WGN-TV Show Notes — April 17, 2003

The average American life expectancy is rising so many baby boomers will end up taking care of their aging parents and relatives.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” says BJ Kules.

When the tables turn and you start parenting your parents, it’s easy to let your emotions get in the way of making a tough decision.

“I’m very upset. I’m thinking on a Friday, ‘What am I going to do to take care of my mother by Monday morning?'” BJ says.

1.5 million Americans currently live in nursing homes and their children mistakenly think a hospital’s social service staff will help in choosing a good home.

“They’ll refer them into their own nursing home that they have an affiliation with,” says Gary Winner, Planned Elderhood.

When the time comes to make the call…

“Most people are frantic. They want things done right away,” Winner says.

Winner, a certified estate planner, set up a company called Planned Elderhood to help the sandwich generation cope with financial, legal and social service aspects of placing mom and dad in a nursing home. That could include rearranging assets so the patient qualifies for Medicaid.

“I make the process work so financially we are optimizing their money,” Winner says.

Caseworker Michele Gilbert does the rest, from filling out Medicaid forms to working out communication problems between the nursing home staff and the family.

“I want them to be able to go into a nursing home and pretty much their biggest worry is which of mom’s favorite pictures should we bring,” Gilbert says.

Checking out a nursing home is relatively easy on the Web. At www.medicare.gov you can compare nursing homes on a variety of criteria. At www.cdc.gov, you can see the latest national nursing home survey. But with bills coming in, paperwork to fill out, and his 85-year-old mother to take care of, Kule’s plate is already full.

“I work 40 to 50 hours a week and I’m taking care of my mother. If she wants something to eat, or if she needs tissues, or if she needs new pairs of slacks, my sister and I do buy them for her,” Kules says.

Without proper planning and without knowing the Medicaid system, even a brief stay in a nursing home can completely drain a family’s assets.

“Let’s put it like this. The average person who goes into a nursing home is for 2.7 years at $50,000 a year, which is what a nursing home costs. It wipes out most families in about two years,” Winner says.

Which means the sooner you plan, the more options you’ll have.

The cost of a typical 2 1/2 year stay in a nursing home is expected to rise to $500,000 by the year 2030.

888-305-1839 (Planned Elderhood’s toll-free number)
Copyright © 2003, WGN-TV

April 17, 2003.