Many adults are finding that their aging parents are in need of health care assistance. Luckily, there are many options available today to help your parents grow old gracefully, either in their own home or in a facility, and several ways that you can finance the costs of the care.
If your parents are healthy seniors who can look after themselves, they generally are eligible to enter a continuing-care retirement community that allows them to buy or rent an apartment and ensures them lifetime nursing care when it is necessary. Another option for healthy seniors is private long-term care insurance, which can help cover nursing home costs or the cost of an in-home aide.
Living with Family
Many families opt for moving an aging parent into their own home. If you are able to coexist peacefully with your parent, this may be a good idea because the arrangement frees you from worry about the upkeep of a second home. For parents with dementia or more
serious health issues, adult day care is also an option and a good way to get your parent to socialize with other adults.
When living together is not a workable plan, maintaining your parent in his or her own home is also an option. There are, however, several fairly expensive things that may be required to make a home environment safe and suitable for an aging person. Various safety features may be necessary, including first-floor bathrooms, grab bars in hallways and bathrooms, and a personal emergency response system in case your parent needs assistance while alone. If your parent is in need of daily assistance with meals or chores, he or she can apply for several services, such as Meals on Wheels, which may be free for anyone over 60. If your parent needs more personal assistance, you may want to look into hiring an in-home aide at a skill level appropriate for the amount of help needed.
If sending your parent to a nursing home is inevitable, make sure you research each home extensively. Reservations at the home selected should be made at least a year ahead of the time that you expect your parent will need it, as waiting lists are typically long at well respected facilities. Keep in mind, too, that the government offers limited financial help for those families paying for nursing home care. Thinking about the need and the costs of long-term care is enough to make anyone uncomfortable. But while it's a difficult subject to talk about, it's also a topic that often generates lots of questions and misunderstanding.
For the most part, those who need long-term care are left to foot the bill on their own. Neither Medicare, nor Medicare supplemental coverage
("Medigap"), nor standard health insurance policies cover long-term care. That's why long-term care insurance may be so important. Since premium costs are based on your age and health at the time of purchase, the younger and healthier you are when you purchase a policy, the lower the premium you're apt to pay during the life of the plan.
As you evaluate long-term care insurance, consider the following variables:
Policies will differ in the types of services they support, making the choice of a policy that best meets your particular needs so important.
How much does the policy pay per day for care in a particular setting? How does the policy pay out (e.g., a fixed daily amount, as reimbursement for the cost of care up to a daily maximum)? Does the policy have a maximum lifetime limit? Are there adjustments for inflation?
Does the policy use certain triggers to determine benefits eligibility, such as the formal diagnosis of an illness or disability? What is the maximum issue age for the policy?
Women May Need More
Longer life spans for women may signal the need for additional coverage.
Finally, keep in mind that most long-term care policies sold today are federally tax qualified, which means premiums paid and out-of-pocket expenses are typically deductible. Also, long term care benefits received are, in general, not taxed as income up to certain limits. Consider meeting with a financial expert to discuss your particular situation.
This material was prepared by LPL Financial.