Long Term Care Insurance? Act Before it is Too Late
We generally do not think about long-term care until and when we experience it in our lives. Oftentimes it takes the form of a loved one (typically a parent) who becomes suddenly disabled and the family (typically the children) steps in to assist. That assistance soon begins to take more and more of our time, affecting our jobs, our own families, and ultimately our lives. When this happens we all become fast studies in the field of long term care and, unfortunately, when there is inadequate planning, it is often too late. We are transformed from loved ones into long term care providers. Out relationship, with respect to our disabled loved one, changes forever and the stress that results can easily strain a family to the breaking point. If anyone has ever had a parent become disabled you know what I am talking about.
A misconception is that long-term care is covered either by health insurance or by Medicare. Health insurance does not pay for long-term care and Medicare Part A, will only cover the first 20 days of long-term care 100%, but only under certain very restrictive conditions. Beyond the first 20 days, Medicare requires you pay the first $ 133 (2009) of expenses per day and this limited coverage only lasts for 80 days. Then you are on your own.
The sad fact is that long-term care, when properly planned for, can be a manageable process that leaves the family relationships in tact and allows us to instead act in an oversight capacity, rather than in a hands-on custodial care capacity. Stress is significantly reduced, our jobs do not suffer, and our direct family unit stays in tact as well.
Long-term care refers to assistance needed by anyone for a chronic illness. A chronic illness is long-term illness that will not go away, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, emphysema, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, a stroke which affects physical activities permanently, and sudden accidents which leave you permanently disabled. Long-term care may require skilled medical care or non-skilled medical care (custodial care).
Skilled medical care is often performed by licensed medical professionals such as physicians, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses and physical, occupational or speech therapists in a home, community or institutional setting. It also includes assistance with administering medicines. Skilled medical care is usually required when there is an acute condition that restricts an individual’s ability to perform certain physical tasks. It may also be required where a debilitating condition turns into a chronic (permanent) condition which can no longer be ignored.
Non-skilled care, or custodial care, is generally needed where a physical condition impairs someone from performing what are called activities of daily living. Such activities include eating, bathing, dressing, toileting (assistance to and from the toilet), continence (bowel movement control issues) or transferring from a bed to a chair etc. Most often, non-skilled care is informal, meaning performed by family members. In fact, about 80% of all long-term care is informal, while 20% is provided by paid, trained professionals. The reason for this is that most families do not plan properly for long-term care, meaning they do not have the financial resources to pay someone to assist the family in providing long-term care services.
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