When Mom or Dad Starts Long-Term Care Families Get Tested

When Mom or Dad needs long-term care, it can create a crisis within the family. What steps should be taken? What are the costs of paid care services? These issues are challenging for most families and sometimes can tear them apart. Planning ahead of time makes aging issues easier.

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When Mom or Dad Starts Long-Term Care  Families Get Tested
7 Min Read November 14th, 2019 Updated:January 27th, 2022

Change happens. We look back at our life and remember our parents and ourselves being younger. The reality is we are getting older. We see it in the mirror and feel it in our bones. We want to ignore it, but we must face the truth at some point.

American families must start making decisions about their Mom or Dad at some point. It happens every day. While it does happen at all ages, as parents get older, they become more likely to need help with those activities we take for granted. These are things like eating, bathing, dressing, going to the bathroom, all the things we learned as a very young child that at some point, due to an illness, accident, or the impact of aging, we need help with.

Spouse Can Hide the Problem

Often a spouse or the adult children are in denial. A spouse hides the problem from the rest of the family, at least initially. They ignore or just don’t want to believe the signs. Perhaps Mom or Dad has become forgetful. Maybe they have had a fall in the shower. No matter, too many families ignore the obvious for too long.

If the parent doesn’t own Long-Term Care Insurance, decisions will need to be made quickly. Which sibling will take responsibility either as a caregiver or managing paid care? Generally, the spouse is older and not the best caregiver option. 

Families Wait Too Long to Arrange Care

“Most seniors wait far too long to get the help that they need. By the time most families start looking for help with caring for a parent, the situation has become urgent. We end up needing to start a high percentage of our cases on very short notice. We have gotten calls at noon for a case that requires 24-hour care and we have a caregiver in place by 2 pm.”

Ed Duborg, CEO and Owner of Amada Senior Care Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN, co-owner of Approved Senior Network, says that family emotions are all over the map at this time of crisis. 

“It is physically and emotionally overwhelming. Adult children are sad that this is going to be the "new normal" for their aging parent, but happy that they have help and {the parent} can remain safe in their own home a little longer.” 

Valerie VanBooven RN BSN, co-owner of Approved Senior Network

Cost of Care is Expensive

The next big surprise is the cost of care. People expect nursing homes or assisted living to be expensive, but in-home health care is not cheap. The costs of all long-term health care services are rising rapidly due to increasing demand for services and higher labor costs. Without advance planning, the costs drain income and assets and adversely impact lifestyle and legacy.

The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator shows both your area's current and future cost of care services. This resource is a great planning tool for planning care for a parent and researching your own plan for future care in the decades ahead. Click here to use the calculator.

VanBooven says most families are shocked by the costs. They thought their parent's Medicare and Medicare supplements would pay. However, most long-term care is not covered at all.

“There are also many family members that we deal with that have already done their research and understand that caring for a senior is expensive especially one-on-one care. Most people are more surprised that Medicare and private insurance plans don't cover any of the cost for non-medical home care.”

Ed Duborg

This non-medical care is referred to as "custodial care." Most long-term care is custodial in nature – help with activities-of-daily living or supervision due to some type of memory loss.

Most good home health agencies will complete an assessment. The agency will visit the individual in their home, and they will provide a plan of care based on the individual and family needs and preferences.

Health Insurance and Medicare Will Not Pay for Most Long-Term Care

Health insurance, including Medicare and supplements, does not pay for this care. They will pay a limited amount of skilled services. After that, 100% out-of-pocket. This is where Long-Term Care Insurance comes in.

Most Long-Term Care Insurance policies are comprehensive. This means they cover all areas and types of care. According to claims statistics from the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, national consumer education and advocacy group, most claims start at home.

Long-Term Care Insurance Changes Everything

When a person has a Long-Term Care policy Duborg says it changes everything for the individual and the family.

“It is such a relief to families when we do a free policy review and they realize that their parents have a great policy that provides them with the funding for the care that they need. I would also say that most policies are written so that the senior can get a high level of care.” 

Ed Duborg

He says that without the Long-Term Care Insurance policy, the parent is more likely to have the least amount of care possible. They get just enough care to get by – and they spend as little money as possible. 

When that happens, it can create an additional burden on family members who supplement the paid care or worse.

“That lack of an appropriate level of care sometimes leads to incidents that require a hospital stay or rehabilitation. People with Long-Term Care Insurance are more likely to start care early when they need it and live a safer, better quality of life.” 

Ed Duborg

Providers Help with LTC Insurance Claims Process

VanBooven says most home care agencies today are well-versed in helping with the Long-Term Care Insurance claims process. 

“Any home care agency that has been in business for a few years will have enough experience to file claims correctly for the family. And what a relief it is for all involved that these services are paid for.” 

Valerie VanBooven

LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you, or a loved one complete the claims process with your Long-Term Care Insurance policy. 

You can also get support in finding quality caregivers and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy or not. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

Advance Planning is Essential

Both agree that advance planning is key. 

DuBorg suggests finding what options are available to plan for the cost of short-term and long- term care. 

“It beautiful to see when a family steps up and takes control of the care of a loved one. Unfortunately, most family members have such busy scheduled that they barely have the time to visit with mom and dad, never mind be there to care for them when they can no longer fully care for themselves.”

Ed Duborg

VanBooven says to avoid crisis management.

“Have "the talk" with your aging parent. Start learning more about their financial situation so that you can help them determine the best course of action. If you wait too long- crisis happens - a fall, pneumonia, illness - and no one has time to do anything but make crisis-driven decisions.” 

Valerie VanBooven

She suggests decreasing stress by knowing the basics of your aging parents. This includes their finances, insurance policies, doctors, medications, and diagnoses. This way, when the time comes, your family has the information needed to make the right decisions. 

Your parents may have limited planning options at this point in their lives. However, this is a good time for you to plan yourself or the financial costs and burdens of aging. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance gives you access to your choice of quality care in your desired setting. You will protect your savings and reduce the stress otherwise placed on your family.

The best time to plan is when you are in your 40s or 50s. Seek the help of a qualified Long-Term Care specialist who can match your age, health, family history, and other factors with the best insurance company.

Insurance premiums for Long-Term Care Insurance can vary widely, over 100%, or more for the same benefits. These policies are also custom designed. A specialist will recommend a policy design that fits your needs, but you make the final decisions.

LTC NEWS can provide many resources to help you plan. However, you have to understand that while planning might not be fun, the impact of having a plan in place will give your family peace of mind. It also gives them time to be family.

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About the Author

Linda Kople is a freelance writer with a personal family history in long-term care. She specializes in aging-related topics such as caregiving, health, and retirement planning. Her experiences and interests drive her to explore and write about the various aspects of aging and health issues.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

There are several types of LTC Insurance plans you can consider. No matter which type of plan you purchase, Long-Term Care Insurance is easy, affordable, and rate stable income and asset protection. 

Many people can take advantage of tax incentives that are available today. These policies are custom designed but be cautious since premiums can vary over 100% between companies for the exact same coverage. This is why you should seek the help of a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist. Find a specialist by clicking here.

Items to Discuss with a Long-Term Care Specialist

  • Partnership – Most states offer special policies that provide dollar-for-dollar asset protection. The Long-Term Care Insurance Partnership Program might be one of the best-kept secrets in retirement planning. Make sure the specialist explains this program and how it might help you.
  • Tax incentives – There are federal tax incentives available for some people. Be sure to ask if you own your own business.
  • Health Savings Accounts – If you have an HSA you can use the pre-tax money in your account to pay for the premium.
  • Asset-Based or Hybrid policies – These are life insurance or annuities with a rider for long-term care. Careful, only a handful are actually a long-term care benefit. However, these policies can provide you with the flexibility of both a long-term care benefit and a death benefit. They can be expensive and are usually paid with a single premium. However, with a death benefit, you know you will get your money back and more.
  • Health and Family History - Make sure the specialist asks you detailed questions about your health, family history, and retirement plans. Underwriting criteria vary with each insurance company. If they are not asking you detailed questions, then find another specialist.

LTC NEWS Research Tools

Take a moment and find the current and future costs of long-term care in your area with the LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator. This tool will help you decide the amount of coverage is appropriate for you in your situation. For example, if you have a defined pension when you retire, the benefits you would need for long-term care would be less than an individual who will fund their future retirement with earnings-off investments. In that case, protecting the principal is essential since that will produce your future income.

Access the calculator by clicking here.

It is always best to start planning before you retire. Once you have your plan in place you will enjoy peace-of-mind, and your family will thank you decades from now.

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Benefits of Reverse Mortgages 

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance.  

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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