According to the recently released OASDI Trustees Report, the Medicare Trust Fund will run dry in 2024, five years sooner than the prognosis only a year ago. To add to the gloom, the Social Security trust fund will be exhausted in 2036 and the Social Security Disability Insurance program will run out of funds before 2018.
“Americans are living longer, and health care costs are continuing to rise,” said Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner. “And if we do not do more to contain health care costs, our commitments will become unsustainable.” The thinly veiled message behind the Trustee’s report is that Medicare and Social Security systems must be overhauled or face extinction.
This prospect begs this question:
Who will care for your parents?
What would we do if government programs can no longer care for our nation’s elderly? This is a tough, and extremely heart wrenching issue that is not easily resolved. However, with the Medicare trust fund headed for empty in only 13 years, it is an issue we need to confront. Consider some or all of the following:
Have a family conference.
My own family would probably earn a C+ for our family conferences. With seven siblings scattered from Phoenix to Southern Illinois, we seldom get together to discuss anything. However, we have communicated fairly well (phone calls when needed) concerning our Mother’s care. I am fortunate to have two saintly sisters who live in the same city as our 91 year old Mom (who still manages to live in her own home) and check in on her daily. If and when she needs additional care, I am confident that my six siblings and I will come to an agreement that honors her.
Make sure they have long term care insurance.
Medicare nursing home care, available only for those who have few assets, is not known for its perks. If your parents have good long term care insurance (LTCI), they will have financial options that will ensure them a quality of care that you (and they) will be happy about. In-home nursing care, for example, is one such benefit.
Keep your parent in your own home.
Historically, in most cultures, children have been expected to care for aging parents. We seldom do so in America today, but, because Medicare in America began fairly recently (in 1966), many of our grandparents and great grandparents were cared for in their children’s homes. I remember my own grandmother living with us near the end of her life. I realize that this care giving was a huge sacrifice for my own mom, but I don’t recall ever hearing her complain; she simply stepped up to do what was needed.
Get out of debt.
Getting out of debt, of course, is always good advice. But we are stating an obvious truth:
You can’t help others from a position of weakness.
I said earlier that my family will figure out a way to support Mom should she need additional care. Why do I say this with confidence? Well, it is nice that we can share the cost seven ways, but it is also assuring that most of us live debt free lives.
Caring for the elderly is a tough, tough challenge … one that can split families and generate huge guilt issues. But, like it or not, the government is not going to be able to do so indefinitely. It is time for us to think of our responsibilities, plan for our options and take back the care giving that will honor our senior citizens in their twilight years.
Readers: What provisions are you (or your parents) making for their twilight years?