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Long Term Care: Think About It While You’re Young

The last thing on most of our minds when we are young and healthy is contemplating what life might be like when we aren’t. But as people age, we are likely to need costly help, whether it is specialized nursing care, in-home caregivers or assistance with the simple tasks of daily life, like getting dressed in the morning.

We buy insurance for our life because we know we are going to die, for our cars because we know we can get in an accident and for our health because we know we can get sick. But we don’t tend to buy insurance because we think we’ll need someone to help us take a bath.

Most people assume Medicare will pay the bills, but the program covers long term care only under certain conditions and for a limited time. While Medicaid covers long term care, beneficiaries have to be poor or willing to “spend down” their assets to be eligible.

The first step is asking hard questions about how you want to live in your senior years. The answers will guide your planning and determine choices. For example, do you have children or grandchildren who are able and willing to help you when you need it? Do you want them to? Would you prefer to stay at home if you become disabled? Are you comfortable with the idea of going on Medicaid? What does your spouse or life partner want? Even people with financial means and family members willing to help must be realistic. Family members often don’t know what’s involved in caring for a loved one at home. It can take a huge toll on the caregiver, especially if they are not trained.

Long term care insurance generally covers home care, assisted living, adult daycare, respite care, hospice care, nursing home and Alzheimer’s facilities. If home care coverage is purchased, long term care insurance can pay for home care, often from the first day it is needed. It will pay for a visiting or live-in caregiver, companion, housekeeper, therapist or private duty nurse up to seven days a week, 24-hours a day (up to the policy benefit maximum).

Long term care insurance rates are determined by six main factors: the person’s age, the daily or monthly benefit, how long the benefits pay, the elimination period, inflation protection, and the health rating (preferred, standard, sub-standard).

Most companies will offer couples and multi-life discounts on individual polices.

Experts agree that the best time to plan for long term care is when it’s not yet needed. Some say consumers should start thinking about it in their 40s. As with most kinds of personal insurance, the younger you are when you purchase long term care insurance, the lower your premiums will be. Once you own a policy, premiums generally don’t increase with age, unless the insurance company raises them for a whole class of policyholders. About 60% of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long term care services during their lives. About 40% of those receiving long term care today are between the ages of 18 and 64.

If you can’t buy as much coverage as you think you need, consider buying an affordable plan now and enhancing it later when your financial situation improves.

If these few minutes have caused you to look at long term care differently, it’s time to take the next step. As a Certified Long Term Care professional, l have the experience and expertise to work with you and your advisors to create a plan that will protect you. More importantly, it will protect those who you have promised to take care of. For more information, please contact your advisor or Linda Robinson Rutz, CLTC, Union Agency, 402-484-3831 or linda.rutz@unionagency.com.