American's are hearing and reading more about long-term care today than they ever have before. The discussion started in earnest with the start of the presidential campaign. Several candidates discussed caregiving, long-term care, tax benefits, and even tax credits for Long-Term Care Insurance. America is getting older – medical science increases longevity – it makes sense.
The virus crisis has placed long-term care on the front pages. The COBID-19 virus swept through many long-term care facilities as they were unprepared for a virus that could be spread by people without symptoms.
Home care providers, who already faced many responsibilities, had to deal with the additional problem of the spread of the virus. Many of the home care providers are unpaid family members who must balance their job and families with that of a caregiver for a parent or other family member.
The need for long-term care and the role of family caregivers impact most American families at some point. Some people may remember former First Lady Rosalynn Carter talk about caregiving so many years ago.
"There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who need caregiving."
The problem of long-term care has increased since the 1970s. Today, with Generation X and Late-Boomers all aging in mass and the remaining Baby Boomers still hanging around, understanding long-term care and caregiving options are essential to improving the overall quality of life.
Health Insurance Has Limitations
People need long-term care for many reasons and at all ages. The need for help for what is referred to as "custodial care" is not paid for by health insurance, including Medicare and Medicare supplements. Skilled care services beyond 100 days are also not covered. Dementia care and the supervision it requires are also not covered. Since too many people are caught off guard and don't purchase Long-Term Care Insurance before they retire, the family – and personal savings become the way extended care gets delivered.
Family caregivers face many challenges. It places demands on the caregiver's time. Being a caregiver, while balancing your career and your own family responsibilities, take tremendous energy. It creates friction with spouses and children. It often places a financial strain on the caregiver as they cut back time at work.
The Cleveland Clinic says caregiving "can easily seem overwhelming," as they face "physical, emotional and mental exhaustion."
The American Psychological Association reported that research shows a higher level of stress hormone for caregivers in the age 55-75 age group. It is not just mental health that we need to be concerned about, although there is a clear emotional aspect of being a caregiver for a spouse or parent.
Studies show elevated glucose levels that can lead to diabetes. The caregiver's blood pressure increases as well. High blood pressure contributes to many additional health problems. The caregiver's immune system also gets impacted, making the caregiver more prone to viruses, not just COVID-19 but simple flu and common cold infections.
Elderly Spouses are Not the Best Caregivers
Older spouses tend to attempt to become caregivers; however, this isn't good for either party. Generally, caregiving is beyond the scope of an older person to deliver. It doesn't provide the quality care a person deserves, and it adversely impacts the caregiver's health as well. Plus, there is a definitely higher level of depression and anxiety.
People with savings will start spending their own assets to pay for either at-home or facility care. Self-funding long-term care will drain assets and income and change the lifestyle of a spouse. It also impacts a family's legacy. This alone will cause depression and anxiety for both the person requiring care and their family.
When there is no advance plan the family usually steps in. The burn-out on the one family member, often a daughter or daughter-in-law, doesn't take long to feel. In addition to the caregiver's burn-out, the strife within the family creates family conflicts.
Busting Caregiver Burn-Out
Sally Abrahms, an award-winning journalist and nationally recognized expert on baby boomers and seniors, offers several ways to bust the burn-out if you find yourself in a caregiving situation.
Her suggestions, published on the Age-Friendly Advisor, offers seven ways to reduce this burn-out. The first one may seem simple but is often overlooked. Asking for help might seem common sense, but often the caregiver wants to take responsibility to avoid others from being burdened. Sometimes there is no help being offered, but if you don't ask, you don't know.
One of the saddest things about long-term care is we ignore the issue until we have few options. Many people will acknowledge that other people will need extended care, but not themselves. Too many people think they are too healthy to ever need care. This is silly since longevity increases our risk. Some people believe they have enough family and finances, so they decide not to worry about the problem. Silly again, since they are really saying it won't happen to them.
"I know first-hand the consequences of long-term care on families both personally and professionally. Today I see how the benefits of having an advance plan make long-term care easier on everyone," said Mary Ann DeKing, a specialist in Long-Term Care Insurance.
Thinking Ahead Makes Sense for Family and Finances
Planning for the financial costs and burdens of aging should be an essential part of your retirement planning. For many people, affordable Long-Term Care Insurance will offer you the guaranteed tax-free benefits that give you access to your choice of quality care when you need it. You will have a choice of care in any setting, including your own home.
When you have a plan in place your family will have the time to be family. Long-Term Care Insurance will give you control and independence and help keep the family together as you get older. Yet, some people don't know these policies exist or think they are very expensive.
Many types of Long-Term Care Insurance exist. One of these will fit your needs and budget. Experts suggest placing a plan in place in your 40s or 50s when premiums are very affordable, and better health offers more options.
You can ease the stress and burden family caregivers face by dealing with the issue before it becomes an issue. Your family and pocketbook will thank you.
About the Author
Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.
Contributor since October 31st, 2017
Now that long-term care is front and center in the news, will you take action that is required to avoid your family from being caregivers? Will you insulate your savings and income from the expensive costs of long-term care services? Planning is easy and affordable if you take action before you retire.
There are several types of Long-Term Care Insurance policies. These include traditional insurance options, partnership certified plans, hybrid policies that mix life insurance or annuities with long-term care benefits, and even short-duration plans.
Links for Research
Which plan is best for you? You need to do some research and get professional help. LTC NEWS offers many resources, including the LTC NEWS cost of care calculator that shows you both the current and future cost of care services. Click here to find the cost where you live.
Forty-five states offer Partnership Long-Term Care Insurance policies that provide dollar-for-dollar asset protection. See if your state is one of them. You will also find available state tax incentives in addition to the federal tax benefits that exist for these policies. Click here and find your state.
You will find terminology that may not understand. Click here for the LTC NEWS glossary.
Find a qualified and trusted Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. You will need a specialist instead of a financial advisor or general insurance agent. Most specialists work with all the major insurance companies and have a full understanding of how these plans work and get used at the time of claim.
Plus, insurance premiums vary 100% or more for the same coverage. Finding the right company that matches your age, health, family history, and other factors is a vital part of your research. Find a trusted specialist by clicking here.
The most important thing is to do something. Don't ignore the problem. Even a small policy can be beneficial to you and your family.