By April Fan RD, CD

If you’re like a lot of people these days, your parents are hitting that stage in life where their mental or physical health may be in serious decline. What’s going to happen if it’s suddenly no longer safe for your Mom or Dad to live on their own?

And, what’s going to happen if you’re tied up with the demands of work, or you are not financially or physically able to provide care? Or you live too far away? What are you planning to do? Chances are your parent is going to need some type of long term care.

It’s hard to think about long term care especially when you are young, healthy, and want to be positive about your own future. Unfortunately, it becomes more costly and stressful when you put off making these important long term care decisions. So it’s important to start learning about long term care, and your parents’ options, early – when you’re not in panic mode.

What exactly is long term care? Long term care is not the care your aging parent receives in the hospital or at the doctor’s office for a sickness. Nor is it rehabilitation from a surgery.

Long term care is the regular care your parent needs if they can no longer perform the activities of daily living (i.e. everyday tasks, such as bathing, cooking, or dressing) typically due to a chronic illness, injury, or any disabilities from the aging process.

As soon as I bring up “long term care”, images of depressing nursing homes pop into most people’s heads. Thankfully, it’s different these days. There are so many more options such as skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, senior daycare centers, or receiving in-home care right in your parents’ home.

The big negative is that long term care is expensive. The national average cost at a skilled nursing facility is about $70,000 per year. So, if you’re thinking that your parents’ savings and investment portfolio will pay for everything. Think again. Long term care expenses can deplete anyone’s nest egg quickly as well as affecting the lifestyles of the rest of the family…including you. Check out to help you better understand the huge expenses that a long term care event can actually create.

Many people mistakenly believe that some type of government program will take care of our senior parents. They aren’t aware that Medicare was developed to pay for medical expenses only (it provides a maximum of 100 days of rehab following a hospital stay in hopes of recovery).  And, Medicaid is a welfare program to help only those with limited resources (typically having less than $2,000 in liquid assets).

Learn more about how Medicare can help your senior parents, head over to and grab an E-book, Medicare & You 2012. And, if your parents happen to have long term care insurance, review their policy now, not later  to learn how it may help offset the cost of care. It’s going to help protect your parents’ savings, allow more choices when it comes down to their care options, and relieve the burden from you.

April Fan is a Registered Dietitian working with seniors while caring for her own parents and kids and founder of

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