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The Importance of Long Term Care Planning

Life expectancy in the United States has continued an upward trend over the last several decades. The average life expectancy for men is 76.4 years and the average for women is a healthy 81.2 years of age. What has not trended upward, however, is the number of people engaging in long term care planning. The fact is, 63 percent of Americans age 65 or older will need either in-home nursing care or long term care at a residential facility, such as a nursing home. Planning for long term care is not fun, nor does anyone want to think they may not be able to perform daily functions on their own someday. But, as you purchase fire insurance and create a fire plan despite the fact you take great care to prevent a house fire, it is paramount you create a long term care plan. 

There is no set-in-stone definition for long term care, this will usually be determined by your physician. Generally, you are said to need long term care if you require assistance with two or more common activities of daily living (ADL) for more than 100 consecutive days. ADLs include activities such as dressing and bathing. However, this determination is not limited to physical decline. Mental conditions, such as dementia, may also indicate a need for long term care. 

Many people falsely believe if they need long term care, they will just be able to finance it out of their retirement accounts. The cost of long term care often shocks retirees and can place an extreme burden on themselves or their families. Long term care expenses are uncertain and can fluctuate from $0, to over $1 million. Attempting to plan for this yourself without the help of a professional is dangerous, and even the most carefully thought out retirement plans would not be able to handle this spending shock. Medicare rarely covers long term care, and while Medicaid will, it is difficult for many seniors to determine their eligibility due to the plethora of exclusions. Elder care attorneys will be able to assess your personal situation and provide guidance based on your circumstances. 

Owing to the high costs and increasing probability of needing long term care, adding a long term care portion to your retirement plan will most likely seem expensive, but still far cheaper than paying for long term care services outright. You may be able to save for this in the form of investments that are set aside specifically for long term care planning and not available to the rest of the population. You may also be able to fund your long term care account through the payment of insurance premiums. If you choose to go the long term care insurance route, it is important to not delay. As you increase in age, your premiums will also increase. If you purchase a policy while you are younger and still in good health, the savings in premiums could be substantial. 

Many people will need long term care, yet, even more won’t plan for it. It is difficult to imagine you won’t be able to perform daily tasks on your own, or may need to leave the house you have lived in for the past decade to move to a long term care facility, but unfortunately, these situations happen and it is far better to be prepared than to rely on family or the government to take care of you. Elder care is complex, but with prudent planning and the advice of an elder care attorney, this seemingly daunting task can be made manageable. Please do not hesitate to contact our office to start planning for your future, or if you have any questions. 

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