By Joanna G. Burish
Educating clients about long-term care (LTC) is one of the main reasons I am passionate about what I do at Northwestern Mutual, and it’s because of an experience I had with my dad.
In June 2015, my wonderful, strong, 75-year-old dad went to the farmers’ market — one of his favorite hobbies. While at the market, he fell and hit the back of his head, and he was rushed to the ER. He had recently started taking medication, which made him dizzy. His fall caused massive internal bleeding, and the next six months were nothing short of a nightmare. He faced multiple health issues, and as he came out of his coma, he had to learn to walk, feed himself and write to communicate (he’d lost his voice due to a tracheostomy). It was hard to watch.
We had to place him at an abysmal LTC facility east of Madison, as it was the only facility available to accept him, and I ran my business by his bedside. Driving 90 miles round-trip several times a week placed a strain on my family.
One day, Dad made multiple calls for a nurse to help him go to the bathroom. After 45 minutes of no response, he took himself and fell again. At this facility, the ratio of nurses to patients was at an unacceptable level, and the care patients received was akin to a horror film. It was nothing you’d want you or your loved ones to experience when needing this type of care the most. I received the call at 7:32 a.m. on Jan. 7, 2016, that Dad was gone.
I learned two important lessons from my dad’s experience. One was that I don’t want my own daughter to have this experience with me when it comes to my LTC care. Second, many people believe they have a LTC plan, but they don’t understand how it works. Or, they believe Medicare can pay for LTC needs. I want to help you with all of your LTC questions.
Here are five things you need to know to assure your long- term care (LTC) plan is truly holistic, and is in place for when you need it most.
- Half of us who live to age 65 will develop a need for LTC services and support in their lifetime. Typically,
in a heterosexual couple, women live longer, so they tend to take care of their spouse’s LTC needs at home, often using assets accumulated in conjunction with their spouse to pay for this care. These assets become depleted by the time the wife needs LTC, and thus, she tends to receive a lower level of care. Seventy-two percent of nursing home residents are women.
- Understand how Medicare works. Coverage under Medicare is very limited in terms of options. Medicare only pays for the first 20 days of care in a skilled nursing facility (SNF). For the next 21-100 days there is a co-pay, and, after 100 days, all costs at a SNF are paid out of pocket by the patient, family or friends.
- Ask your financial advisor about the full qualifications for LTC Medicare benefits, but know this: You will
first need to spend your assets down to $2,000 to be eligible to receive any coverage.
- Talk with your financial advisor for what options you do have for LTC. There is traditional LTC insurance up to whole-life insurance options that include an accelerated care benefit. These types of whole-life insurance options offer tax- free access to LTC benefits.
- Get an idea of what LTC costs are in today’s market and in your area, as they will only increase in the future. Current monthly costs for senior care and living options in Madison, Wisconsin, range from $2,019 per month for adult day care services up to $9,429 for a private room at an assisted living facility.
Planning ahead will help you understand the available LTC services, and give yourself greater independence. It will also help your loved ones experience less emotional and financial stress during an already difficult time for everyone involved.
Northwestern Mutual is the marketing name for The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI (NM) (life and disability insurance, annuities and life insurance with long-term care benefits) and its subsidiaries. Joanna Burish is an Insurance Agent of NM. There may be instances when this agent represents companies in addition to NM or its subsidiaries.
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