“Long term care is generally defined as hands-on assistance provided for an extended period of time to people who can’t take care of themselves due to a prolonged disability, illness or cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer’s disease,” AARP explains.
As elder law attorneys, needless to say, we find ourselves talking to individuals and their family members about long term care – and about its increasingly high cost. Since most seniors will require some form of long term care before death, we’re keenly aware that financial devastation can result for families who are unprepared.
When do you qualify for long term care? When a physician or other health professional certifies that you are unable to independently perform at least two Activities of Daily Living, which include:
- Transferring (walking)
- Toileting (bathing and showering)
Where are long term care services delivered?
- Home care
- Adult day care
- Residential care in an assisted living facility
- Residential care in a nursing home
The myth about Medicare and long term care:
Contrary to common belief, AARP explains, Medicare and other health insurance policies do not cover the cost of long term care, because that is not considered a medical expense. “Medicare will only cover skilled nursing care and therapy services following a three day in-patient hospital stay.”
The dilemma faced by the average consumer:
Not only is the cost of long term care insurance steep, the “landscape is confusing, unpredictable, and unclearly regulated,” AARP comments, going on to caution investors not to overlook reality:
- Even if you’re lucky enough to have family members willing to care for you, they may lack proximity, time, technical expertise, or adequate health or strength of their own.
- “Self-insuring’ through investments may not work if portfolio returns fail to keep pace with healthcare inflation. And, should an earlier-than-anticipated need arise, a Long Term Care Insurance policy takes effect immediately.
Clues to keeping long term care insurance affordable:
“If you do buy a policy, your goal is to maximize your benefits while minimizing your cost,” AARP advises, offering the following “smart buyer” tips:
- Make sure you buy a policy that covers the types of facilities, programs and services you want and which are available in your area.
- Make trade-offs to make the premium more affordable, including choosing a longer elimination or waiting period before coverage kicks in. (Do, however, include inflation protection, AARP advises.)
Use legal guidance to deal with issues related to long term care:
- Veterans Aid and Attendance
- Medicaid eligibility
- Special Needs Planning
Long term care planning is just one part of planning for the issues faced by elders and their families. Careful planning helps protect the people most important to you and the assets they have worked a lifetime to achieve.
– by Cory Judd of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates