It’s no secret that many residents of Mount Vernon and elsewhere are often uncomfortable talking about and planning for death, although all of us are going to experience it at some point, and many will require palliative care for themselves or for loved ones.
But there’s a second topic that’s also sometimes challenging to get people to talk about until it’s too late: long-term care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice has seen some clients be prepared and familiar with different care options. In other cases, people may scramble at the last minute when a loved one needs help in hurry, such as after trauma or a changed medical condition. This may involve difficult discussions and tough decisions.
At this point, they may not have as many options as they would have if they had planned earlier, or some services may also cost differently.
Like planning for death, it’s useful to be as educated as much as possible, especially since not everyone is familiar with what services may need to be paid out of pocket, which ones are provided by insurance or by Medicare, and which ones might not be available to everyone.
Home care vs. residential care
A big factor is where someone’s care can or will need to take place, which could be based on someone’s physical and mental condition and how likely it is that either will change in the future.
Most people, if asked, would opt to stay at home, in a comfortable setting with familiar surroundings and possessions.
Unfortunately, they may have some physical or mental challenges to keep them living alone and unsupervised. They may not have family members able to be caregivers or can’t or don’t want to pay for a full-time or even part-time caregiver.
They may be eligible for some services from a home healthcare company, whether a full-time caregiver, nurse, or aide who checks in a few times a week. Insurance may also pay for the services of some therapists on a temporary basis such as physical therapy or occupational therapy.
Although Medicare doesn’t traditionally pay for some supplemental home health care services, or at least not for very long, long-term care insurance or private costs may make it easier to pay for services like basic housekeeping, transportation, meal preparation, or similar helpful but not necessarily medical-related tasks.
Medicaid can also be an option for some basic services, but only when someone runs out of money and has exhausted much of their savings.
Another option is to move to a community that may provide different levels of care. People who are more independent may be able to have their own apartments but still be able to take advantage of shared resources such as food and activities.
Some facilities are designed to be temporary, such as a rehabilitation facility that might be needed for a few weeks before a longer-term solution and the client either is cleared to return home or recommended for a facility that may provide a higher level of care that wouldn’t be available through home health care.
Thinking long term
Generally, the older you are, the more you’ll need some type of care. At the same time, the longer you put off getting long-term care insurance, it might be more challenging to get and the cost may increase significantly.
One evergreen statistic that many insurance providers like to use is that 70 percent of men and women over age 65 will need some sort of long-term care services. Even if they believe they’re in good health now, the odds increase for something to happen in the near future to change their health status, whether it’s a fall, something like a stroke, or a form of dementia.
Medicare does provide many services but does have its limits, which is why long-term care insurance is recommended.
This can be looked into earlier in life too, such as through benefits provided by an employer. Banks and credit unions also now make it easy to move funds into designated savings accounts, especially for future healthcare needs.
There are also a variety of tax benefits available, and a financial advisor can assist in setting up these options, including transitioning any assets to a new plan after you retire from your job. In some circumstances, long-term care can be bundled with insurance policies.
Learn more this month
Long-term care professionals suggest that it’s always a good time to learn more about different coverage options, the sooner the better.
To encourage people to do research now, November has been declared National Long-Term Care Awareness Month. It’s an opportunity to learn about the different options and the advantages of selecting a plan. Like any type of insurance, there is some guesswork involved and hoping for the best. However, if that doesn’t happen, you and your family will still be protected and you’ll have more resources to keep your quality of life, rather than having to dip into your savings or your family’s savings.