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Long-term care plan needs to be studied early to plan options

One of the biggest challenges a person can face is preparing for the day when one may no longer be independent and self-sufficient. Due to a decline in physical or mental health, or both, the day may come when a person has to rely on others to make decisions about his or her long-term care. Lest one views the subject as too gloomy to worry about, it should be remembered that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that 70 percent of those 65 and older, including residents of Texas, will need some form of long-term care.

The average period of long-term care will be about three years. Despite those surprising statistics, only 35 percent of Americans age 40 and older have any kind of planning in place. In prior articles, we have stressed the importance of an elderly person meeting with family members for a discussion on future needs, preferences and planning for such potentialities. This, however, is happening in only about 40 percent of the cases.

The failure to plan could result in losing control over one's care. This could mean ending up in inferior and low-quality facilities. It may depend on whether money has been put aside or other contingencies are established to assist in funding the long-term care plan.

A one-bedroom assisted living unit averages $3,300 per month. The next level of care, i.e., a nursing home, costs from $6,000 to $7,000 per month, depending on whether the resident gets a semi-private room. The popular idea that Medicare will pay for these services is wrong -- Medicare pays for short-term needs only.

Paying for long-term care in Texas and elsewhere is limited to a few options, including private pay (full price from your own pocket), long-term care insurance, Medicaid and veterans' benefits. Because this can be a complicated financial inquiry in many cases, it is best to have the services of a financial planner where feasible. It is essential to have an elder law attorney assisting in setting up the legal structure of the plan.

Source: health.harvard.edu, "The dollars and sense of long-term care", April 22, 2015

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