Approximately 70% of older adults will need some type of long-term care at some point. This type of care could include a nursing home or various degrees of in-home care, whether that includes skilled nursing care, help with activities of daily living, or some combination of services.
The problem is that these services are very expensive-and the costs are not covered by Medicare, outside of a 100-day period where skilled nursing care is covered for those who qualify and which does not cover non-medical care.
Medicaid does cover some costs of long-term care, but the income requirements to qualify for Medicaid assistance are very strict. It is not uncommon for older adults to spend everything they have on their care in order to qualify, so that by the time they do, they are near destitution.
This can be prevented with an LTC insurance policy. But these policies come with challenges of their own-and not everyone is a good candidate. Here is an overview of when you should – and shouldn’t – consider long-term care insurance.
If you have assets to protect. If you have significant assets-such as a valuable home or savings account-that you want to protect and leave to your family, you may want to buy LTC insurance. If you can afford it, this type of insurance will cover your long-term care without requiring that you “spend down” to meet strict income requirements.
If you have a health background that suggests you need it. Long-term care policies can be expensive on their own, and sometimes include significant out-of-pocket costs. Essentially, you are taking a gamble that you will need long-term care someday. If you have a history of health problems in your family that typically need this type of care, however-such as dementia, diabetes, or cardiovascular disease-you may be more likely to need it yourself.
If you have no family members to rely on. If you have no close family members who could care for you, then buying long-term care insurance may be a better bet. That being said, it is possible that even if you have a family member ready and willing to care for you, he or she will not be able to provide the type of care you need as your situation progresses-or your future caretaker’s financial or job situation will change and make caring for you less of an option. Regardless of whether you have family members who might be able to care for you-and you should discuss this with them first-it is important to take the steps you need to prepare for your future.
If you can afford it. Long-term care is expensive. Generally, you should consider long-term care insurance only if you have at least $75,000 in assets excluding your car and home, and an annual income of $35,000 per year at minimum (although this can vary by state) according to the United Seniors Health Cooperative. Premiums can also increase significantly, so you will need to be sure you can afford them comfortably without making major sacrifices.
Because of the expense, making the decision to buy long-term care insurance is never easy. But for many seniors, it can be crucial. Do some research on your options, and hopefully you’ll be able to make the best decision for your situation.