Planning ahead when it comes to retirement, aging parents

Published: Nov. 20, 2014 at 10:23 AM EST
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Thursday, Nov. 20, 2014

AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW) -- In case you haven't noticed, the Greatest Generation is fading away fast and the oldest Baby Boomers are heading for nursing homes.

More families than ever are dealing with a tough dilemma-- what to do about mom and dad.

Mary Sue Boyd is having a big year. She just moved and she just had a birthday.

"You all come in and see my little room," she says, swinging open her door at The Sterling House in North Augusta.

"I was born in 1915. Sept. 17," she says.

That was 99 years ago. She was born and raised in Nashville, Tennessee and played on the city streets. She's never owned a computer or a cell phone for that matter.

"I remember we had the radio when I was growing up. We listened to the Grand Ole Opry," she says with a smile.

Mrs. Boyd has led a long full life that includes a daughter, Sandra, who describes this transition.

"So it was not just a move from an apartment to an assisted living facility," Sandra says. "It was 400 miles of a move from a place she had known most of her adult life."

Remember, her mom was six and a half hours away.

"Its so much better from my point of view because I don't have to jump in the car and drive if I'm needed and I'm enjoying being able to see her more," she says.

So how do transitions like this happen anyway? Margaret Kopp works at The Sterling House. By the time most people sit down with her, they're usually in a crisis.

"They are pretty overwhelmed. Sometimes they're exhausted because their parent or loved one needs something. Not always sure what that something is," Kopp says.

Families come to her with a lot of concerns.

"Your mother may not be able to cook any longer," Kopp says. "Or maybe your father is not taking his medications properly. So, there's all different levels of service."

Decisions we all have to make eventually.

"We are going to be a tough generation, Richard. Because we're used to having everything quickly and lots of it," Kopp says.

Back in Ms. Boyd's room, the birthday flowers and the memories are still fresh. Ninety-nine years. That's long enough to figure some things out.

"Well, I just have to learn how to live with less room as well as less material things. Things I thought I needed at the time, but now I find I don't need everything," she says with a smile.

It all sounds so simple. Will Rogers is a financial planner with Ameriprise in Augusta. He's here with a reality check.

"So, it can be expensive," Rogers says. "If you're not prepared for you, it'll wipe you out."

We talk in a room featuring a flat screen with a scary question about retirement. It reads: "Will you outlive your money?"

Even if you're lucky enough to have ninety-nine birthdays, like Mary Sue Boyd?

Have you watched TV lately?

Advertisers know what we are all going through. The television commercials tug on your heart-strings and the message is clear- it's your turn to take care of mom and dad.

Time to do some math. Financial Advisor Will Rogers deals with the problem all the time.

"The low cost in the CSRA is around $7,500 per month, Rogers says. "$7,500 a month and we are among the lowest cost areas in the nation.

He's talking about full service nursing homes and that has some families wondering if mom and dad should move in with the kids? Think about your own family and ask yourself this- are ready to talk to mom and dad about things like bath time and toilet time?

"I want you to imagine your child walking in and going- 'alright mom, alright dad. Time for the sponge bath. I've gotta go pick up the kids from school," Rogers says. 'We've got 30 minutes. get naked, get in the shower. I'm gonna wash you up and then I gotta go.' "

So, what is he telling his own clients to do?

"The absolute best thing is if you have a long term care policy that you bought a few years back and you're wondering- should I keep this or not? That thing is like gold," Rogers says.

If you're a military family, the VA has it's Aid & Attendance Program. It offers help in paying for long term care.

"We've got so many military families here and less than 10 percent of eligible veterans apply for that program. They just don't know it's out there," Rogers says.

One more thing. Will says to check out -all- your options.

Over in North Augusta, Dr Joe Holt has a big dream.

"We basically have three rooms. We have about 28 hundred square feet," Holt says as we walk through a very old house on the hill.

Dr. Holt has been spending his time and money getting Pine Heights ready for a new life. It was North Augusta's first working hospital in 1898.

"We are going to be a senior adult day center. We are going to be the hub of social and medical services in the community," he says.

A hub for things like music and gardening too. Families will be able to drop off their loved ones here for a few hours a day.

"See, I envision here, that folks can come here, socialize, get their needs met go home at the end of the day and have as much to talk about at the dinner table as anybody else does now," Holt says. "And they have an active part in the family."

Because in the end, it's really all about losing control of some very basic things.

"My loss of control is going to be very challenging. The joke is when I get older, Richard, you'll know where I'll be, Holt says, looking around Pine Heights.

The toughest part for most families is starting that conversation. If you're concerned about an older relative experts say to take a peek in their fridge If people are eating well, If the food is not old and spoiled, that's a good sign.

And when it comes to the car keys, the best advice is to bring the eye doctor into that conversation. That way the anger isn't directed towards you. None of us wants to give up that control.

Finally, this is no surprise, but it's still hard. Financial planners say the sooner you start saving the better.