As an undergraduate, I worked part time at a nursing home specifically geared toward helping those with issues of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It was a small facility which focused on individualized attention for the patients, all of whom suffered from the disease in different ways: confusion, anger, repetitive questions, wandering into different areas of the home by mistake, and misplacing personal belongings. It was difficult to observe the patients’ behaviors, especially knowing how common the disease actually is. The last thing they should be worrying about is long-term care insurance.
Most of us will know someone who has been affected by Alzheimer’s disease at some point in our lives. Alzheimer’s is a form of dementia, which is caused by progressive brain cell death over a period of time. There are other forms of dementia as well, even though Alzheimer’s accounts for 60 to 80 percent of memory-loss cases. I have personally known many who have suffered from this affliction, including my grandmother and my neighbor, not to mention those I came to know while working at the nursing home. I’m sure I will encounter many others during my lifetime who have issues with dementia.
Researchers in the United States regularly conduct polls to determine the prevalence of the disease. In 2010, those over the age of 65 accounted for approximately 4.7 million Americans with Alzheimer’s disease. In 2013, it was estimated that almost one-tenth of this same age group suffered from Alzheimer’s, and that number increased an additional third among Americans over 85 years of age. While genetics is certainly a factor, other factors like gender, high blood pressure, and traumatic brain injuries (to name a few) can also come into play.
Healthcare professionals and researchers are slowly unraveling the mysteries of this irreversible, incurable disease. Until there is a cure, it is important to take important measures to ensure that you and your family are financially protected, should you be diagnosed.
Since Alzheimer’s tends to get progressively worse over time, you may find that you or your loved one needs care around the clock. There are several options available and the helpguide.org offers suggestions for preparing for your future long-term care needs.
- In-home assistance: Many services offer help with day-to-day tasks while allowing you to continue living at home. This may include housekeeping, running your errands, and personal hygiene assistance. The number of hours and days per week will affect the total cost.
- Adult day care: This gives the patient the opportunity to meet with others who share a similar affliction while allowing the primary care giver to maintain a full time job.
- Respite care: Short-term care in a facility in order for the caretaker to have a break for travel or work.
- Assisted living: For those who need help with their daily routine, such as making the bed. It also provides the patient with some independence, but with the added security of a 24-hour assistance.
- Nursing home: This service is for those who need care around the clock with daily activities, like taking their medicine. Medical professionals are available when needed. (For more on Alzheimer’s.)
So the big question is, how much does all of this cost?
According to LongTermCare.gov, the average costs of long-term care in 2010 were astronomical:
- “$205 per day or $6,235 per month for a semi-private room in a nursing home
- $229 per day or $6,965 per month for a private room in a nursing home
- $3,293 per month for care in an assisted living facility (for a one-bedroom unit)
- $21 per hour for a home health aide
- $19 per hour for homemaker services
- $67 per day for services in an adult day health care center”
Of course, each of these average costs depends upon any extra services you may need, like helping with showers or medications.
So, if you think you can afford over $80,000 per year in nursing home costs for the foreseeable future, then maybe you don’t need long-term care insurance. For the rest of us, the options for coverage are below.
There are many coverage options available through the state or federal government, but none of them are ideal.
Medicare focuses on short-term care, like visits to the doctor or hospital. It does not pay for things like long-term care unless you qualify under certain criteria. For example, having recently stayed in the hospital for more than three days means that you can have the first 20 days of a short-term nursing home stay covered 100 percent. This is generally not a solution for those suffering from a long-term illness, such as Alzheimer’s.
Medicaid, on the other hand, does cover long-term care services, like nursing homes and in-home assistance. However, you have to meet certain requirements, set at the state level, to qualify. This includes low income and assets.
If you are a veteran, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) pays for long-term care for those who have disabilities that are related to their time in military service, or those veterans who are unable to afford the costs of their long-term care needs.
Purchasing long-term care insurance will probably be your best option.
Long-term care insurance covers the costs of long-term services, like in-home personal care, nursing home stays, and assisted living. Costs for insurance range widely and are based on a variety of factors, include:
- The age at which you begin long-term care insurance.
- The amount the policy will reimburse you.
- The amount of days, or years, that the policy will cover.
- Any additional benefits you want covered that aren’t standard in the policy.
There are a few issues to consider, if you are thinking about long-term care insurance. If you already need long-term care or are in poor health, you may not qualify. Also, long-term care insurance policies often have limits on the number of years or the maximum amount they will pay. Some will pay for as long as you need care services, but this has a higher premium.
On average, the cost for a long-term care policy in 2007 was about $2,207 per year. This was a comprehensive policy that included in-home and facility care. It covered about 5 years worth of benefits amounting to about $160 per day.
There is no “one size fits all” plan. Everyone will need different benefits for different lengths of time, so speak to an insurance agent today.
Other Enhanced Insurance articles related to Long-Term Care Insurance:
Long-Term Care Insurance (With Video)
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