Long-Term Care and Planning for the Future: What You Need to Know
Guest post by June Duncan
With each passing year, you are more likely to need long-term care, whether via a caregiver, home health aide, skilled nursing care, or assisted living. In the same way that you wouldn’t wait until a fire happens to plan an evacuation route, you shouldn’t wait until you need long-term care to create a care plan, including how you will pay for it. Long-term care planning should begin during your younger years, so here’s how to get started.
Understand Long-Term Care
Clear Up Confusion
Long-term care is often equated with a nursing home, but it encompasses a much larger range of services. According to Capital Retention, “It’s designed to help you live as independently as possible, for as long as possible. You receive services when you can’t fully care for yourself because of frailty, disability, or chronic illness.” The type of care service you need depends on whether you need help with activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, grooming, eating, walking, and toileting, or instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs) such as housework, meal prep, shopping, driving, and taking medication.
Examine Your Likelihood
No one can give you an exact percentage of whether you will need long-term care, but there are various factors that can help you gauge your future need. Start by looking at your family history and personal health. Is there a history of chronic illness and disease? Did your parents and grandparents require long-term care? Are you in good health? Another area to consider is your support network. Caregiving is a form of long-term care, but do you have a spouse or adult children who will be able to help? Keep in mind that many adult children experience role reversal when they are thrust into a parenting role when helping aging parents. However, it is best to not think of it as a reversal but instead helping a parent navigate the changes that inevitably come with age. Keep the lines of communication open, voice concerns, and come up with solutions together when problems arise.
Medicare and Medicaid
There is often confusion surrounding what Medicare and Medicaid cover in terms of long-term care. Medicare only covers up to 100 days in a short-term care facility for an illness or injury, not a long-term or chronic condition. Medicaid may cover a portion of a long-term care stay, such as a nursing home, but strict financial requirements must be met for the entire cost to be taken care of. This is not to say that these government programs aren’t helpful, as they offer plenty of benefits that seniors can and should take advantage of. For example, perhaps now is the time to look into a Humana Medicare Advantage Plan, which provides you with both Medicare Part A and B coverage. In addition, there are wellness benefits such as dental, vision, and prescription, all of which are important regardless of whether you need long-term care.
Sell Your Life Insurance Policy
Selling your life insurance policy, referred to as a life settlement, might seem like a crazy idea, but it is actually quite common. You might consider selling your policy if:
- you/your spouse/your children aren’t dependent on the insurance claim
- you need supplemental income to pay for long-term care or medical expenses
- your policy is about to expire without cash value, and the cost to replace is too high
- your premiums are too expensive
By selling your policy, you receive a cash payment that can be used at your discretion. However, it is important to note that the amount you receive might not be enough to cover your long-term care costs. When it comes to paying the long-term care bill, you will likely find that you need to combine several financing options to get the funds you need. Check out this article courtesy of the National Institute on Aging for an exhaustive list of financial options.
Long-term care might not be an immediate need now, but the future is unknown. Start the process now by becoming knowledgeable of what long-term care entails, assessing your need, and preparing financially. By doing so, you are ready if and when the time comes.
About the Author
June Duncan is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, “The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.”