancer diagnosis. While Medicare and Medicaid are different programs and can help in different ways. Medicare is the health insurance program for adults over age 65. Many of the available Medicare plans pay up to 80% of the costs of all of the doctor’s visits and diagnostic tests that come prior to a cancer diagnosis, until the health insurance deductible is met. Medicare may then cover the remaining costs for the pre-diagnosis visits. This can make Medicare very useful for patients with cancer until long-term care is necessary. Unfortunately, Medicare has a limited nursing home benefit, paying only for 100 days of care.

If your loved one needs custodial care, then Medicaid may be able to help. This will depend on your aging parent’s income and assets. An elder law attorney can help walk you through the process of obtaining Medicaid services for your loved one and help you through this challenging time.

You may apply for a Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waiver first. This waiver means that Medicaid will cover the cost of caring for your loved one within his or her own home, or in your home. Medicaid may also pay for a Personal Care Assistant (PCA) who may develop a long-term caregiving relationship with your loved one. Finally, Medicaid will cover the costs of a regular nursing home. It is important to go through this with an attorney, as they can advise you of whether Medicaid may seek to recoup costs from your loved one’s estate down the road.

For assistance in long-term care planning strategies, our office is here to help. Please contact us to arrange an appointment. Planning for the future is critical to ensure that your goals for the end of life are achieved. We know this article may raise more questions that it answers.  We do telephone, computer, and face-to-face appointments. Our face-to-face appointments are held outside in the open air (frequently selected by clients for document signing) and inside our office conference room. We follow all CDC guidelines. Our office procedures adhere to COVID-19 safety protocols and are designed and enhanced by medical review and air quality engineering.