Sooner or later, in one way or another, we all come to the realization that our parents are growing old and that we are as well.
Howard Gleckman, a senior fellow at the Urban Institute, a think-tank in Washington, D.C., was a recent guest on my podcast, Specifically for Seniors. Howard and I had an essential discussion about aging in America. We talked about the lack of a long term care system in the United States as opposed to other countries, aging at home vs. senior living facilities, and how to know when we should be talking to our parents and deciding for ourselves when it's time to consider alternate housing and how to accomplish the change.
Howard’s book Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Crisis, while outdated when discussing costs in actual dollars and in the statistics pertaining the extent of the crisis, is an essential read for those approaching the age when parents or themselves face a long term care need.
The cautionary take-away from Howard’s book is to prepare and to prepare earlier rather than later. Prepare by talking to your parents when they are in their 60s and start thinking about your own old age well before that. Long term care in America, with the exception of Medicaid when one is in abject poverty, is well nigh non-existent. Chances are, with medical care as it is and progressing as it is, that we will live well into our 80s. But our bodies will eventually begin to fail, our cognition will likely decline. Many of us will need help as we age and we need to define how that help will be paid for either by financial means or by the sacrifices in health and well-being of our caregivers who, in most cases, will be our family.
Until the government finds a way to deliver and finance the long term care of the growing population of elderly, it is going to be up ourselves.
The discussion with parents about aging is difficult and can be painful, but must be made. But even more difficult is having the discussion with ourselves. We will, if we’re lucky, age in good health, but, sooner or later, we will become ill and need care.
I urge all to read Howard’s book, Caring for Our Parents: Inspiring Stories of Families Seeking New Solutions to America’s Most Urgent Health Crisis. Let the stories of others help you as you prepare to help your parents and yourself.