If you're considering long term care options for yourself or a loved
one, start your research and discussions early. Waiting for a crisis could
force you to make a decision you later regret.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2014), at
least 70% of people over age 65 will require some long term care service
at some point in their lives. The triggers for needing long term care
are many and varied, and could include a chronic illness that results
in a disability, being involved in an accident, or experiencing some form
of dementia such as Alzheimer’s.
Understanding the Types of Long Term Care
To prepare for a long term care event, start by understanding the types
of long term care services. This will make it easier to select the most
suitable option for you or your loved one.
- Adult Day Care – licensed programs that offer social interaction
and activities for adults who do not need round-the-clock care
- Home Care – licensed care provided in one’s home on a part-time
or full-time basis
- Assisted Living – licensed facilities with staff members to help
with activities of daily living, such as taking medications, bathing,
dressing, and eating
- Nursing Home – licensed facilities with 24-hour nursing care for
individuals who are unable to care for themselves
- Continuing Care Retirement Community – licensed facilities with several
levels of care in one setting so residents can transfer to a different
level as their care requirements change
Choosing the Appropriate Long Term Care Option
Whether you decide to stay at home or enter a facility, know your options
Consult with a Geriatric Care Manager who can guide you through the process.
Geriatric Care Managers have expertise in the biological, psychological,
and social issues surrounding this major decision and can provide a comprehensive
assessment for your personal situation.
If you choose to move into a facility rather than stay at home, take the
time to tour multiple facilities and ask yourself some important questions:
- What level of service is needed? Do you or your loved one need help with
everyday activities, such as walking, bathing, or eating? What does the
- How does one facility compare with other facilities? What was your first
impression? Is the facility clean and well-maintained? Is management helpful?
Do the residents seem happy? Are there an adequate number of caregivers?
Is the temperature comfortable? Are the room sizes reasonable?
- What can you afford? Understand all costs. What services are included in
the published monthly fee versus the services which carry an additional fee?
Paying for Long Term Care
Unfortunately, few Americans know how they will pay for long term care,
and the vast majority does not carry long term care insurance.
Many people believe the Affordable Care Act will cover their long term
care needs, but contrary to popular belief, the Patient Protection and
Affordable Care Act failed to resolve this issue.
Importantly, understand that Medicare and private health insurance do not
cover long term care, but cover only care that is medically necessary,
such as doctor visits, prescription drugs, and hospital stays.
In some cases, low-income individuals with very few assets may qualify
for assistance through Medicaid (Medi-Cal in California), a joint federal
and state government program that helps certain individuals pay for some
or all of long term care. Veterans may also have access to long term care
assistance if certain qualifications are met.
For many others, long term care will be paid for with personal funds, long
term care insurance, or private financing options, such as a reverse mortgage
or certain life insurance policies. Since this can be the largest unknown
expense in retirement, planning ahead is more critical than ever. There
is no one-size-fits-all strategy. Your strategy will depend on age, health
status, personal finances, and risk of needing care.
For additional financial health information, please attend Torrance Memorial's
Financial Health Seminars.
Cristin H. Rigg, CFP
® is a Certified Financial Planner with
Harris Financial Advisors in Torrance. (310) 791-3226. She is also Co-Chair of Torrance Memorial’s
Professional Advisory Council.