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If the time comes when you need substantial assistance performing daily tasks, it is unlikely you will want cost to be the primary decision-making factor for your long term care. Long term care (LTC) services can be expensive and costs generally continue to rise. Planning early can help ensure that you have more control in receiving the type of care you want — in the setting you choose, should the need arise.
Long term care includes a variety of services and supports to help meet personal care needs over an extended period of time. The services include help performing Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as: bathing, continence, using the toilet, transferring to/from a bed or chair, dressing and eating. Long term care services are generally not covered under personal health insurance or Medicare because they are not intended to cure, improve or treat a specific medical condition. Medicaid may help individuals with income and assets below state requirements.1
Whether long term care services occur in a nursing home, assisted living facility or your own home, the costs can be a huge expense. The average stay in a nursing home is 835 days (2.3 years) and $183,700.2 The national median hourly rate for a home health aide is $20 and that can add up quickly.3
In some cases, family members and friends may be able to help with some of the care you need — preparing meals, providing transportation; helping with housework, bills or medication for example. Caregiving can be rewarding, but it can also be stressful. It’s important to recognize when family caregivers need a break and/or can no longer provide the care you require.
When professional long-term care is necessary, one option is paying with your own resources such as savings, investments, income (pension, Social Security, annuities) or even your home or home equity. Consider how long these sources might last and what other goals may be unfulfilled if these funds were used for care.
Another option is insurance designed for long term care expenses, or with the option to use the policy's primary benefits for long term care if needed. For example, your existing life insurance or annuity may contain provisions to utilize benefits early in the event you need long term care. It is important to have an insurance professional review your existing policies and carefully explain the differences in the types of coverage available today.
Finally, you may be able to qualify for your state's Medicaid program. Medicaid only pays after you meet eligibility requirements, including specific restrictions on income and assets.1
As you can see, there are many alternatives to consider when preparing for the possibility that you may need long term care. Generally, beginning early has advantages. First, at younger ages, you are more likely to be healthy and qualify for various types of insurance. Second, starting early means you may be able to meet your goal with lower installment savings amounts or annual premiums.
1 For more information regarding benefits provided by Medicare or Medicaid (Medi-CAL in California) visit www.cms.hhs.gov. Medicaid guidelines vary by state. Contact your local Medicaid office for details.
2 National Nursing Home Survey 2014, National Center for Health Statistics.
3 Cost of Care Survey, Genworth, June 2015.