Patti Kleist, a former “sandwicher,” a longtime advocate for the elderly and the disabled and executive director of nonprofit Faith in Action in Belfair, Wash., answered a few questions for the Sandwiched In. Do you have questions you’d like to have experts answer? Contact me and I will get answers in future interviews.
Q: Americans can no longer feel secure about retirement, and having guaranteed social security and Medicare waiting for them. Is there anything adult children should do differently as they help their parents plan for financial future?
A: The number one problem I have encountered both with clients and with my parents is the lack of financial resources to pay for a long term hospitalization, or move into an adult living home or rehab. We like to think that we will be able to live on our own or with family until our death, but unfortunately this is often not true.
“Stuff” happens, and unanticipated health issues can hit anyone. At this point in time, the best alternative is long-term-care insurance. I would suggest that families find a good broker who will shop for the best deal for their circumstances.
And while you’re shopping — “pastrami” ought to be looking for insurance for themselves too. The cost doesn’t put a great burden on the budget if we get it when we’re young, but the cost goes up steeply as we age and encounter health problems. Especially if we’ve ever mentioned to our doctor that we’re having memory problems.
Q: How do we, as adult children, approach aging parents, who are used to be independent decision-makers, so we can help advocate for them?
A: It is a huge change for everyone involved as roles change and the cared-for become the caregivers. It’s not possible to come up with a boiler plate answer; everyone’s family dynamics are different. It is often highly uncomfortable for all involved to even talk about aging, illness and death.
The one rule I feel crosses through all situations is to approach the issues with sensitivity, love and respect. If you’re overburdened, overtired, or even scared, take some time, get some rest, and then talk about it. As a woman of faith, I personally advocate praying.
Q: As you work with a lot of seniors in need, are there any common topics that come up that you feel people overlook with regards to planning for the senior years?
- Long term care insurance
- A will
- A support team to help with transportation to doctors, housework, or even cleaning the roof when they can’t do it themselves
- A support team (family, church group, or?) to help through the loss of a spouse, as well as activities and friendships that can carry them through loss, and give them a reason to carry on.
Q: With our economy being so volatile and the political climate often uncertain, are there any new issues you see coming on the horizon that will impact senior care?
A: I’m extremely nervous about proposed cuts at the state and federal levels. Changes or elimination of many programs helping the elderly are on the chopping block. Social Security seems to be particularly vulnerable.
Social Security is not an entitlement — seniors paid into their entire working career. It must be protected. If it goes away, the entire burden will be shifted to the sandwich generation — an expense very few can afford.
For a humorous look at this issue, check out www.justscrapthecap.com.
And please contact your legislators and urge them to protect our vulnerable seniors.
Patti Kleist is the executive director of Faith in Action West Sound, a community and interfaith organization whose mission is to “support independent living for our senior and disabled neighbors.” She serves on the Advisory Board of the Lewis, Mason, Thurston, Area Agency on Aging; the Mason County Health Improvement Project; and is the founder of North Mason Caring Action Network. In 2012 she will be joining the Mason County Habitat for Humanity Board.
In addition to working daily with seniors in need, Patti was the long-distance caretaker for her parents as they aged, became ill, and eventually died. It was this experience that has truly fueled her passion for advocating for both seniors and those that love them.