A Helpful Guide to Long-Term Care Planning for Seniors

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Long-term care planning is on the minds of seniors’ loved ones, especially as many re-emerge from their pandemic year. In many cases, the terms “long-term care planning” and “elder care planning” can be used interchangeably for seniors. This is an important process, whether you are planning for someone you love or for yourself. About 70% of people aged 65 and older have a chance of needing some type of long-term care. If you and your loved ones have never been through the planning process, it can be difficult to know where to begin.

At Alert1, our main priority is seniors’ health and wellbeing. We will walk through the basics of long-term care planning, explain why the process is important, describe 4 helpful steps for planning, and discuss how a medical alert system can fit into your long-term care plan. 

What Is Long-Term Care Planning for Seniors?

Most of us carry insurance policies on our cars, homes, and health to shield ourselves from serious financial damages if something unforeseen happens. The need for long-term care can be just as catastrophic to someone’s finances[i], freedom, and health, yet many people are unfamiliar with the security that comes from long-term care planning. 

Long-term care, or elder care, becomes necessary when a senior needs assistance from someone else with supervision, medical care, comfort, or everyday needs. The need for elder care can stem from aging, disease, or an accident. Elder care usually consists of help with daily activities such as medicating, eating, bathing, dressing, or using a toilet. This type of care can also include household services, like meal preparation or shopping, house cleaning, and transportation. Care plans can include other forms of assistance, like medical alert systems, which provide seniors with protection and support. 

A family member might provide long term care within a senior’s own home or a family member’s home. There are also several care systems available to seniors outside of the home. 

The planning process can be incredibly frustrating. Searching for providers and systems takes a lot of time and effort. However, this process is integral to seniors’ safety and health.

The Importance of Long-Term Care Planning for Seniors

Many seniors have three main goals as they age: 

  • Maintaining independence in their own homes without outside intervention
  • Sustaining their health with the support of good health care
  • Budgeting for their everyday needs without outliving their income and assets

The process of long-term care planning helps seniors’ retirement dreams come to fruition. Planning for extra security, like a medical alert system or in-home medical care, can make the actual implementation of a long-term care plan less stressful. 

Long-term care planning helps not only the individual in need, but also that person’s family and social network. When a senior requires long-term care, that person’s family and social network usually take on the financial and lifestyle changes necessary to support the senior. 

Changes in the American health care and elder care landscape could make aging more financially and emotionally stressful. Long-term care planning is a useful strategy.  

4 Steps of Long-Term Care Planning for Seniors

There are four steps of long-term care planning: understanding the nature of long-term care, funding the cost of long-term care, using long-term care professionals, and creating a personal care plan and choosing a care coordinator. Each step helps you plan for both the inevitable and the unexpected. Using these four steps, you and your loved ones can design a long-term care plan that supports you physically, emotionally, and financially.  

Step 1: Understanding The Nature Of Care, Care Settings, and Government Programs 

Anyone creating a long-term care plan should explore the options for care settings, living arrangements, and government programs. This knowledge will help you make an informed choice. 

Care Settings & Living Arrangements:

A pivotal part of your care plan includes where you will live. Make sure to consider your own physical, medical, and social needs when preparing this aspect of your care plan. Finances are an important part of this decision. See Step 2 for an in-depth look at funding the cost of long-term care.

  • Nursing homes
  • Master-planned active adult communities
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Manufactured housing communities
  • Senior apartments
  • Independent living facilities and congregate housing
  • Combined care communities
  • Retirement communities 
  • Condominiums
  • Home care (formal or informal caregivers)

Government Programs:

There is a general misunderstanding of government programs for seniors. Funds are limited, and the National Care Planning Council reports that the government provides only 16% of all long-term care services. These programs can include: 

  • Medicare nursing home coverage
  • Medicaid 
  • Senior Corps
  • Senior centers
  • Community services and groups
  • Administration on Aging
  • Low Income Energy Assistance Program 
  • Veterans long term care services (service-connected disabilities, state veterans’ homes)
  • Food stamps
  • Eldercare Locator

There are several possibilities for your long-term care. Consider the level of medical support, supervision, socialization, and financial investment you need. Remember that a medical alert system can be a flexible addition to any long-term care plan. Alert1 offers several medical alert systems that fit into every lifestyle and budget.

Step 2: Funding the Cost of Long-Term Care

Financially planning for long-term care can alleviate stress when trying to choose care providers and settings. A stronger financial background ultimately gives you more choices for long term care. Two of the most popular strategies for funding the cost of long-term care are acquiring insurance ahead of time and arranging for a reverse mortgage. Still, many find that these provide limited success. Read on to discover alternate ways of funding long term care.

Strategies For Cash Generation and Asset Preservation to Fund Long Term Care:

  • Contingency funding
  • Sale of assets
  • Asset transfers
  • Fixed and indexed annuities that come with contracts to pay extra for long term care
  • Investment profile 
  • Use trusts beyond estate tax planning

Government Programs That Might Cover Long Term Care:

  • Medicare long term coverage
  • Medicaid long term care
  • Veterans long term care benefits

Step 3: Using Long-Term Care Professionals

Seek out the help of trained, long-term care professionals to save money and relieve stress. Long-term care professionals cover a lot of services, from at-home care to funeral planning. 

  • Professional home care services
  • Home disability support and medical alert systems
  • Geriatric medical services
  • Home transportation, chore, and maintenance services
  • Elder mediation services
  • Elder estate planning and law services
  • Trust and guardianship administration
  • Reverse mortgage specialists
  • Financial services specialists
  • Senior real estate and relocation specialists
  • Hospice care 
  • Preplanning funeral providers

Part of your care plan might include extra support in the form of a long-term care professional, or complementary tool. Alert1 medical alert systems provide support no matter who assists you throughout your care. 

Step 4: Creating a Personal Care Plan and Choosing a Care Coordinator

Take information from all the previous steps to create your personal care plan. The plan usually takes the form of a binding document. This written agreement should be signed by all parties involved to ensure the long-term care plan is successful. Here are some recommendations for creating this plan:

  1. Pick a long-term care planning coordinator 

  2. Organize legal and end-of-life arrangements, including:

·         Living will

·         Will

·         End-of-life services

·         Durable power of attorney

·         Estate planning

·         The Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment

3.       Organize provider, government, and financial resources, including:

·         Real estate

·         Bank checking and savings information

·         Monthly, quarterly, and annual income

·         Health insurance or advantage plan

·         Life insurance policies

·         Annuities and trusts

·         Government and community services

·         Long term care insurance 

·         Family mediator

·         Passwords for access to all accounts

4.       Call a meeting for long-term care planning and written agreement 

5.       Have all relevant parties sign the written agreement

If you follow these steps, and include your own research and preferences, then transitioning into long-term care should be smooth and financially sustainable. 

Medical Alert Systems: A Strong Complementary Tool for Long-Term Care

Elder care planning is emotionally and financially challenging for both seniors and their families. Helpful tools can make this process smoother and provide everyone with extra security.

A medical alert system can be a benefit to seniors and their loved ones, no matter the care setting. Whether you choose to receive in-home care or join a retirement community, Alert1 can provide support with 24/7/365 emergency response assistance.

Alert1 is responsive to seniors’ changing needs. We know a long-term care plan has backups and supports in case your needs shift. We will not lock you into years-long plans. Instead, Alert1 offers a month-by-month plan, or a 10-month option. Pick the medical alert system that works best for your lifestyle, your care needs, and your wallet. 

Start Planning Your Long-Term Care

Long-term care planning is an essential part of aging. The process covers financials, care settings and providers, and plans for end-of-life comfort. A comprehensive long-term care plan can relieve you and your loved ones from financial and emotional stress. As you decide on what living arrangements and medical support would best fit your needs, you are making an investment into your future health and happiness.

If your long-term care plan requires a medical alert system, Alert1 is here to help. Our medical alert systems are affordable and easy to use. Prioritize your peace of mind and start creating your own long-term care plan. 

 

 

 

[1] Johnson, Richard W., Wang, Claire Xiaozhi. (2019, June). The Financial Burden of Paid Home Care On Older Adults: Oldest and Sickest are Least Likely to Have Enough Income. HealthAffairs.org.