October is designated as “Long-Term Care Planning Month” each year in the United States. For all of us, it provides an excellent reminder of the need to have a long-term care (LTC) plan in place as well as the perfect opportunity to review your plan if you do have one in place. So before the month of October comes to a close, make a point of looking over your LTC plan and making an appointment with your estate planning attorney to go over the plan and/or make any changes that need to be made. If you have yet to create your long-term care plan, Long-Term Care Planning Month is a great way to learn more about LTC and about why you need to plan ahead for it.
What Is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care refers to a range of services and supports residents may need to meet their personal care needs. Most long-term care is not exclusively medical care, but rather medical care combined with assistance with the basic personal tasks of everyday life, sometimes called Activities of Daily Living (ADLs), such as:
- Using the toilet
- Transferring (to or from bed or chair)
- Caring for incontinence
Why Is Long-Term Care Planning Important?
The natural aging process catches up to all of us eventually, if we live long enough. At some point, our bodies will begin to deteriorate, making simple tasks more difficult than they once were. If, on top of the natural again process, you suffer from Alzheimer’s or another age-related condition, you will need around the clock care at some point. Counting on an adult child, or another family member, to provide that care may be unrealistic for a variety of reasons. Even if your loved one wants to be your caregiver, family and/or financial demands may make that impractical. In addition, if you do develop Alzheimer’s, or suffer from other serious medical conditions, you may require the type of care that can only be provided by a LTC facility.
Planning ahead for that possibility that you will need nursing home care is important to ensure that such an important decision as choosing a nursing home facility is not made under pressure. In addition, the cost of LTC can be prohibitive. For residents of Missouri, the average cost of LTC is actually less than the national average of $80,000 a year. In Missouri, you can expect to pay, on average, “just” $65,000 a year for LTC. Of course, for the average person, $65,0000 is not exactly pocket change. Medicaid will help cover your LTC expenses; however, you will first need to qualify for coverage. If you did not plan ahead for the likelihood that you will need to qualify for Medicaid, you could end up losing your retirement nest egg before becoming eligible for Medicaid.
What Should Be Included in My Long-Term Care Plan?
Planning for the possibility that you will need long-term care means planning for the need to qualify for Medicaid. Fortunately, Medicaid will cover LTC expenses; however, you must first be found eligible for benefits. For many seniors, that is where the need to plan ahead comes in because of the Medicaid income and asset limits. Medicaid is primarily funded by the federal government and is intended to help cover healthcare costs for low-income individuals and families. Consequently, the program uses income and asset limits when determining eligibility. In most states, the asset limits are as low as $2,000 for an individual. Although some assets are excluded when determining eligibility, the average senior has amassed enough assets over the course of a lifetime to have non-exempt assets worth more than the program limit. That means your application will be denied and you will eventually have to rely on your retirement nest egg before Medicaid will pitch in and help. By including Medicaid planning in your comprehensive estate plan now, however, you can protect that retirement nest egg and ensure that you will be eligible for Medicaid if you do need assistance covering your LTC expenses down the road.
Contact a Long-Term Care Planning Attorney
If you have additional questions or concerns about long-term care planning, contact an experienced Missouri long-term care attorney at Amen, Gantner & Capriano, Your Estate Matters, LLC by calling (314) 966-8077 to schedule an appointment.