Long term health care is something which will be needed by most seniors.

November is National Long-Term Care Awareness Month, so thinking about long-term care and how to prepare for it, are two things that most people should pay some extra attention to during November. In Everett and elsewhere, home caregivers should set aside some time during the coming month to consider what is actually meant by long-term care, and what it involves. If it is something that might be appropriate for your elderly loved one and his/her companions, then it's even more important that long-term care is carefully considered.

What is meant by long-term care?

The formal definition of long-term care is assistance which is provided to a person for the purpose of helping them through basic daily activities, over a period lasting longer than 90 days. Long-term care can actually take in a wide variety of care options, including everything from 24-hour, round-the-clock care to an occasional visit from a healthcare professional, who's just checking in on your senior parent.

It can also include a combination of caregivers, comprised of yourself and others, to cover those instances when you are unable to be at home to provide care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, approximately 70% of all individuals ages 65 and above will eventually require some kind of long-term care.

Preparing for long-term care consists largely of making the necessary financial preparations because, given the fact that so many elderly Americans will require long-term care, it seems prudent to be prepared for the possibility. If no financial preparations are made, that will cause the affected individual to rely on personal savings or Medicare. Personal savings may quickly be consumed, since long-term care generally can go on for several years, and Medicare does not always cover all aspects of the kind of care needed by people.

Understanding the options

There are three basic options for long-term care, which are staying at home to receive caregiving, being placed in a nursing home, or going into an assisted living facility. Medicare will not pay for assisted living, but it will pay for at least part of the charge for living in a nursing home. Since nursing homes do provide 24-hour service to their patients, this is an option which is often strongly considered by people in need of long-term care. However, it's good to keep in mind that it will cost almost twice as much to place someone in a nursing home as it would in assisted living, so checking on the cost will be important.

Elderly individuals aged 65 and above can have their nursing home costs paid by Medicare if their physician has prescribed rehabilitation or other skilled services which would be provided by the nursing home facility, and you might also be able to have Medicaid pay for some part of the cost. For Medicaid to pay any part of the cost, the affected individual would have to meet strict income standards, as well as a level of assets that are only a few thousand dollars. Some patients in need of long-term care actually give away assets in order to meet the criteria for Medicaid support.

Another possibility for paying some part of the cost for long-term care is converting your life insurance policy into a long-term care benefit plan. This involves actually selling the policy for somewhere between 30% and 60% of its face value to a company, after which the proceeds could be used to pay for long-term care. Any leftover amount after paying for long-term healthcare could be distributed to relatives or other loved ones.

When to begin preparing

For most people, the time to begin preparations for long-term health care is at some point during your late 40's to mid-50's. This is when most people are still earning wages which can be set aside for long-term care and anticipating retirement. It's also a good time to purchase a life insurance policy which might eventually be converted into a long-term care benefit plan. By waiting until your 60's, the chances begin to escalate regarding the possibility of becoming uninsurable. Coupled with the likelihood of diminishing personal income, two of your best options for preparing for long-term care might be removed by the time a person reaches their 60's.

On average, men will require about 2.2 years of long-term care, while women will need almost double that, at 3.7 years. The better that this period of long-term care can be prepared for, the more comfortable and worry-free it will be when your elderly loved ones reach that stage. With seven out of every 10 seniors requiring at least some form of long-term care, it makes good sense to begin preparations as soon as possible, and since November is National Long-Term Care Awareness Month, there's no better time than the present.