As we age, we all want to remain independent. However, the reality is that the majority of individuals will need assistance with activities of daily living such as basic self-care tasks (e.g., toileting, bathing, dressing, eating, medication management), or instrumental activities of daily living (e.g., household chores and meal preparation) at some point. According to a 2003 AARP report, the lifetime probability of becoming disabled in at least two activities of daily living or of being cognitively impaired is 68% for people age 65 and older. In other words, 2 out of 3 people over 65 will need long term care services at some point. According to the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, 20% of those who need care will need it for longer than five years, and women need care longer (3.7 years average) than men (2.2 years average). Whether you need care now, wish to plan for your own future, or are one of the estimated 65.7 million people (family, friends and neighbors) in the U.S. who provide care to someone who is ill, disabled, or aged you should be armed with the facts of how much it costs and what the options are for paying for long term care.
When it comes to paying for care, it often comes as a surprise to people to learn that Medicare does not generally pay for long-term care expenses. The options to pay for care are limited to (1) your personal assets; (2) private long term care insurance you purchase before time of need; or (3) government benefits such as the Veterans Administration Aid & Attendance Pension or Medicaid. Just how expensive is long term care? The sobering truth is that out-of-pocket costs of long term care can quickly bankrupt a family. According to the Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey Arizona’s average state-wide annual cost of home health aide services is $45,760, assisting living is $41,010, and skilled nursing is $85,045 (private room).
What help is out there if you or a loved one needs but cannot afford to privately pay for care indefinitely, or do not have long term care insurance? Of the government programs, Medicaid is the largest payer of long-term care services. Arizona Long Term Care System (ALTCS) is Arizona’s Medicaid program that pays for long term care health services (i.e., non-medical home care, adult day care, adult care home, assisted living, memory care, or skilled nursing facility) for anyone who meets the requisite citizenship, medical and financial criteria. The most complex and often misunderstood rules for ALTCS eligibility are the income and resource (financial) eligibility criteria. You should seek advice from a qualified elder law attorney to understand whether this program is for you, and if so, how you can protect your assets and qualify for ALTCS benefits before your estate is depleted due to long term care expense. With proper planning, there are many different ways to protect assets against the exorbitant cost of long term. Just because a statistic says the average need for care is 1,040 days, does not have any meaning for how long you will need care. Your long-term care plan should be tailored to your particular situation and only a knowledgeable professional can best help you do that.