Plan Ahead for Long-Term Care

Karen Weeks

Everyone hates to think about it, but there’s a chance many of us will require some sort of long-term care, whether it’s in-home from a skilled provider, in an assisted-living facility, or in a nursing home. We dislike the thought of not being able to take care of ourselves the way we want. And even though we’re living longer, we’re still just one major heart attack, stroke, disease, or accident away from needing long-term care.

Unfortunately, the decision to be put into long-term care might not be yours alone to make. If your condition is debilitating enough -- such as a major stroke or dementia --your spouse or other loved ones will most likely make the decision. If you are able to make the decision for yourself, however, John F. Wasik at Forbes.com states that you can choose a self-directed option, but such options are mainly offered through veterans and Medicaid programs.

There can be so much confusion about care options and how to pay for them, and there’s the emotional turmoil you or your family will experience when it’s time to make a decision. The best way to possibly stave off the expense of the care and emotion of making that decision to enter into it is to assess your own health, consider long-term care insurance, and discover ways to pay for it when you need it.

Assess Your Own Health

Do you have amedical condition such as diabetes or heart failure that may cause worse problems later on? Do you exercise and eat healthfully? Are you managing your weight? Are you keeping yourself as mentally sharp as possible? Remember that our bodies heal slower as we grow older, so it takes longer to recuperate. Sotaking care of yourself, staying safe, and keeping yourself in the best shape as you age can possibly prevent you from needing long-term care, and maybe even allow you to age in place at your own home.

 

Consider Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance is just that: a policy that provides benefits that help you pay for long-term care when you need it -- whether it’s in-home or at an assisted-care facility or a nursing home. It also helps protect your assets and, of course, provides peace of mind. The only drawback is that it can be expensive, and premiums can increase as you get older.

 

Discover Ways to Pay

Medicare doesn’t cover long-term care, but it can cover custodial care, which is what you get in a nursing home, along with other types of skilled care in a skilled facility.State-based Medicaid programs will pay for care but only after all other resources are exhausted -- and even then each state has its own guidelines on how to qualify for coverage. You can sell your life insurance policy in what’s called a life settlement to help pay for the care, or you can also use the accumulated cash value of a whole- or universal-life policy if you have one. Be careful: if you choose a life settlement because it might affect your ability to qualify for her assistance. You might also need to consider selling your home to pay for the care.

Overall, long-term care is not inevitable for senior citizens. Taking good care of yourself is key, to be sure. But along with keeping yourself healthy, having a plan that involves long-term care insurance and ways to pay when you need the care can ease the burden when you or your loved ones need to make that very important decision.

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