America is rapidly moving to a two-tiered system of long-term care services. One provides a broad spectrum of services ranging from an optimal amount of high quality home care to elegant and well staffed continuing care retirement communities for those who can afford to pay; while the other offers very limited services ranging from a few hours of home care per week to often dreary, poorly staffed, nursing homes funded by Medicaid.
State and federal officials are about to implement newly legislated budget cuts that will further limit care options for those who rely on public funding for their care. Meanwhile, the pool of workers in the labor intensive, long-term care industry continues to shrink as the numbers of frail and disabled elders grows at an ever-increasing rate.
Many Americans still don’t understand that most health insurance coverage, including Medicare pays only for short term, skilled care. We are expected to pay for the rest from our savings, other assets, funds from family members, or from the benefits of a private long-term care insurance policy.
When they discover this harsh reality, older Americans and their family members wonder if they can protect their home and their life savings without depleting them to pay for the costs of a chronic illness. Because care is so costly, an increasing number of older Americans need assistance from their grown children, many of whom live far from their aging parent’s home.
The evidence continues to grow that the choices and quality of care provided to those who rely on public funding is much more limited than for those who can pay privately. Nursing homes that rely on Medicaid funding are seriously under-staffed, their personnel are often poorly trained, staff turnover exceeds 50 percent a year, and the situation is expected to get worse, not better as our population ages.
Today, placement in a nursing home when we become frail and in need of help, can usually be avoided. If you’d rather receive care at home, in an Assisted Living Facility, or otherwise maintain your independence and your choice of care providers, consider such long term care financing alternatives as private long-term care insurance, a federally guaranteed reverse equity mortgage, or a Life Settlement which allows you to sell existing life insurance and use the funds to pay for your care now.
Because long-term care insurance requires you to be in good health, this planning option is not available to everyone, especially older applicants for whom the premiums may also be prohibitive. Some newly developed financing alternatives such as life insurance policies with a long-term care rider and fixed annuities that also have long term care riders should also be explored before deciding on the planning path that best suits your unique needs.
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