Here are two hard truths about long-term care: First, you or a loved one will probably need some sort of care - nursing home, assisted living, or in-home care - at some point. Second, your employer-based health insurance won't always be much help. How then, do you go about paying for what can be an expensive service? Whether you begin to plan for it early on or are forced to locate funds in a short period of time, there are ways to get quality healthcare.
If You Have Time to Plan
Planning for how you’ll pay for long-term care is easier if you know it’s coming. How do you know that you or a loved-one will certainly need nursing home care, assisted living care, or in-home care? Well, you don’t. However, you can make an educated guess based on your current health, habits, and family history.
Your first step is to begin saving, if possible. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to do this. You can open either a Health Savings Account or a Flexible Spending Account. Both offer tax incentives and allow thousands in contributions, but there are differences (the latter doesn’t allow for rollover funds, among other things).
Another thing to consider if you expect to need long-term care in the future is long-term care insurance. While these plans have lost ground to whole life insurance policies that let you draw money specifically for long-term care, long-term care insurance can be cheaper on the premium side.
Finally, consider if you may be able to age in place (with some supplemental in-home care) as opposed to moving to a nursing home/assisted living facility. You can make some home modifications to help you do this, including widening doorways, installing grab bars in high-risk places, adding more lighting, replacing loose carpeting with hardwood, and installing more hand railings. It may be more money upfront than an insurance policy, but much cheaper than assisted living care in the long run.
If the Need Springs Up Unexpectedly
Planning is always better. If you are diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, for example, it’s easy to begin planning for long-term care because you are nearly certain you will need it. But sometimes people can need long-term care unexpectedly -- an accident leaves one disabled or one succumbs to a fast-moving illness. If this happens, there are still some options for finding the funds for care. These include, but are not limited to:
Though both savings and private insurance can both be a solid provider of compensation for doctors visits, procedures, medication, and even hospital stays, it’s not much help when it comes to long-term care. The best thing you can do is begin to plan early for necessary care, especially if you feel it is probable that you’ll need it. Beyond that, it is possible to find funding for care if you need it fast -- it’s just a little harder.