Long-term care something to consider

Published 10:23 am Wednesday, August 10, 2011

by Jesse K. Hellyer Jr.

You probably know someone who has needed long-term care. Maybe you have witnessed a family member, friend or colleague struggle with the emotional and financial issues that can come with a long-term care experience.

The truth is, no matter when the need arises because of age, disability, or an unexpected illness or accident, long-term care can affect any age group, any social strata and any geographic location. But what is it and how can you plan for it?

What is long-term care?

Long-term care is help you may need due to a lengthy illness, an unexpected injury or accident, or a severe cognitive disorder such as Alzheimer’s disease. It’s assistance with the everyday tasks, or the activities of daily living like bathing, eating, dressing, toileting, transferring, and continence.

Long-term care may be provided in a variety of locations, from nursing homes and assisted living facilities to adult daycare centers and even one’s home.

Who needs long-term care?

Most of us strive to live active, healthy lives well into our later years, and indeed as a society, Americans are living longer than ever before.

This extended longevity is one of the things that drives the growing need for long-term care — the longer we live, the better the odds that we may need long-term care services. It is predicted that in the year 2020, some 12 million older Americans are expected to need long-term care.

While the majority of long-term care services is provided for seniors, a surprising amount of long-term care services are provided to younger people. In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office estimates that 40 percent of the 13 million people receiving long-term care services are between18 and 64.

Who pays for long-term care?

Long-term care can be expensive, financially and emotionally.

An unexpected need for long-term care can have a significant impact on a family’s assets and lifestyle. Close to one-fourth of all nursing home costs are paid out of pocket by individuals and their families.

Many people mistakenly believe that their health insurance will cover the cost of long-term care. Others believe that Medicare or Medicaid will cover long-term care expenses. While Medicare does provide health coverage for seniors, it is limited in the coverage it provides for long-term care. Medicaid will pay for the cost of long-term care, but you must qualify by meeting strict income and asset eligibility requirements.

Long-term care insurance a solution

Long-term care insurance can be a very smart way to address the challenges from a long-term care need. Long-term care insurance can help pay for nursing home care, as well as, a variety of home and community-based care services.

Long-term care insurance may not be for everybody, so if you are considering a policy, read it carefully and be sure to work with an insurance agent who understands long-term care issues.

JESSE K. HELLYER JR. of Waverly is a financial services professional with New York Life. He can be reached at 804-834-9939.