1. Use Medicare Coverage
Government programs aren't going to cover all costs associated with long-term care, but it's worth investigating. Medicare may pay for a portion of long-term care if the individual requires skilled services or rehabilitative care. This coverage is only temporary. The average Medicare covered stay in a nursing home is only 22 days. You will still need to develop a plan for ongoing care, but it can be helpful in the short-term if around-the-clock care is suddenly needed.
2. Apply for Medicaid
Medicaid covers a wider variety of long-term care services, including non-medical services often called Activities of Daily Living, such as bathing and dressing. There are income restrictions and minimum state eligibility requirements to qualify for Medicaid.
3. Purchase Long-Term Care Insurance
Long-term care insurance provides a set daily benefit for care in a nursing home or at-home services. Depending on what policy you purchase, it may also cover services such as transportation to get to medical appointments. There is a vast variety of coverage levels and eligibility requirements, but the best way to prepare for the road ahead is to purchase long-term care insurance before you—and your parents—need it. Older individuals will have higher premiums and may not be eligible due to pre-existing conditions. Your best bet is to start your own plan by age 50, and if they qualify, make sure your parents enroll too.
4. Provide As Much Care As You Can
Full-time elder care is jaw-dropping expensive. You and your entire family can save thousands by providing as much care as you can on your own. Helping your healthy, yet aging parents with lawn work and house maintenance tasks can elongate the time they can care for themselves in their home. If their daily needs with meal preparation and dressing exceed what you're able to manage, an in-home health aide is a more affordable option than a nursing home. When the time comes, consider a facility that offers both assisted living and nursing services so that your parents can transition easily should they require more extensive care.
5. Contact a Lawyer
When caring for aging parents, the paperwork alone can be overwhelming. You don't have to do it alone. Consulting with an attorney who specializes in elder law could help you save big in the long run by protecting your parents' assets, as well as your own.
6. Check Your Work Benefits
Many employers are starting to include elder care resources and referrals for their employees. Some companies even offer paid and unpaid leave options for elder care. Similar to parents who negotiate flexibility for childcare needs, you may be able to find support in the work place for ongoing care of your parents. In the event of a sudden illness, the Family and Medical Leave Act protects employees who are caring for a "seriously ill" family member.
7. Create A Budget
It can be a difficult task to assume control of your parents' finances, but you may be able to save them some money by getting their expenses in order. For seniors who are on a fixed income, it's important to create a firm budget that includes housing, food, and medical needs, such as insurance premiums and prescription costs.
Setting up automatic payments prevent bills from being ignored or forgotten while racking up penalties. Once all the regular expenses are accounted for, set up a reloadable pre-paid card for your parents to use for their discretionary spending to prevent them from racking up large credit card bills.
If you aren't comfortable getting involved in their daily finances, have your parents work with a daily money manager (http://www.aadmm.com/) who can help them set up automatic bill pays and track spending.
8. Think Thrifty
It may not seem like much at the time, but taking advantage of senior discounts at stores and restaurants can add up to big savings. Shopping for groceries and other staples with coupons or store reward cards can also help them keep a little extra green in their pocket. When replacing appliances or electronics, consider purchasing discount floor models or second-hand products.