Long-term care refers to a person’s need for daily assistance with normal tasks because of a disability or chronic illness. People needing this type of care cannot care for themselves on their own and need regular help with medical and non-medical tasks necessary for day-to-day living.
82% of the elderly that need long-term care are living with family in regular homes versus only 18% living in a specialized care facility. Caregivers of these patients sacrifice a great deal of time in order to support their loved ones. I wanted to provide a resource guide to caregivers, giving you access to the most up-to-date information about what options are available to you and your disabled family member.
Image source: hhs.gov
The Basics of Long-Term Care
If you have a loved one who will likely need long-term care in the future, it is in your best interest to start planning now. If you have a solid plan about who will care for them, how much care they might need, the financial side of long-term care and other logistics, you will feel at peace knowing everything is in order for when the time does come.
Where Should Long-Term Care Take Place?
Statistically, most people needing long-term care live with family members. This way they can receive the care they need from those they trust and love. Some choose to stay in their own home and have a nurse, therapist or home health care aid come to them instead. There isn’t one right answer for everyone and each family should do what they feel is best.
Some questions to consider when choosing where to manage long-term care:
- Do I have space in my home?
- How would it affect family dynamics to care for my loved ones in my home?
- Where would the family member needing long-term care be the most comfortable, and where do they want to stay?
- Is it safe for them to stay in their own home (some illnesses may make it unsafe)?
- Is there money available to pay for professional, in-home care?
It might also be wise to consult with a therapist or counselor to help you and all family members involved come to a decision that is best for everyone.
Paying For Long-Term Care
Perhaps the most stressful part of long-term care is the financial burden it places on the family. There are many misconceptions about what public programs help to pay for care and it is good to know the facts upfront.
- Will pay for long-term care IF skilled services or rehabilitative care is required. It generally only covers care for a short period of time (100 days or less in a nursing home, or some skilled home health services).
- Does NOT pay for non-skilled assistance of day-to-day living.
- Is NOT a long-term financial solution as it will only cover services for a short period of time.
- Will cover a large portion of long-term care services IF your income is below a certain level and you meet minimum state eligibility requirements.
- Will cover long-term care services more extensively for those who qualify for programs such as the Older Americans Act or Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Generally only offers similar coverage to medicare; short-term coverage for specialized, medically-required services.
Private Payment Options
There are several private payment options to help cover long-term care expenses.
Long-Term Care Insurance
How Much Will Long-Term Care Cost?
Because the cost of long-term care is always changing and will increase over the years, it is nearly impossible to estimate exactly how much it will cost. It may be a good idea to work with a financial adviser to discuss potential expenses and the best options to prepare.
This tool from genworth.com helps to compare long-term care costs across the United States:
Taking Care Of YOU As The Caregiver
Being a caregiver can be exhausting; emotionally, mentally and physically. In order to keep your own health from declining is is vital that you make self-care a priority. If you want to be the most effective caregiver, you must take care of YOU.
Without a self-care plan or priority in place, you are likely to suffer from:
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor eating habits
- Loss of fitness, poor exercise habits
- Failure to heal/rest when sick
- Missed medical appointments
- Low energy
- Chronic stress & resulting illness
Here are some important ways to ensure you’re looking after yourself so that you can maintain optimum health.
#1 Reduce Stress
It is easy to become stressed and overwhelmed as a caregiver, especially if you have other family members/kids to take care of or if you’re also working full time. Chronic stress wears down your body quickly and leaves you feeling irritable, sleepless, forgetful, tired, depressed, anxious and potentially very ill.
Steps to reduce stress:
- Take time for yourself regularly. Go to the gym, meditate, go on long walks, go to the library, take yourself to the movies, etc.
- Ask: what can I take OFF my plate? Are there chores that can be delegated? Can you hire someone to walk the dog and do the yard work? Are there obligations that you can say no to that aren’t he priority?
- Don’t do it all yourself. If you have a hard time asking people for help, you need to change your mindset! There is no reason you should be the martyr- put your needs as a priority and accept help when offered.
- Spend time outdoors. Get outside in the sun. Sit at the park. Go on hikes. Your mental well being will be improved and your outlook on life will brighten.
- Eat cortisol-reducing foods. Turmeric & ashwagandha both help to reduce stress and inflammation in the body. Add these to your diet every day.
#2 Create Activities To Look Forward To Every Day
As a caregiver sometimes you may feel bogged down in the day-to-day routines and become melancholy. Creating things to look forward to, even simple things, can help to add some bounce to your step.
Some examples would be: a vacation, a new hobby, a fun class you take every week, a new car you’re saving to buy, a puppy, time out with friends, going to your favorite restaurant, etc.
#3 Increase Daily Movement/Exercise
Increasing how much you move your body each day will help you to feel energetic and stay healthy. You don’t have to run marathons or become an Olympic weight lifter. Rather, find things to do that you enjoy that help to get you off the couch and in motion. Here are some ideas:
- Weigh lifting
Exercise will help promote better sleep, reduce stress and depression, increase energy and reduce fatigue, improve immunity and boost mood.
#4 Visit Your Own Physician/Therapist
Because you are taking care of someone else so extensively, it is easy to forget about your own need to visit the doctor or go to a therapist. Make regular checkups a priority. If you are struggling emotionally, schedule time with a therapist.
#5 Eat High-Quality Food
If you eat low-quality food it will impact your energy, sleep, mood, immune system and your ability to be an effective caregiver. Don’t let your diet fall down the priority list- keep it right up at the top! Fill your diet with whole fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and protein. Please limit your intake of processed foods and snacks.
Frequently Asked Questions About Long-Term Care
Q. What long-term care expenses are tax deductible?
A. Long-term care services and other out-of-pocket medical costs must exceed 7.5% of the taxpayers adjusted gross income in order to be tax deductible. I suggest working with a qualified accountant to figure out the numbers and get the most deductions possible.
Q. Which long-term care insurance is best?
A. You can compare pros and cons of various long-term care insurance plans by visiting Consumer Affairs.
Q. When is long-term care insurance worth it?
A. It may be beneficial to invest in long-term care insurance if you are a) not financially well off and will have a hard time paying any potential costs. b) are very likely to need long-term care in the future. However, it is not black and white – you can waste a lot of money on long-term care insurance premiums if you don’t end up needing the coverage. Use this Retirement Calculator to help figure out if you should invest in this type of insurance or not.
Q. What is long-term care planning?
A. Long-term care planning means creating a plan and preparing for the future potential need of long-term care. It is deciding where one will live, who/how costs will be covered, and who the caregiver will be.
Q. What is a long-term care pharmacy?
A. Long-term care pharmacies are more specialized pharmacies that serve patients in nursing homes, hospitals, assisted living facilities and provide support for long-term care patients living in residential homes.
Q. Does long-term care insurance cover assisted living?
A. Many long-term care insurances covers assisted living as well as hospice, home health care, adult day care, respite care and nursing home facilities.
Q. Is long-term care insurance worth the money?
A. Whether or not you choose to invest in long-term care insurance is a personal decision. It can be hard to say whether or not it is worth the money, because it is impossible to estimate exactly the cost of long-term care. It is different depending on the health concerns of the individual as well as where they choose to live and what treatments or services they need. For some people it is absolutely worth the money but for others it may not be worth the investment.
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and health as well as the health of your family members. Keeping yourself in optimum condition is going to benefit everyone in your life. Being a long-term care provider is a challenging job but with proper planning and preparation, the strain and stress can be reduced significantly.
I hope you’ve found this information useful. If you have more questions, comments or concerns, you can write them below.