The Costs of Elder Care: The Race Against Time

By Charles Feldman
KNX 1070 Investigative Reporter

LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Burbank resident Von Johnson, 56, is finding out what more and more adult children are learning as they navigate the often turbulent waters of financial planning for ailing parents, as well as for themselves when they grow old.

“You can never start too early to get prepared for this,” he told KNX 1070’s Charles Feldman.

And yet, many, if not most, senior citizens fail to plan for their care, experts warn, placing them in a precarious financial positions that can rob them of their homes, their savings and their mental well-being.

Making matters worse, California is soon expected to conform to more stringent federal Medicaid regulations that will make it far more difficult for those needing nursing home care to qualify for government aid, attorneys specializing in elder law told KNX 1070 in a new investigation into the costs of elder care in California.

The anticipated change, says Joseph McHugh, an estate planner and elder law attorney, whose L.A. Law Center is based in Glendale, “is not going to be pleasant for people used to the current Medi-Cal Laws.

joseph and kathy mchugh la law center glendale estate planning and elder law e1305145403705 The Costs of Elder Care: The Race Against Time

Joseph and Kathy McHugh of L.A. Law Center in Glendale (CBS)

Medi-Cal is what Medicaid is called in California and differs from the federal Medicare program that covers many medical costs for senior citizens but usually does not cover custodial care at home or in an assisting living/ nursing home facility.

With the average cost of nursing home care in California exceeding $6,000 a month and over $20,000 a month for specialized care, Medi-Cal assistance is the only practical way many seniors and their families can afford the cost of long-term care.

Most seniors — and their adult children — tend to deal with these issues only when a crisis occurs, according to Susanne Miller, a financial planner and director of the Fullerton-basedYour Estate Coach.

“Typically, something will occur, a phone call at work or in the middle of the night, saying, ‘your mom has fallen down and is on the way to the hospital,'” Miller said.

The family is often “stunned” to then learn, she added, that “the government isn’t going to pay for this.”

Blanchard said the “shock” is often “overwhelming” as family members scramble to figure out how to come up with the money to pay the bills.

Home care in California can be as high as $24 an hour for a qualified, insured person.

Experts such as McHugh and Miller agree that it is important for people to arm themselves with several documents, including Power of Attorney and Advanced Health Directives.

Paralegal Stephanie Blanchard, 34, who is taking care of both her grandparents, has already started discussing financial planning issues with her two, teenaged daughters.

“I talk to them openly,” Blanchard said. ” They both have life insurance polices.”

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