My 60-year-old mother is thinking about purchasing long-term care insurance. But I think she’s too young to worry about this. Am I right?
Not necessarily. Age isn’t the only factor to consider when you’re thinking about buying a long-term care (LTC) policy: Though they do cover the kind of care you get in a nursing home, they also cover many other types that could help your mother stay in her own home if she becomes ill or injured.
A good LTC policy can be like a safety net, helping your mother deal with the challenges of aging, including everything from a sudden illness or stroke to chronic conditions, such as arthritis or Alzheimer’s disease, which can be managed effectively for years outside of a nursing home.
LTC policies typically cover a home health care worker to help with chores such as grocery shopping or bathing and dressing. Many LTC policies include rehabilitative therapy following a stroke, as well as for intensive long-term skilled nursing care, either in a facility or at home.
Though home health care is less costly than a nursing home, that doesn’t mean it’s cheap: Costs will vary depending on how many hours of care your mother needs per day, but skilled nursing care at home — three times a week for about two hours per visit — costs about $12,300 a year, and a home health aide for the same amount of time costs around $8,400 a year. A typical LTC plan will reimburse you for $100 of home health care per day, which can help you in meeting these costs.
By contrast, a nursing home costs on average about $35,000 per year. Medicare will pay for some home health care, but only under certain conditions and only after age 65. Medicaid is another option, but in order to qualify your mother will have to “spend down” her life savings and assets — something that you and she may be reluctant to do.
For many families, the question of when to purchase LTC insurance boils down to how much care a parent needs and whether or not family members can provide it. Maybe you live near your mother and her needs so far have been minimal. But what will you do if those needs grow? Will you be able to find the time and the money to help? What if you move to another state? While no one should purchase more insurance than they need, a good LTC policy could buy you and your mother some peace of mind.