Long Term Care Myths

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, someone turning age 65 today will have a 70 percent chance of requiring some long term care (LTC) service and support during the remainder of their life. In the case of women, the typical LTC need will last about 3.7 years compared to men who will need about 2.2 years of care. While approximately one-third of today’s 65-year-olds may not ever need long term care 20 percent of those who do will require it for more than five years.

The statistics are clear; older Americans should be carrying a long term care insurance policy to protect their future but only about 7.2 million Americans 65 years or older currently own a traditional long term care policy, and this number has held steady for the last seven years. While LTC insurance is overall considered expensive and finding the right plan for you in the myriad of insurance products available can be confusing and vary from state to state. According to A Place for Mom, there are seven myths about long term care that anyone age 50 or more should understand.

One myth is that a person has to get rid of all of their assets to receive Medicaid which will qualify them for federally available LTC benefits. In general, the rule is a person is not allowed to keep more than $2,000 in countable assets to be eligible for Medicaid. Exemptions in some states can include your home (if a spouse, minor or disabled child still lives there), assets that cannot be converted to cash, and burial plots or spaces. Also, personal property, one vehicle, and prepaid funerals generally qualify as exemptions. The Community Spouse Resource Allowance rules permit the non-applicant spouse to keep a portion of the couple’s countable assets to prevent them from becoming destitute. Before making any attempt to spend down assets to qualify for Medicaid speak to an elder law attorney as the federal five year “lookback” rules have penalties and exceptions.

No, Medicare will not pay for long term care expenses except in the most specific and narrow of circumstances. Medicare will cover skilled in-home care from a nurse, occupational therapist, physical therapist, speech therapist or social worker for up to 21 days if ordered by a physician. In the case of a skilled nursing facility, Medicare pays for the first 20 days with no co-pays but if the stay is between 21 to 100 days, Medicare only pays a portion, and the beneficiary must pay the balance.

Another myth is that a person thinks they are too young to think about long term care insurance let alone the need to pay for it. The truth is that even under the age of 65 if the person has a chronic illness like diabetes or high blood pressure or in the event of an accident, long term in-home or residential care services may be needed. According to the US Department of Health and Human Services on average, about 8 percent of people age 40 to 50 have a disability that may require long term care services.

Relying on the hope that family will take care of a long term care need is often a myth. While many older Americans are successfully aging in place, in part due to the benefits of technology, unpaid family member caregivers and community organizations are typically not willing and available for long term, intensive caregiving. A family discussion is needed if there is an expectation that a family member is willing and able to take on a long term caregiver role. While many family members are eager to provide oversight through the use of technology, the intensive requirements of long term care are usually more than they are willing to accept.

Most health insurance policies will not cover long term care expenses to any meaningful degree. Some plans will have minimal home care and skilled nursing benefits; however the nature of the plan is short term and is intended to produce recovery and rehabilitation while long term care is generally custodial in nature for the safety, maintenance and well being of a person with a chronic condition. Even some long term care insurance policies will not cover all long term care expenses. There are elimination periods which function as a deductible or after a policy benefit has been exhausted. Specific coverage in long term care varies widely from policy to policy.

Finally, many aging Americans feel that their retirement savings will cover the costs of their long term care. The website A Place for Mom has a financial calculator to help individuals understand their specific needs to cover long term care costs. Currently, the average US national median long term health care cost is about $50,000 for a home health aide which is above and beyond all other living costs. In many situations, in particular with residential care, costs can run hundreds of thousands of dollars over a few short years. Unless a person is independently wealthy, most retirement savings will be spent down very quickly.

Chances are you will need long term care during your lifetime. Being educated about what is best suited to meet your personal financial and health background needs is a significant first step. Next, understand what legal options are available to help you in the event you need significant long term care and may run out of money trying to pay for it. We are here to help. Contact our office today and schedule an appointment to discuss how we can help you with your planning.

6 Questions to Use When Interviewing a Long-Term Care Facility

It is never easy to realize that a loved one may no longer be able to live safely alone. Should this time come you may be faced with the challenge of helping him or her choose a long-term care facility or finding the right one to place your loved one in, if he or she is unable to participate in the choice.

While finding the right long-term care facility for your loved one may feel like an insurmountable challenge, it does not have to be. Let us share with you six key questions you may use during your interview process to ensure that you are finding the right care facility for your loved one both now and well into the future.

1. How does the facility handle changes in care? While we all wish that our loved ones would stay healthy, both mentally and physically, the likelihood of this wish decreases over time. Unfortunately, as we age, it is expected that we may experience both cognitive and physical decline. Ask the facility, now, how it will handle these issues and what conditions, if any, it is unable to manage.

2. How will a crisis be handled? In a similar vein, you want to inquire how the facility will handle a crisis. Should your loved one need a hospital, which one will he or she be transported to? How will transportation work? Is there a doctor onsite or on-call? Asking these questions early can help you have a better understanding of how this will be handled in the event a crisis should happen.

3. Do they accept long-term care insurance or other public benefits? Long-term care costs are expensive and Medicare will cover very little of it. If your loved one has a long-term care insurance policy ask if the facility has worked with this policy before and what is the result. If your loved one is a veteran or receiving public benefits such as Medicaid, ask if the facility accepts these payments, too.

4. What were the results of the facility’s last inspection? Although this is public record, ask for information on the facility’s last inspection. Were there improvements that needed to be made? Were they? Were there any glaring issues you should be concerned about or aware of?

5. How is socialization handled? One of the leading causes of illnesses for Older Americans is isolation. It may be emotionally hard for your loved one to move to this facility. Ask what a daily agenda looks like for a resident and what efforts will be taken to get your loved one involved. If there is a particular activity that your loved one enjoys but needs transportation to, ask if this may be arranged and handled by the facility.

6. What is the staff to patient ratio? It is critical to understand how quickly your loved one’s needs can be met. While a low staff to patient ratio does not ensure his or her needs will be met, it can help to know in advance. Be sure to ask and observe for yourself while you tour the facility, in addition to the answers you were provided during your initial research.

We know that these are just a few of the questions you want to ask when you begin to compare long-term care facilities. We also know that this article may raise more questions than it answers. Do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a meeting so that we may help you plan for the need for long-term care for a loved one both right now, and in the future.

Have You Begun to Plan for the Rising Long-Term Care Costs in the New Year?

The New Year encourages many of us to think about the future. What we want to accomplish for ourselves, our family, our friends, and our legacy.  As we age, it is only natural that our needs, and our resolutions in the New Year, tend to evolve. While many of us may have been focused ten years ago on retirement goals, many Older Americans today finding themselves contemplating a potential need for long-term care in the future.

Unfortunately, the costs of long-term care have steadily increased over the last decade and show no signs of stopping this year. In fact, these costs are up over five percent from last year and over fifty percent since 2004. Regrettably, many Older Americans do not realize that Medicare will not cover the costs of much of the long-term care they may need in the future. As an acute payor system, Medicare is not designed to be able handle the need for this type of care. This means that seniors and their loved ones, should begin to plan for how they will pay for long-term care as soon as possible.

We know that this may not only raise questions for you and your loved ones, but also be confusing. Where should you start this conversation? How do you ensure you can obtain the help you need? What should you focus on? Let us share three key insights that we share with our clients, family, friends, and local community professionals when we are discussing long-term care needs.

What is long-term care? Unfortunately, many of the seniors we speak with do not understand what long-term care really is. While they have a vague understanding that there are nursing homes and assisted facilities in their community, they do not know what it means to need to live in one or the differences between the two. They also believe that, no matter what should happen in the future, they will be able to live out their lives in their home. While this may be true for some seniors, too often, it is not the case. We encourage our senior clients and their loved ones to start learning about the types of long-term care as soon as possible.

Will you need long-term care in the future? More and more studies report that over seventy percent of all Older Americans will need some form of long-term care in the future. Whether it is help with light housework and grocery shopping or 24/7 hands on care and assistance with bathing, the future could hold the need for long-term care assistance. We encourage all of our clients, friends, and family to not wait for a crisis to happen to begin to plan for this potential need in the future.

How do I prepare now? One of the first steps in preparing for a future that could include long-term care is to learn what is available in your community. Are there home health care providers? Are there assisted living facilities nearby? Nursing homes? Are they in close proximity to the hospital that is able to best meet the needs of Older Americans? After assessing what is available in your community, take the time to research the cost of long-term care in your community. You can use the Genworth Cost of Long-Term Care Study that we want to share with you to begin your research on the long-term costs of care in our community.

After these three steps, you can begin to plan forward. We work with seniors and their loved ones everyday who are looking to create a plan to address potential long-term care needs. One of the keys to a successful plan is to ensure it can help you both now and well into the future. We encourage you to contact our office to schedule a meeting to answer your long-term care related questions.

7 Tips for Talking to Your Parents About Long-Term Care Planning Over the Holidays

There is never a right time to talk to your parents and grandparents about their long-term care plans. With the holidays here, you may find yourself traveling to see those you love who live far away. This time together can provide the perfect opportunity to talk together about the future. As we age, many of us will need a bit more help. This help can take the form of paying bills, driving, and assistance with activities of daily living.

Starting a conversation focused on the uncertainty surrounding the aging process is never easy. Especially when you are talking to Older Americans who may have significant fears over the thought of leaving his or her home at some point in the future, the loss of a spouse, or isolation. Many seniors, even those you care about most, may express feelings of resentment and hostility over conversations that focus on their future.

Regardless of how uncomfortable the conversation may be at first, it is critical to have. When you and your parents or grandparents have a plan for how to handle the future, even the most complicated aging issues can become more manageable. Let us share with you the top seven tips we recommend to our clients, friends, advisors, and community that you can use to check-in and start the conversation.

Is their estate planning up-to-date? Many people who create estate planning documents think that once the documents are signed the planning is complete. Nothing is further from the truth. Circumstances change and plans need to be updated. Ask your loved one if their planning is up-to-date and reflects their current needs.

Who are their decision-makers? Knowing who the decision-makers are in times of health and in times of crisis is crucial. Ask now who the decision-makers are, as well as, who the back-up decision-makers are. Knowing who needs to make decisions in a crisis will be helpful should the time come.

Who is their attorney? Although it may seem an unusual question to ask, knowing who the attorney that your loved one works with is immensely helpful in a crisis. Their attorney should be able to guide you through unseen issues and be available to help in the future. Do not wait to ask your loved one the name of their attorney, address, phone number, and website.

What is the condition of the home? It is important to visit the home of your loved one and look around. Is your loved one aging well in their home?  Is it easy for him or her to move around? Is he or she having a hard time with the stairs? What is the state of the food in the refrigerator? Looking at the physical environment can give you insight into your loved one’s current capabilities.

Do you have a list of doctors? In addition to asking who your love one’s attorney is, ask who is his or her primary care doctor. Also, ask if they are regularly seeing any specialists. These inquiries may lead you to discovering conditions you were not aware of. In addition, it is good to be prepared with phone numbers and contact information should you need them in the future.

Is there a current list of medicines? Take the time to ask about medication. Many seniors are taking a number of different medications. Having an up-to-date list is important for you and any future healthcare decision-maker, but it is also important for the Older American to have as well. An accurate list of medicines may not be something that their primary doctor or specialist is privy to right now. Ask your loved one to prepare this list and then take it with them to any doctor’s appointment.

Have they started to plan for the costs of long-term care? Talk to your parents and grandparents about their long-term care planning as soon as possible. Unfortunately, long-term care is expensive and most of the services are not covered by Medicare. Meet with an elder law attorney who understands the landscape and what your loved one needs both now and in the future.

This is just a start in regard to the discussion you can have with your loved ones during the holidays. Always try to speak from a place of compassion and empathy. Remember, this is a conversation that should take place throughout the year, not just during the holidays. If you need help or if this article raises more questions than it answers, do not wait to ask us your questions today.

This Holiday Season Do You Know the Ways to Say Thank You to a Caregiver?

The season of giving thanks is almost upon us. While you may plan to spend the holidays showing your gratitude and appreciation to your close friends and family members, is your caregiver on your list of people to thank this Thanksgiving?

A caregiver takes on many roles. Whether he or she is an unpaid family member or a qualified professional, your caregiver puts his or her own life on pause to care for your loved one. This is why we want to share with you some simple ways to help your caregiver feel noticed, valued, and appreciated this holiday season.

Assume some of your caregiver’s responsibilities.

Caregivers selflessly give much of their time and energy on a daily basis to care for your loved one, without asking for much in return. When most of us think about caregiving, it is easy to focus on the care recipient instead of the caregiver. Caregivers, however, also need support and care. Whether it’s helping with his or her yard work, cooking a meal, or just making yourself available to spend time with the loved one they are caring for, we encourage you to allow the caregiver in your life to take a well-earned break that will benefit all of you.

Write your thoughts down on paper.

We know it may be hard to put your gratitude into words, however, a handwritten note or letter, no matter how long, can make a meaningful impact on the caregiver in your life. It is important to remember that the care recipient may not necessarily be able to say “thank you” to his or her caregiver. Putting some of your own thoughts down on paper reminding the caregiver in your life that he or she is appreciated, respected, and valued can go a long way.

Educate yourself about caregiver health.

How much do you know about caregiver health? When was the last time you checked-in with your caregiver about their well-being? Caregiving is a draining profession, and caregivers can get easily overwhelmed with the never-ending responsibilities. We encourage you to frequently sit down and talk to your caregiver and allow them to take advantage of respite breaks to ensure his or her needs are being met.

As important as it is to show your caregiver appreciation during the holiday season, it is equally as important for you to remind them of their worth on a regular basis, too. We encourage you to think of even more unique ways to say “thank you” to the caregiver in your life. If you have questions, or need additional ideas, do not wait to contact our office.

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