Live Wisely - September 26, 2019
By Kristine Jepsen
When you’re newly inducted to the 55+ age group, long-term care can seem like a distant consideration. You’re still planning for retirement, so long-term care is still decades away… or so you think.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, nearly two-thirds of people over the age of 65 will need long-term care, and one in five will require care for more than five years. Those ten years can go quickly, so now is the time to explore your options. Do you intend to age in place with continuing care at home, or should you search for a community that transitions from independent living to assisted living and memory care and nursing?
Asking the right questions is the key to getting information that helps you make the best decisions. Here are some of the questions you should be asking yourself now.
Most people have the misperception that Medicare pays for long-term care. Medicare is healthcare insurance. Long-term care is entirely different. So it’s important to understand who pays for what, and when. Costs of care is one of the most pressing questions, and one of the most difficult to understand fully. Sarah Drexler of Goodwin House at Home says, “We encourage people to ask, ‘How do I know if I have enough money to pay for future care?’ and ‘How can I pay for my lifestyle and care at the same time?’” Goodwin House at Home is one of more than 30 continuing care at home (CCAH) programs in the country, combining long-term care insurance benefits with personalized care coordination.
Long-term care costs vary, depending on your geographic location and specific health needs, Drexler explains. Goodwin House at Home works to prevent sticker shock over these expenses, which can add up quickly. Consider these current average costs of long-term care:
Medicare or private health insurance typically covers only short-term skilled care for improving conditions, and Medicaid kicks in only when your income and assets fall below state-established limits. This can present you with a significant coverage gap if you don’t have insurance to cover long-term care for chronic conditions or a change in ability to tend to your basic personal care needs. To help cover this gap, a growing number of CCAH programs offer the security and services provided within retirement communities to people who want to live at home. Members pay an up-front fee plus monthly service fees for guaranteed access to comprehensive future care and services. Goodwin House at Home, for instance, offers five different plan tiers, ranging from $15,000 to $50,000, with monthly charges between $300 and $600.
Residents in retirement communities typically have access to clinical staff such as nurses and social workers who are there to help them navigate changes as they age. When you choose to live at home, you don’t have access to these trained and experienced professionals. You might designate family members or close friends to help in an emergency, but they can find themselves overwhelmed or inexperienced if such an emergency presents itself. No matter where you live, strong health advocates are vital for your well-being. “Who will be your advocate if you end up in the hospital?” Drexler prompts. Adding, “Who do you want assessing reputable home care services and ensuring your caregiver is showing up and doing what’s expected?” While your closest friend or relative will have your best interests at heart, it might not be realistic to expect them to know the ins-and-outs of coordinating care when you need it. Understanding this and planning ahead can make a world of difference for you should the time come when you need an advocate.
Ultimately, Drexler explains, it’s important to answer the biggest question of all: When is the right time to move to a senior living community or start in-home care services? “This is significant,” she says, adding, “and most people don’t think plan ahead and find themselves with limited options when faced with a real need.” Drexler suggests people get help with this dilemma in advance, so they and their loved ones don’t have to make important decisions during a crisis.
Long-Term Services & Supports State Scorecard
The AARP tool assesses state policies and related care costs for older adults, people with physical disabilities and family caregivers.
This U.S. Department of Health and Human Services portal provides guidance for all stages of care, including people who have not yet aged into retirement benefits.
Whether you prefer to pursue CCAH programs or to look into assisted living and memory care communities, it’s essential to know the right questions to ask, and to ask them before you may need them.
Kristine Jepsen is a writer and editor for literary journals online and in print, as well as a professional business counselor, Pilates and Oula! dance instructor, grant-writer, and brand content developer. Her work with Goodwin House at Home centers on health and wellness along the aging continuum, covering topics as diverse as dating apps and financial scams. She lives on a farm in the Midwest with her horse-loving tween daughter and many four-legged friends, large and small.