Parenting Your Aging Parents

Parenting Your Aging Parents – dividing one’s time between work and caring for aging parents; long term care insurance advice

Dear Francine and Robert:

I love my aging Mom and Dad, but I’m having a very hard time taking care of them and still stepping up for all the responsibilities that are handed to me at work.

My schedule involves a good deal of travel, and long hours even when I’m in town. There’s just no way to pay attention to Mom and Dad’s needs as much as I ought to without short-changing some of my projects at the office. So I’ve been ducking out and missing days. But I’m afraid that as a result my work and my career opportunities are going to suffer.

How can I reconcile these two important demands on my life.

Signed, No Time For Work

Dear No Time:

You’re not the only one feeling the pinch of the clock when trying to help Mom and Dad maintain their quality of life. According to a recent study, as many as two-thirds of working people who try to help their aging parents feel they have lost out on promotions and pay raises because they can’t give a full commitment to their jobs.

The most extreme example, of course, comes from people who can’t even hold a job because they’re spending so much time and energy caring for their aging parents. But others who suffer at the office include people who merely lose sleep because they’re worrying about their parents’ quality of life, and people who must take extra days off from work in order to bring an aging parent to a doctor’s appointment or who can’t stay late because they must provide a meal or a ride for an aging parent.

It’s been called the “glass ceiling of caregivers”, and it’s likely to become more widespread as thousands and millions more families face the experience of helping their aging parents maintain a satisfactory quality of life. Already, more than four out of ten senior citizens say they rely on a daughter or a son for important caregiving efforts. The numbers are likely to increase.

Some 35 million American are over age 65 right now, and baby boomers will begin reaching age 65 in just one more decade.

There’s no easy remedy, of course, except to ask for understanding at work. There’s a good chance your co-workers and your boss are feeling some of the same pressures, or will be soon. Perhaps you can try telecommuting a little more often, or use cell-phones and portable computers to get more accomplished during the hours you’re chauffering or waiting for Mom or Dad.

Good luck to you.

Dear Francine and Robert:

I used to think that buying Long Term Care insurance would solve all our problems for our aging parents. But the premium has skyrocketed in the last few years, as much as 40% or more from one year to the next!

This is nuts! How can I afford this kind of insurance to cover our aging parents for a situation that may not even arise, and that may not be well-insured if it does? But if we cancel after all these years, there’s no guarantee any other company will cover them, or do it less expensively.

What’s your suggestion?

Signed, Taking It In The Wallet

Dear Taking It:

More than 3 million Americans are in roughly the same situation as you: you bought LTC insurance to solve a problem, but before you got any benefits, insurance companies jacked up rates and trimmed coverage to the point where you feel it’s wise to cut your losses and cancel the policies.

It’s not all their fault, of course. Insurance companies made assumptions about aging and caregiving requirements that turned out to greatly understate the cost of paying for their insureds’ long term care. For example, they assumed lots of insureds would cancel their policies before making any claims; instead people hung onto their policies like dogs with a bone, and kept paying their premiums until they needed LTC insurance benefits. In addition, health care costs have continued to increase out of control. Like any good business, the insurance companies try to pass on their cost increases to their customers.

But when LTC insurance was a relatively new idea, companies also started out by offering “low ball” premiums in order to gain a bigger share of the market. They also created policies that Promised lots of extra services for aging insured, even those who weren’t very sick. The companies enjoyed pocketing these $millions in premiums in the early years; now they don’t want to deplete their profits or suffer bigger losses by paying for the services they promised.

There’s a movement underway to reform the selling of LTC insurance, but that won’t help you much at present. What might help is cutting back on your LTC insurance and investing that same money or more in high-quality stocks or bonds. Later, you’ll be able to use this special “fund” to help pay for caregiving, without having to ask an insurance company for a small piece of what you’ve paid in over the years.

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Francine and Robert Moskowitz are the authors of “Parenting Your Aging Parents, How to Protect Their Quality of Life — And Yours!” This 300 page hardcover book has been widely acclaimed as the classic work in the field since 1991. It is available at bookstores, or directly from Key Publications. The toll-free order line is 800-735-0015. The Web site is:http:/www.knowledgetree.com/key.html. The cost is $21.95 plus $3.95 shipping and handling. If you wish, you can ask Francine and Robert Moskowitz your own question for this column by emailing them at:KeyPubs@knowledgetree.com.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Key Publications

COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group