As a Sunrise Senior Living administrator at Wayne, I often welcome families who come to us in all forms of crisis such as finding an assisted living solution for their loved ones, and the change that is associated with that transition.   Frequently, we support our families through the emotional difficulties and all too often find them unprepared to handle the financial challenges that come with caring for a senior loved one.

We hear stories of how family members, such as adult children, have made promises to their senior parents that they would never put them in an assisted living care environment and they are riddled with guilt – guilt of knowing the needs of their parents have surpassed their personal ability to care for them. Medications, incontinence, and dementia are things that family members are familiar with and this should not be a source of guilt.

Through understanding Sunrise Senior Living’s principles of service, including providing an environment of dignity, nurturing the spirit, celebrating individuality and enabling freedom of choice, these families come to understand that we provide a supportive and safe environment for their loved one.  This is often a better environment than the one they were previously living in.  We also offer support groups and introduce family members to other families going through the same journey through our Family Buddies program.

Only once the family members have worked through the emotional challenges can they then begin to tackle financial challenges. All too often, parents have not shared their financial situation with their adult children. Helping a senior and their family understand their financial situation is a critical step in providing the right level of care. We find that some families have saved and have long-term care insurance, but still need to understand that when they can no longer provide their loved one with the appropriate level of care, this is the rainy day they have been saving for – it’s okay to seek out an assisted living environment and invest in care that best serves their loved one.

One untapped source of financial assistance is the Veterans Aid and Attendance benefit. But putting all of this together in a plan that makes sense can be time-consuming for family members trying to hold down busy careers and caring for their own children.  It’s important for family members to get knowledgeable advice, as this can affect other benefits. Finding a resource that specializes in eldercare financial planning is a key success factor. At Sunrise, we are able to partner our families with referring professionals.

The families that traverse these tough times best are the ones that get all of the financial planning completed prior to the emotional  dilemma of how best to care for their loved one. The emotional guilt is a natural process we must all work through but why double our challenge with not having your senior family members financial plan cared for first?

Mary Ellen Garrity is the senior executive director of the Sunrise Senior Living community in Wayne, New Jersey.

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