Understanding Your Long Term Care Options

Long Term Care Options For Today’s Seniors

When I grew up in the ’60s, most elderly relatives were cared for by family, usually the daughter or daughter in law. There were few, if any options available to provide for those who needed a little, or a lot of help as they aged.

Times have changed! Most women are working outside the home, family members frequently live long distances from one another and the average life expectancy has increased greatly. Although people are living much longer, many are living with serious conditions that would have taken their lives in past generations – requiring more complex care and services. Fortunately care options have increased along with the times.  Understanding your long term care options is crucial to a positive quality of life.

Many Services to Choose From

A wide range of living choices are now available as well as products designed to make life easier for older people and those with disabilities. There are even insurance products to pay for such services.

Long Term Care is a phrase usually used to describe living arrangements and services for those needing help over a long period of time and well as the specialized insurance plans developed to pay for these options.

There are services available to meet the needs of almost anyone who needs it, and a variety of ways to pay for such services. It is important to understand the Medicare does not pay for Long Term Care. The Medicare program was designed to pay for illness or episodes with an eye toward “rehabilitation.” In other words, it will pay for short periods following a hospital stay or illness/injury while the patient “gets better.” In today’s world, there are many illnesses (Alzheimers’ Disease, as an example) that do not “get better.” These are conditions that a person lives with for the remainder of their lives. Medicare will not help in these situations. For those with very limited incomes, the Medicaid program can be of assistance. Medicaid will pay for nursing homes and some times personal care homes for those who qualify. There are also a number of Medicaid waiver programs that provide in-home services in lieu of nursing home placement.

In the Comfort of Your Home

For individuals who wish to remain at home, there exist home care agencies designed to provide as little or as much help as a person needs. Help with cooking, errands or personal needs is available as well as skilled nursing. Look for an established agency with a solid reputation. Prospective clients should inquire about rates, contracts, minimum hours of service and the qualifications of personnel. Most agencies accept private pay, some also provide services through a Medicaid program, grants and long term care insurance. Medicare never pays for this type of care. All home care agencies must be licensed by the state and should have a Registered Nurse to supervise all care and to be available 24 hours a day. If using Long Term Care insurance to pay for services, look for an agency that will handle the billing for you.

When You Can No Longer Stay at Home

When it comes to “out of home” care, there are 3 main types of facilities: Independent Living (also known as Retirement Communities), Personal Care Homes (also called Assisted Living Homes or Centers) and Skilled Nursing Facilities (or Nursing Homes). Independent Living can only be paid for privately. Even Long Term Care plans will not cover this because they do not provide personal care for the individual. Personal Care Homes can be funded privately, through some Medicaid waiver programs and, to a small extent, through some LTC products. Nursing Homes can be funded privately, by Medicaid and through Long Term Care Insurance. For a brief period following a hospital stay (for certain conditions) it can also be funded by Medicare.

Be A Smart Shopper

As with anything we purchase, a new car, TV set or a vacation, it is important to research and ask questions. Quality varies from home to home and one should learn as much as possible about a home before moving a relative in. Every Nursing Hone or Personal Care Home must be licensed and surveyed by the state. The Office of Regulatory Services of the Georgia Department of Human Resources posts all survey results on their web page. This allows a prospective resident the opportunity to learn if there are any potential problems with the home. Talk with residents and/or their families to find out about such things as meals, activities, cleanliness and responsiveness of staff. The Long Term Care Ombudsman in you area can also give you insights in selecting the home that is best for you or your loved one.

There is a Long Term Care option to meet almost any need. Be an educated consumer and do not be afraid to ask the professionals for assistance. The proper choices can make all the difference in quality living for you and you loved ones.