For many individuals, planning for long-term care arrangements can often take a back seat to more immediate needs like mortgage payments, college savings and early retirement.
But, according to the U.S. Health and Human Services Department, someone turning 65 today faces a nearly 70% chance of needing long-term care services during their remaining years.
And when that time comes, without advance planning, the reality of covering this expense can potentially be financially disastrous for a family.
Consider, just one day of room and board in a private room in a nursing home can cost $283 or upwards of $8,517 a month. And for a home health aide who assists in the basics of self care, an individual can pay $146 a day or close to $4,385 a month.* Neither employer-based medical insurance nor Medicare will pay for these extended periods of care.
Long-term care insurance can be a means to offset the financial burden when the time comes for an individual who needs extended care. A long-term care insurance policy covers everything from the basics — bathing and dressing — to skilled care from therapists and nurses for months or even years.
But with so many variables in play — from how much care a person might need to how long they need the care — it can be tricky deciding on when to exercise the policy.
Here are some factors to take into consideration to maximize the benefit:
- First, understand exactly what the long-term care policy covers and any restrictions. The daily benefit can be used for in-home care, assisted living, adult daycare, respite care, hospice care, nursing home care, memory care for people with dementia, and home modifications to accommodate disabilities.
- Most long-term care insurance policies have an elimination period before benefits begin to kick in. This waiting period can be between 0–90 days, so families need to plan for how expenses will be covered out of pocket during the waiting period.
- This leads to the next point, consider using the policy earlier, but with fewer hours. Hire a caregiver for the least amount of hours necessary during the waiting period and then gradually add on additional hours as needed once the policy is active.
- Plan to not use 100% of the daily benefit. By spending less each day, the coverage will stretch out longer for the individual.
- Families should also research how to combine benefits for maximum coverage. For example, combine VA benefits with a long-term care benefit.
While long-term care insurance can be a huge help, especially for individuals without family or a small retirement savings, it’s not a perfect solution. From forgetting to use the policy, to either waiting too long to use the policy or exercising it too early and running out of funds, it’s a delicate dance to ensure seeing the maximum benefit.
For more information on the various care options, the average cost of care and ways to pay for care, visit www.carepatrol.com.
*Genworth Cost of Care Survey, 2019