July 18, 2010
What would you do if one day you woke up and needed help with everyday activities like managing your checkbook or even getting dressed?
Have you ever thought about who would care for you? Where would you be cared for and what will it cost?
Did you know that 24/7 in-home care can cost more than $5,000 per month, the private pay rates at assisted living facilities start around $3000 a month and rates at skilled nursing facilities are upwards of $7000 per month? How long would you be able to sustain payments of this size? If you were married, would your spouse have enough left over to live on?
I don’t know about you, but I don’t have a crystal ball that can tell me if or when I might need long term care (LTC), which focuses on helping with a broad range of daily activities rather than immediate care for a particular illness.
While often needed after an illness, LTC can be needed due to other conditions such as arthritis, diabetes, dementia, or Alzheimer’s. LTC may be completely non-medical and include assistance with shopping, cleaning, cooking, dressing, money management, and transportation.
Traditionally, the younger generation of the family stepped in to help out. As extended families become a thing of the past and we live longer this is an issue that is becoming more important to many of my Gold River elder law clients and their parents.
Why should LTC be important to you now? There are only a couple ways to pay for LTC, the most common of which are long term care insurance or a really fat wallet. But that is not always possible. For some the only way to pay for LTC is for the government to pick up the tab under the Medi-Cal (Medicaid) program.
Oh, and just to dispel a myth, LTC is NOT covered by Medicare.
Because LTC can be very costly I often see people put off planning for it and only doing something once an actual need arises. At that time, insurance is clearly not an option and even a fat wallet shrivels quickly.
Up to now it has been relatively easy, although not uncomplicated; to do last minute planning and get someone qualified. But back in 2006 the federal rules changed – dramatically, and emergency planning is extremely difficult to accomplish. California hasn’t yet adopted the federal rules, but the department of Health Services is working on it and says the new rules should take effect in 2011.
What this means to you is proper prior planning will be critical. And that planning needs to take place at least 5 years prior to the need for Medi-Cal services. Remember the crystal ball? Do you know when that 5 year period would end for you or your loved one?
So what should you do now? First, consult with a qualified and knowledgeable long term care insurance agent to evaluate your needs, determine if you qualify medically and if the insurance is affordable for you. You’ll want to take into account your family history. How healthy are/were your parents? How does your lifestyle and health differ from theirs?
Second, evaluate your current estate plan. Does it include provisions to allow your family to accomplish LTC planning on your behalf in the event you need care and are already incapacitated? Does it look like you could potentially need long-term care in the next 5 years? If Medi-Cal looks like it may be needed to pay for your care, does your current estate plan have an asset protection component?
You can always call me, your neighborhood Gold River elder lawyer, if you want to learn more, or need an estate plan check up to make sure you are covered or have the flexibility to do additional planning if needed, or need a referral to a qualified LTC insurance agent.
In fact, simply mention this article and we’ll allow you to come in for our exclusive Peace of Mind Planning and Strategy Session free of charge (normally $750). However, I only have room for 10 free sessions a month, so call 916.241.9661 to secure your spot today!