Long-term care is a need that many people don’t think about, or assume they won’t need. But the fact is that disability or serious condition and long-term care will become a reality for a great many older Americans. The cost of ignoring the issue can be financially catastrophic for you and your family, given the prohibitive cost of paying for long-term care out of pocket. As with any high-cost health care expense, your best bet always is to plan ahead and be as prepared as possible should the need for long-term care arise.
Try to assess the likelihood that you or a loved one will require long-term care. Review your lifestyle choices and any hereditary illnesses and conditions that could affect you. If you’re concerned about a partner or relative, you should watch for a pronounced shift in behavior and habits. For example, a sudden inability to find things or stay on top of bills in a loved one who’s always been well-organized could be an indication that you’re headed toward a long-term care situation. A sudden inattention to personal hygiene and a precipitous decline in overall health are other signs to watch for. If you don’t have the availability to be a full-time caregiver, it could be time to start looking into full-time care.
Some long-term care experts recommend waiting until after age 50 to buy a long-term care insurance plan, though you’ll pay less if you begin at age 40. You might also consider adding a rider to an existing policy that would allow you to use death benefits for long-term care. It’s an option that many carriers offer their customers. If you have a high-deductible insurance plan, look into opening a health savings account to help prepare for long-term care costs.
Medicare doesn’t cover custodial care, but it can help with associated care costs. If you’re in a dire situation, Medicaid will pay for long-term care, though with the proviso that you are near the end of your financial resources. However, not every care facility accepts Medicaid. Bear in mind that home health care is an option if you or a loved one doesn’t require round-the-clock care. A home health worker can help with activities of daily living such as dressing, bathing, grocery shopping or driving.
Lifestyle changes can mitigate factors that might lead to a long-term care situation. If you’re a smoker or heavy drinker, quitting can eliminate two major causes of health problems such as heart disease, emphysema and cancer. Obesity can also put you in danger of serious health problems, so a program of vigorous exercise and eating a healthy diet might be indicated. Pay closer attention to self-care by getting enough sleep and engaging in a relaxing, meditative discipline to control blood pressure and anxiety.
There are a number of payment options if long-term care becomes unavoidable. Investigate private pay options such as pensions, investment dividends, income interest, annuities, Social Security benefits, or IRA or 401(k) payments. If you or a loved one is a veteran, check into VA benefits though be aware that the application process can be quite lengthy.
Long-term care insurance is another option, though most companies will only approve applicants under 84 who don’t have dementia. Many people are unaware that a life insurance settlement can also provide funds for use in long-term care. Investigate your options sooner than later so you don’t find yourself in a desperate situation. Be aware that more than half of Americans turning 65 today will develop a disability serious enough to require long-term care.
Being informed and well-prepared is always your best option when it comes to long-term care. Begin preparing before you reach the age of 50 so you’re eligible for a less expensive insurance plan. And don’t underestimate the value of leading a healthy lifestyle as you or a loved one grows older.