A Lasting Legacy: Long Term Care Planning

Why planning for long-term care is so necessary in today’s world.

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James and Irene Norris spent their lives surviving. The two owned and operated a small business together for over 60 years, surviving the stock market crash, the Great Depression, seventeen U.S. Presidencies, and two World-Wars. All while raising two sons.

But there was one thing they didn’t plan on: long-term care planning.

Once they closed their small business and became too frail to care for each other, they became trapped in an unfortunate financial situation that is becoming all too common today. After several medical problems, they were forced to choose some sort of custodial care and they moved into a nursing home. Even though they had savings, it quickly disappeared when faced with the monthly nursing home costs. Medicare offered little support, because it does not cover stays in nursing homes for extended periods of time.

The bills continued to come and they soon realized they no longer had adequate financial resources to survive. They reached a turning-point and, after working their whole lives, they were forced to make the most painful decision of their lives. In order to qualify for Medicaid, they would not be able to hold onto all of their resources. They had to sell everything they worked so hard to earn, in order to receive Medicaid. Their prized possessions that had been so carefully collected through the years were gone in an instant, sold to pay the medical bills that had piled up.

Part of the reason they had to sell was because of Medicaid requirements, but much of their selling was due to a lack of planning. The Norris family had never consulted a financial planner or worried about saving for health care in retirement. Had they even spent a small amount of time earlier in life with a financial planner, they would have probably learned a few techniques which would have allowed them to hold on to more assets and still legally qualify for Medicaid.

Once on Medicaid, they were limited in their options. They were forced to choose only the care that Medicaid would cover, rather than what would truly make them comfortable in their finals years. Finally, when they passed away, the family was left with thousands of dollars worth of debt from medical expenses and funeral arrangements.

This lack of preparation is common. It happens every day to hundreds of middle and upper-income families across the United States, and it can easily be prevented with some basic planning. Rather than watch your life’s work slip away because of costly medical expenses, with just a little planning, you’ll be able to leave a legacy behind that will make your family proud and secure. Rather than seeing your memories sold, you can hold on to the things you worked so hard to attain.

Long-term care planning doesn’t mean the end of your livelihood. It means taking a small amount of time to decide what options you and your family will have in the future. It means making sure you have something left to pass on to the next generation.

When is long-term care needed?
Long-term care is generally something to consider when someone can no longer perform basic functions themselves. Generally, it means they need a medical professional to assist them with various tasks. This can be as simple as getting out of a chair or as complex as cooking a meal or bathing. Both mental and physical ailments can bring about a need for long-term care including strokes and car accidents. Alzheimer’s disease is just one of the many mental conditions that requires extensive long-term care. According to the Center for Disease Control, 14.2% of all nursing home residents suffer from Alzheimer’s disease. This can be extremely costly and can destroy your financial security quicker than you think.

What long-term care options will I have?
Most people automatically think of nursing homes as the only long term care insurance options. While it is true that nursing homes account for a large percentage of long-term care, it’s certainly not the only option available and depending on your ability to perform tasks you may have a wide-range of options to choose from if you plan ahead. Insurance that helps cover costs of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and even in home health care are all options that can be considered.

What’s the next step?
When deciding what type of long term care insurance planning you should do, it’s always best to consult with your closest family members. Once you have decided to pursue long-term care planning, there are various options available to you through the help of a trusted financial advisor.

With just a small amount of financial planning, you may be able to spend your final years in comfort and stability, without all the added financial stress and anxiety. Your family members will be able to spend time around you sharing their love and support, instead of dealing with debt and foreclosure. You will be filled with pride knowing that all you worked for is still intact. Just a small amount of long-term care planning could ensure that the dreams you achieved in life don’t disappear overnight.

And you may find that you are able to leave this world a little bit better than you found it.