Thinking about a future in which we will need help with our daily activities is tough. Few of us intentionally give that possibility a lot of thought. For some, it is too depressing. For others, it seems too far in the future to worry about. We may even think that it won’t happen to us. It may not.
Statistically, half of the people turning 85 or older will need help with their daily activities. In the past, this help has been provided by a woman of the family. But these days, families are often spread far apart making daily care impractical, if not impossible. Also, many women today work outside of the home. Women are no longer automatically expected to care for the elderly members of their family.
Going outside the family can be very expensive, particularly if the care is long-term. Statistics, according to United Seniors Health Council, say that 6.4 million people 65 or older need long-term care. One in two people age 85 or older will need care. And, of course, debilitating illness can strike at any age leaving us unable to carry out day-to-day activities on our own.
We might automatically think of a nursing home when we think of long-term care. But long-term care can take place in our own homes or perhaps in our community. Some folks may do well in an assisted living facility where they have their own apartment and are fairly independent, yet have medical help available if needed. Others may wish to remain in their own homes and receive home care.
There are many options but the options all take a bite of the person’s finances. Nursing home care can cost any where from $40,000 to $80,000 a year. Even a short stay in a nursing facility can claim a chunk of carefully saved money. Contrary to popular belief, Medicare does not take care of all long-term care. They pay for a few days and then a person is on their own. Most folks end up paying out of pocket, out of their retirement that they so thoughtfully put aside over the years. It doesn’t take long to deplete that retirement money.
Long-term care insurance is an option that more people are considering. As the “sandwich generation” watches its parents lose the ability to take care of their own basic needs, they understand the possibilities more realistically and plan financially for the time when they too may need help with basic needs.
Long-term care insurance works a lot like any other insurance. You pay into a policy hoping you will never need it. As you get older, getting a policy will cost more because at age 70 your chances of needing long-term care soon are a lot better than they were at 50. Getting a policy while still young is a very good financial plan and will provide more benefits if the time should come that you need to make use of the policy.
There are many things to consider. If you have a very good income and expect a very good retirement compensation, then you may not need long-term care insurance. If your relatives lived to a ripe old age with minimal need for care, perhaps you will as well. There is no way to know what the future will hold. If there were, insurance companies would work very differently.
If you should decide to look at long-term care insurance, keep in mind that they vary by insurance company and by state. Some have caveats on pre-existing conditions while others do not. Some have waiting periods before the policy will take care of certain problems. Be sure to do your homework before you talk to an insurance consultant and then ask lots of questions. Be sure you know exactly how your policy is going to work when you need it.
We cannot guess the future, but we can prepare for it. It’s easy to put it off, especially since it is such an unpleasant thing to think about or discuss. But time has a way of sneaking quickly by us and catching us unprepared. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can handle it in much the same way we handle the possibility of a car accident, a death or disability. Insurance. Pay into a policy hoping we never get to use it but being very grateful if we do.