Seniors often need long-term care when they have a serious, ongoing health condition or disability. The need for long-term care can occur abruptly, such as after a heart attack or stroke. However, commonly it develops progressively, as seniors age and become frailer or as an illness or disability progresses.
What is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care is a variety of services that assists seniors to meet their personal care needs.
It is a common misconception that long-term care is strictly medical care. However, it is majority assistance with the basic personal tasks of everyday life, such as:
- Using the toilet
- Transferring (to or from bed or chair)
- Caring for incontinence
Who Needs Long-Term Care?
It is challenging to predict how much or what type of long-term care a senior may need. Many things increase the risk of needing long-term care. For example:
- Age. The risk generally increases as people get older.
- Gender. Women are at higher risk than men, primarily because they often live longer.
- Marital status. Single people are more likely than married people to need care from a paid provider.
- Lifestyle. Poor diet and exercise habits can increase a person's risk.
- Health and family history.
Why Plan Ahead for Long-Term Care?
- Long term care is a leading cause of calamitous out-of-pocket health care costs for the elderly and their adult children.
- By planning ahead, seniors will extend the time they have for saving up adequate money to ensure they receive the help they need.
- By planning ahead when seniors are in comparatively great health they considerably increase the chances for qualifying for Long-Term Care Insurance which will cover most, non-medical long-term care costs.
Making Decisions About Long-Term Care
When starting to make decisions about long-term care, talk with your family, friends, and elder law attorney and financial professionals about care options and what is financially possible.
Additionally, notify key people in your life of your decisions. For example, if you assign a power of attorney, it is important that your representative understands what your wishes are, including for financial, medical, and end of life decisions. It is also important to take the time to research and understand the support in your area. Senior housing, community centers, and financial assistance are much easier to access if you understand the application processes and requirements to receive useful benefits.
How seniors pay for long-term care depends on their financial situation and the kinds of services they use. Often, they rely on a variety of payment sources, including:
- Personal funds, including pensions, savings, and income from stocks
- Government health insurance programs, such as Medicaid (Medicare does not cover long-term care but may cover some costs of short-term care in a nursing home after a hospital stay.)
- Private financing options, such as long-term care insurance
- Veterans’ benefits
- Services through the Older Americans Act
As you age in place, you can feel better knowing there are steps you can take to ensure that your wishes, both medical and financial, are carried out. Long-term care is often planned after an accident happens to our loved one, giving us limited options to ensure optimal care. By planning early, you are able to not only save money, but ensure best possible care.