When you or a loved one cannot care for themselves for a long period of time, it is usually necessary to seek out long-term care (LTC). Formal facilities that provide such care are known by several names, including residential continuing care facilities, nursing homes, and personal care facilities. Informal long-term care is often provided, in its earlier stages, by a family member who is willing to provide their loved one with personal care, meals, laundry services, housekeeping, and transportation.
These informal care providers are often referred to as the “sandwich generation” because they support their own children while at the same time care for aging parents. The stress of providing practical living and emotional care as well as financial support for two sets of generations, as well as themselves, can become overwhelming and have negative effects on the provider’s self-care and well being. It is a difficult decision to make but at some point, formal LTC becomes a necessity for some people.
When the time comes for your loved one to be placed in a formal long-term care arrangement, things can get complicated. If a loved one has not planned for their own aging process, finding the right facility that accepts their healthcare coverage can be daunting. If the loved one's income and assets are limited, they may be able to qualify for Medicaid. However, because Medicaid has strict requirements, this can leave the spouse at home with very little. It is important to work with a qualified attorney before the crisis arrives so that your loved one is financially ready when the time comes.
Conversely, if a person is financially stable, then it may be possible to pay thousands of dollars a month to a quality healthcare facility. However, over time, this cost can have a severe impact on savings and the ability to leave a legacy to children. With proper legal advice, a plan to pay for care without losing everything is possible.
There are also people who are stuck in-between. In some cases, seniors are not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, nor wealthy enough to cover their own costs. There are still options available to those who fall into this category. It is never too late (or too soon) to get help.
Long-term care is becoming more expensive and less accessible as the baby boomer population continues to put a strain on the US healthcare system. Now is the time to engage your loved ones in discussions about the type of care they would want if long-term care is needed, including where they want to receive the care, and how it should be paid for. It’s important to document your loved one's wishes and to ensure that your loved one has named an agent to make decisions if your loved one becomes unable to do so. Start planning now, and it should be possible to navigate a long-term care event without putting your loved one's life savings at risk.