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Is It Time to Think of Long-Term Care?

November 9, 2006 By:
Sam Cooperman
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It's getting harder and harder to avoid the topic of long-term care these days. Many of us have a parent or relative who is receiving or has received long-term care. So many are living longer and need such care, and many have a story to tell about the unexpected costs.

Although people are reluctant to broach this topic, many are concerned about their own long-term care: Will I need it? Will I be able to afford it? Will the cost of care wipe out my savings? Who will take care of me and my spouse?

There are good reasons to be asking these questions. The longer we live, the greater the risk of requiring some form of long-term care in our lifetime.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the elderly population requiring long-term care services will more than double in the coming years.

While improvements in health care have made sudden death from acute diseases less likely, the chances of incurring a debilitating disease that may require long-term care has greatly increased. As the baby-boom generation continues to age, and as aging boomers live longer, costs can only be expected to rise.

The need for assistance in these following areas is often diagnosed by assessing one's ability to perform some of the following, best described as either physical or cognitive impairment:

· Bathing: Transferring into the tub or shower, washing the body and drying off;

· Dressing: Getting clothes from the closet, dressing oneself with such things as fasteners or braces;

· Transferring: Moving your body from bed to chair and chair to standing;

· Toileting: Moving oneself to bathroom, cleaning oneself, getting in and out of the bathroom;

· Eating: Getting food into the body, using utensils;

· Continence: Ability to maintain control of bowel or bladder.

Some of the concern we share about long-term care is based on how much it will cost, which depends on the level of care received, whether at home, in an assisted-living facility or in a nursing home.

Home- and community-based services are designed to provide the minimal level of care to enable individuals to remain in their own homes. Examples include senior centers, adult day care, meals on wheels, transportation, therapy services and homemaker/chore services.

Nursing-home care is by far the most expensive, with annual costs in this area averaging more than $60,000 a year.

It is mistakenly believed that Medicare or Medicaid will pay for long-term care needs. Medicare mainly covers skilled care after you have been in the hospital for at least three days, and generally does not cover personal or home-care services. Medicare was not designed to pay for extended long-term care, and it should not be counted on as a resource to meet this need.

Some people believe they can rely on their own personal resources to pay for their long-term care needs (self-insurance). Unfortunately, they underestimate the costs, and end up using savings they have built up over a lifetime. Others may have to sell assets, such as their home.

Instead of depleting their assets, relying on the government for help, or burdening loved ones, many people are turning to long-term-care insurances to help cover the cost of extended care. This type of policy covers services such as nursing home, assisted living, home health care and adult day care.

If you believe you're too young to begin thinking about such care, consider that many people who require it today are working-age adults between 18 and 64.

Sam Cooperman has earned the designation of CLTC (Certified in Long-Term Care). He can be reached at 610-660-4376.

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