The passage of time is accompanied by many positives: increased knowledge, greater wisdom, and a more complete perspective on life. Unfortunately, it also has its negatives. Of the most prevalent are declining physical abilities that make daily life a more burdensome task. Though not a joyful experience, recognizing the inevitable effects of age can inspire the right preparation—preparation for future needs that may include long term care.
AARP defines long term care as “help that people with chronic illnesses, disabilities or other conditions need on a daily basis” ranging from “simple activities” to “skilled care that’s provided by nurses, therapists, or other professionals”. Though the necessity for some form of long term care in the future is likely, the National Bureau of Economic Research reports that it is “one of the largest uninsured financial risks facing the elderly in the United States.”
A common misconception is that Medicare will cover long term needs. But in reality, it deals solely with care that is medically necessary and “for conditions that are expected to improve”. Most assistance reimbursed by Medicare maxes out at 100 days and only applies to those requiring skilled nursing, physical therapy, or other like services. Private medical insurance operates similarly, excluding non-medical long term needs.
These needs are frequently referred to as “activities of daily living,” or ADLs. They are otherwise routine activities that become more difficult with age including bathing, cooking, eating, etc. Assisted living facilities help with ADLs, but the skilled, 24-hour oversight they provide is very expensive and not necessary for many seniors. More often than not, minimal aid is all that’s required. And that’s where home care comes in.
Though not medical, home care agencies provide services that help maintain an independent lifestyle while protecting seniors from the dangers of their physical limitations. Coverages vary, but long term care insurance policies frequently reimburse for assistance with daily activities provided by caregivers. Moreover, their benefit period tends to be much longer than that of Medicare, sometimes lasting between three and five years.
If you currently have long term care insurance, talk to your broker. They can provide all of the details of your policy including services covered, length of the benefits period, and lifetime benefit cap. If you don’t have long term care insurance, it might be worth your time to look into it. Future health and wellness needs are uncertain and you want to ensure you have the resources to meet them should they arise.