Addressing the potential threat of long-term care expenses may be one of the biggest financial challenges for individuals who are developing a retirement strategy.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 70 percent of people over age 65 can expect to need long-term care services at some point in their lives. Understanding the various types of long-term care services and what those services may cost is critical as you consider your retirement approach.
Long-term care is not a single activity. It refers to a variety of medical and non–medical services needed by those who have a chronic illness or disability most commonly associated with aging.
Long-term care can include everything from assistance with the five areas of daily living. These are dressing, bathing, transferring, toileting, and eating. Other needs may include driving to the store, cooking, and medications, to more intensive therapeutic and medical care requiring the services of skilled medical personnel.
Some 1.4 million adults live in skilled nursing facilities. Another 4.8 million remain in their own homes. but get help with personal care from other people. Source: CDC, 2015. (Data from 2013 report is the latest available.)
Long-term care may be provided at home, at a community center, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing home. And long-term care is not exclusively for the elderly. It is possible to need long-term care at any age.
Won’t Medicare Pay for It?
This is a common misunderstanding. After a three–day hospital stay, Medicare will cover the first 20 days in a skilled nursing care facility completely. For the next 80 days, it will cover all but $157.50 per day. And after 100 days, it won’t cover anything.
Source: Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, 2015
Long–term care costs vary state–by–state, and region–by–region. The national average for care in a skilled care facility (single occupancy in a nursing home) is $91,250 a year. The national average for care in an assisted living center (single occupancy) is $43,200 a year. Home health aides cost a median $20 per hour, but that rate may increase when a licensed nurse is required.
Often, long-term care is provided by family and friends. Providing care can be a burden, however, and the need for assistance tends to increase with age.
Individuals who would rather not burden their family and friends have two main options for covering the cost of long-term care: they can choose to self-insure or they can purchase long-term care insurance.
Many self-insure by default—simply because they haven’t made other arrangements. Those who self-insure may depend on personal savings and investments to fund any long-term care needs. The other approach is to consider purchasing long-term care insurance, which can cover all levels of care, from skilled care to custodial care to in-home assistance.
When it comes to addressing your long-term care needs, many look to select a strategy that may help them protect assets, preserve dignity, and maintain independence. If those concepts are important to you, consider your approach for long-term care.