No one wants to think about a time when they might need long-term care. So planning ahead for this possibility often gets put off. Most people first learn about long-term care when they or a loved one need care. Then their options are often limited by lack of information, the immediate need for services, and insufficient resources to pay for preferred services. Planning ahead allows you to have more control over your future.
Planning ahead for long-term care is important because there is a good chance you will need some long-term care services if you live beyond the age of 65. About 70 percent of people over age 65 require some services, and the likelihood of needing care increases as you age. This also helps you to understand what service options are available in your community, what special conditions may apply for receiving services, for example, age or other eligibility criteria, what services cost, and what payment options – public and private – apply. Having this information helps ensure you will have a range of options when you need long-term care, and makes it more likely that you will have more choice and control over where and how you receive services. This is important because the cost of long-term care services often exceeds what the average person can pay from income and other resources. By planning ahead, you may be able to save your assets and income for uses other than long-term care, including preserving the quality of life for your spouse or other loved ones. With planning, there is a greater likelihood of being able to leave an estate to your heirs, because you are less likely to use up your financial resources paying for care. This means less emotional and financial stress on you and your family. It can provide a way to involve your family in decisions without depending on them to bear the entire burden alone. Finally, for many people, one of the most important advantages of planning ahead is to ensure greater independence should you need care. Your choices for receiving care outside of a facility and being able to stay at home or receive services in the community for as long as possible are greater if you have planned ahead.
There are many reasons why people don’t plan ahead for long-term care. These include the natural tendency to avoid thinking about becoming dependent on others for your care, misinformation about the risks of needing care, and lack of knowledge about the cost of care and payment options.
Most people don’t like to think about getting older, developing a disability, becoming less independent, or needing help with personal care. Many people don’t realize that their chance of needing long-term care by the time they turn 65 is as high as 70 percent.
People commonly misunderstand how expensive long-term care is, and how it is paid for. Consumer surveys have shown that many individuals don’t realize that health insurance, Medicare, and/or disability coverage do not pay for most long-term care services. Medicaid pays for some long-term care services, but only if you qualify for the program because you have limited income and financial resources.
Some people find it too difficult to raise these subjects with their loved ones, making it difficult to explore and define their plans. Adult children often feel like they are patronizing their parents if they raise the subject or they are afraid of giving the impression that they might not want to provide care if it is needed. Parents often don’t want to make adult children uncomfortable or to discuss details of their finances with them.
Finally, some people realize it is important to plan, but don’t know how to go about it. The best way to begin is with small and easy steps. Even just talking with your loved ones is a great first-step!