Long-Term Care Can Provide Critical Support at Extra Expense

Dorian Martin Health Guide
  • Long-term care. It’s something that we often don’t want to think about, but the need often comes to the forefront in many people’s lives. Take my mother for instance. My first experience was in September 2005. Mom was living me and was very weak due to complications from her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Additionally, she was exhibiting memory loss and mood swings that soon would be diagnosed as Alzheimer’s disease. I was afraid to leave Mom alone so I ponied over the money to have a home health care aide sit with her so I could attend a graduate class. I thought piecing together this assistance would be a stopgap measure and assumed that Mom’s health would improve so she could move to an independent living facility or, at the very least, an assisted living facility. Obviously, I was in denial because instead she had to live in a nursing home in order to get the skilled nursing care. And this tale illustrates that I really didn’t understand much about all of the facets of long-term care, even as the health of my aging parents declined.

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    It turns out that I’m not the only one.  “People often put off planning for long-term care because they do not want to think about a time when they might need it,” the National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information (NCLTCI) states. “Most people first learn about long-term care when they or a loved one needs care. However, if you wait until you need services to start planning, your options may be limited.”


    However, many people do end up needing this type of care. NCLTCI reports that in 2008, 21 million people had to have support from long-term care services. Furthermore, approximately 70 percent of people who are over the age of 65 will need these types of services at some point during their lifetime.

    The need for long-term care is caused most often due to a chronic illness or disability, including cognitive impairment such as Alzheimer's disease that results in memory loss, confusion or disorientation. NCLTCI defines long-term care as “a range of services and supports you may need to meet your health or personal needs over a long period of time." Interestingly, most long-term care assistance revolves around providing assistance with activities that are part of normal daily living, such as eating, bathing and using the toilet. Another area that is covered in the definition is “Instrumental Activities of Daily Living,” which are household tasks that are done regularly, such as shopping for groceries, taking medications, housework and managing money.

    Long-term care can be expensive, especially since Medicare and other health insurances don’t cover these types of services.  Medicaid, a federal public program which is available to people with fairly low income and savings, does pay for most long-term care services for people who have high levels of disability. Additionally, other federal programs (such as the Older Americans Acts Programs and the Veterans Affairs LTC Benefits) and state-funded programs may be available for people with high levels of disability who have low income and savings levels. Private funding options include long-term care insurance, annuities, trusts and reverse mortgages.

  • So what are the costs for long-term care?  Although they vary based on the type and amount of services needed, here are some eye-opening example cited by the NCLTCI for 2010:

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    • Having assistance from a home health aide three times a week cost more than $19,000 on average.
    • The cost for a semi-private room in a nursing home was $205 a day ($6,235 monthly) while a private room was $229 per day ($6,965 monthly).
    • The cost for a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living facility was $3,293 a month.
    • To receive help from a home health aide cost $21 per hour while homemaker services were $19 per hour.
    • The cost for one day of services in an adult day care center was $67.

    Plus, there are variations in these costs. The NCLTCI notes that home health and home care services tend to be more expensive if used during the evenings, weekend or holidays. Adult day service programs can differ in cost based on the program’s costs and activities provided. Finally, many facility-based programs will charge for additional services that are above and beyond the room, food and housekeeping charges.

    So it’s really important to educate yourself on all the variations of long-term care that are available so you’re ready when a loved one – or you – needs this type of assistance.

    Primary Source for This Sharepost:

    National Clearinghouse for Long Term Care Information. (2012). Website. Department of Health and Human Services.

Published On: September 26, 2012