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Three Common Mistakes We Make with Long Term Care

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Lauren Weldon is a partner in Margolis Weldon, a law firm specializing in estate planning and elder law.  We have invited Lauren to post on what we all need to know about Long Term Care.  She offers this:

Even the best of us can be overwhelmed when someone we love is in the middle of a stint in rehab due to a fall or coming out of the hospital for the third time in a short period of time. We often don’t think about the financial, legal or even practical considerations that are part of what can become a long term care crisis.  Here are three things you need to avoid; you could call them the three “NOTS” that can tie you in KNOTS:

  1. Not knowing who will pay for it: One of the most common misconceptions regarding long term care is that Medicare or private health insurance will pay for it. To be fair, this is true to a certain extent, in some circumstances. Medicare pays for up to 100 days of rehab in a skilled care facility, provided the Medicare recipient meets certain qualifications. Any days after the 100th day are not paid for by Medicare, nor are they paid for by a supplemental policy. For long term residents of nursing homes, their bills are being paid by Medicaid or privately (i.e., self-funded through assets, income or a long term care insurance policy). You and your loved one need to get schooled on Medicaid.
  2. Not having a plan: Charlotte Bishop talks about “The Trifecta:” being old, sick and broke. Nobody wants to be any one of these things, let alone all three. The reality is, if we are lucky, we will get old. Yet, many of us will outlive our money – in part due to expenses related to chronic illness. Despite knowing these things, many people don’t plan adequately. They don’t inquire about or even consider long term care insurance until they are too old or sick to qualify. They don’t have an estate plan or the legal documents necessary to protect themselves, their loved ones and their assets from crisis.
  3. Not consulting with an advocate: Unless you work in healthcare or senior care, chances are you have no idea how to go about finding the best rehab facility in your area. You don’t know how to negotiate the private pay period at a nursing home.  You have no idea what to look for in a caregiving or caregiving company, and you have never heard of spousal impoverishment. In addition to an elder law attorney who can advise and guide you, geriatric care managers, patient advocates and private social workers can all represent your interests and provide unbiased feedback regarding your long term care choices.

There is a fourth NOT; do NOT put off planning.  The best time to start planning is right now; don’t wait until a crisis occurs. In addition to giving you peace of mind, thinking through these issues and coming up with a plan now will save you significant time and money.

Charlotte Bishop is an Aging Life Care Advisor, Geriatric Care Manager and founder of Creative Care Management, certified professionals who are geriatric advocates, resources, counselors and friends to older adults and their families in metropolitan Chicago.  She also is the co-author of How Do I Know You? A Caregiver’s Lifesaver for Dealing with Dementia.

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