Long-term care refers to a person’s need for daily assistance with normal tasks because of a disability or chronic illness. People needing this type of care cannot care for themselves independently and need regular help with medical and non-medical tasks necessary for day-to-day living.
82% of the elderly who need long-term care live with family in traditional homes versus only 18% living in a specialized care facility. Caregivers of these patients sacrifice a great deal of time to support their loved ones. I wanted to provide a resource guide to caregivers, giving you access to the most up-to-date information about what options are available to you and your disabled family member.
The Basics of Long-Term Care
If you have a loved one who will likely need long-term care in the future, it is in your best interest to start planning now. If you have a solid plan about who will care for them, how much care they might need, the financial side of long-term care, and other logistics, you will feel at peace knowing everything is for when the time does come.
Where Should Long-Term Care Take Place?
Statistically, most people needing long-term care live with family members. This way, they can receive the care they need from those they trust and love. Some choose to stay in their own home and have a nurse, therapist, or home health care aid come to them instead. There isn’t one correct answer for everyone, and each family should do what they feel is best.
Some questions to consider when choosing where to manage long-term care:
- Do I have space in my home?
- How would it affect family dynamics to care for my loved ones in my home?
- Where would the family member needing long-term care to be the most comfortable, and where do they want to stay?
- Is it safe for them to remain in their own home (some illnesses may make it unsafe)?
- Is there money available to pay for professional, in-home care?
It might also be wise to consult with a therapist or counselor to help you, and all family members involved come to a decision that is best for everyone.
Paying For Long-Term Care
Perhaps the most stressful part of long-term care is the financial burden on the family. There are many misconceptions about what public programs help pay for care, and it is good to know the facts upfront.
- Will pay for long-term care IF skilled services or rehabilitative care is required. It generally only covers care for a short period (100 days or less in a nursing home or some professional home health services).
- Provides no non-skilled support for day-to-day living.
- It is NOT a long-term financial solution as it will only cover services for a short period.
- Will cover a large portion of long-term care services IF your income is below a certain level and you meet minimum state eligibility requirements.
- It will cover long-term care services more extensively for those who qualify for programs such as the Older Americans Act or the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- Generally only offers similar coverage to medicare; short-term coverage for specialized, medically-required services.
Private Payment Options
There are several private payment options to help cover long-term care expenses.
Long-Term Care Insurance
How Much Will Long-Term Care Cost?
Because the cost of long-term care is constantly changing and will increase over the years, it is nearly impossible to estimate how much it will cost. It may be good to work with a financial adviser to discuss potential expenses and the best options to prepare.
This tool from genworth.com helps compare long-term care costs across the United States: Cost Of Care In My State.
Taking Care Of YOU As The Caregiver
Being a caregiver can be exhausting; emotionally, mentally, and physically. To keep your health from declining is vital that you make self-care a priority. If you want to be the most effective caregiver, you must take care of yourself.
Without a self-care plan or priority in place, you are likely to suffer from:
- Sleep deprivation
- Poor eating habits
- Loss of fitness, poor exercise habits
- Failure to heal/rest when sick.
- Missed medical appointments
- Low energy
- Chronic stress & resulting illness
Here are some essential ways to ensure you’re looking after yourself to maintain optimum health.
#1 Reduce Stress
It is easy to become stressed and overwhelmed as a caregiver, especially if you have other family members/kids to take care of or work full time. Chronic stress wears down your body quickly and leaves you feeling irritable, sleepless, forgetful, tired, depressed, anxious, and potentially very ill.
Steps to reduce stress:
- Take time for yourself regularly. Go to the gym, meditate, go on long walks, go to the library, take yourself to the movies, etc.
- Ask: What can I take OFF my plate? Are there chores that can be delegated? Can you hire someone to walk the dog and do the yard work? Are there obligations you can say no to that isn’t the priority?
- Don’t do it all yourself. If you have a hard time asking people for help, you need to change your mindset! There is no reason you should be the martyr- put your needs as a priority and accept use when offered.
- Spend time outdoors. Get outside in the sun, sit at the park, or go on hikes. Your mental well-being will improve, and your outlook on life will brighten.
- Eat cortisol-reducing foods. Turmeric & ashwagandha both help to reduce stress and inflammation in the body. Add these to your diet every day.
#2 Create Activities To Look Forward To Every Day
As a caregiver, sometimes you may feel bogged down in the day-to-day routines and become melancholy. You can add some bounce into your step by creating things to look forward to, even simple things.
Some examples would be a vacation, a new hobby, a fun class you take every week, a new car you’re saving to buy, a puppy, time out with friends, going to your favorite restaurant, etc.
#3 Increase Daily Movement/Exercise
Increasing how much you move your body each day will help you feel energetic and healthy. You don’t have to run marathons or become an Olympic weight lifter. Instead, find things to do that you enjoy that help get you off the couch and in motion. Here are some ideas:
- Weight lifting
Exercise will help promote better sleep, reduce stress and depression, increase energy, reduce fatigue, improve immunity, and boost mood.
#4 Visit Your Own Physician/Therapist
Because you are taking care of someone else so extensively, it is easy to forget about your need to visit the doctor or go to a therapist. Make regular checkups a priority if you are struggling emotionally, and schedule time with a therapist.
#5 Eat High-Quality Food
Eating low-quality food will impact your energy, sleep, mood, immune system, and ability to be an effective caregiver. Don’t let your diet fall down the priority list- keep it right up at the top! Fill your diet with whole fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, herbs, spices, healthy fats, and protein. Please limit your intake of processed foods and snacks.
Frequently Asked Questions
What are long-term care expenses tax-deductible?
A. Long-term care services and other out-of-pocket medical costs must exceed 7.5% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income to be tax-deductible. I suggest working with a qualified accountant to figure out the numbers and get the most deductions possible.
Which long-term care insurance is best?
A. You can compare the pros and cons of various long-term care insurance plans by visiting Consumer Affairs.
When is long-term care insurance worth it?
A. It may be beneficial to invest in long-term care insurance if you are
a.) not financially well off and will have a hard time paying any potential costs.
b.) are very likely to need long-term care in the future. However, it is not black and white – you can waste a lot of money on long-term care insurance premiums if you don’t need the coverage.
Use this Retirement Calculator to help figure out if you should invest in this type of insurance or not.
What is long-term care planning?
A. Long-term care planning means creating a plan and preparing for the future potential need of long-term care. It determines where to live, who pays for what, and who is the carer.
What is a long-term care pharmacy?
A. Long-term care pharmacies are more specialized pharmacies that serve patients in nursing homes, hospitals, and assisted living facilities and support long-term care patients living in residential homes.
Does long-term care insurance cover assist living?
A. Many long-term care insurances cover assisted living and hospice, home health care, adult day care, respite care, and nursing home facilities.
Is long-term care insurance worth the money?
A. Whether or not you choose to invest in long-term care insurance is a personal decision. It can be hard to say whether or not it is worth the money because it is impossible to estimate precisely the cost of long-term care. It is different depending on the health concerns of the individual as well as where they choose to live and what treatments or services they need. For some people, it is worth the money, but it may not be worth the investment for others.
Remember, it is not selfish to focus on your own needs and health and the health of your family members. Keeping yourself in optimum condition is going to benefit everyone in your life. Planning and preparation can considerably lessen the strain and stress of delivering long-term care.
I hope you’ve found this helpful information. If you have more questions, comments, or concerns, you can write them below.