Many people approach estate planning attorneys in order to determine how their assets will be divided among survivors after their death. Unfortunately, a huge number of them don’t take the high likelihood of long-term care into consideration. Elder law attorneys in Atlanta see this situation come up time and again, and it is important to educate clients on the options they have available.
First of all, long-term care is a very likely scenario. People are now living longer than they ever have before. This can be a great thing, but it also means that the period of time in which we cannot fully care for ourselves may be longer, too. More and more people find that they truly need some form of long-term care. In some cases, this can be handled through an in-home healthcare worker rather than in a nursing home, but even that is expensive.
Nursing homes are a common solution when it comes to long-term care, and a good elder law attorney should help you plan for how to make this possibility happen. It’s common for people to think that the government will simply pay for their needs or that a nursing home isn’t any more expensive than renting an apartment. Both ideas are usually untrue.
So, how does one pay for long-term care? Elder care attorneys typically see four approaches:
- Private Pay – Any care that is needed, from nursing homes to prescriptions drugs (including co-payments or full costs) are covered out of pocket. Elder care services tend to be very expensive, and the costs associated with them are incredibly high. It’s not unusual for assisted-living placements to cost upwards of $8,000 a month. That means that “simple” basics that are required for day-to-day living come out to $96,000 a year.
- Medicare – Medicare is a health insurance program administered through the government. Elder law attorneys work with this program a lot because one of the basic requirements is that you must be over 65 to receive benefits. Many people are surprised to learn that Medicare does not typically cover long-term care. So, even if you qualify for this program, it cannot be used to cover nursing home care or in-home healthcare professionals for more than about 100 days.
- Medicaid – Medicaid is used by those with great financial need, and you must apply and qualify for the benefits. Many people are shocked when their elder law attorney explains that Medicaid is not actually available to everyone, and if you have much by way of assets (even a modest home or a few thousand dollars in the bank), you may not qualify at all. If you hope to qualify for Medicaid, you must prepare several years in advance to protect your assets.
- Long-Term Care Insurance – This type of insurance can help to cover or offset the costs associated with long-term care, such as an in-home healthcare worker or nursing home care. Policies can be somewhat confusing and expensive, so it’s highly recommended to work with an impartial elder law attorney when reviewing potential policies to ensure you understand them and are getting what you expect.
There are many issues to take into consideration when planning for your future, and long-term care is undoubtedly one of the most important. Working with an elder care attorney in Atlanta means that you will understand the options that are available to you and how they apply according to state and federal law.
As our parents get older and begin to lose their independence, many will turn to their adult children to help them navigate the complicated and costly world of long-term care.
Yet for adult children already caring for young kids of their own, this new role of “caregiver” can be a difficult one to assume. It’s no wonder this group of people is known as the “Sandwich Generation” as they are literally ‘sandwiched’ between the pressures of raising a family, holding down a job and managing mom or dad’s growing medical and financial needs.
As tempting as it is for Sandwich Generation Kids to bury their heads in the sand and deal with long-term care issues as they arise, failing to plan far enough ahead can cause your family to miss out on important benefits, long-term care opportunities and the ability to stay in control during mom or dad’s final years.
Here are 5 planning steps to help ensure your parents are afforded the most protection, flexibility and financial security during their golden years:
1. Find out if your parents have an estate plan and whether it’s been updated in the past 5 years- The will, trust, powers of attorney and health care directives your parents created years ago may not reflect their current wishes and long-term care needs now. Find out what they have in place and have it reviewed to ensure their documents have stayed up to date as their life and the law has changed trough the years.
2. Determine How You’ll Pay For Long-Term Care- Nursing home and assisted living facilities can cost up to $8,000 a month and Medicare will not pick up the tab. In-home care can be equally burdensome for the average family. Medicaid may pay, provided you are hovering around poverty level. The only other option is pay out of pocket—unless, of course, you plan ahead. By acting in advance and not waiting until your hands are tied in a crisis, tools such as long-term care insurance, trusts and annuities may be available to help your parents pay for their care without losing everything they’ve worked so hard for.
3. Get The Legal Authority Now To Manage Their Affairs and Maintain Control- If your parents do not have a powers of attorney or health care directives that allow you to communicate with doctors, access medical records and manage their financial affairs, it’s a good idea to create them now while mom or dad is still in good health. Otherwise, if a sudden medical crisis strikes or your parents no longer have mental capacity to sign legal documents down the road, you’ll be forced to petition a court for control (read: major time and money lost).
4. Document Their End-of-Life Wishes- Thousands of families each year are torn apart trying to decide what their loved one “would have wanted” in serious medical situations. Avoid the stress and conflict by asking your parents their wishes about things such as life support, feeding tubes, organ donation, etc. and legally document their choices to ensure everyone is on the same page.
5. Get Organized To Avoid Last Minute Scrambling- Gather your parent’s important information now to avoid any confusion and delays in the event of a medical emergency. Some important documents to collect would include their insurance information, front and back of all ID cards including drivers license, prescription cards and military ID card, prior medical history, names and numbers of doctors, copies of their living will, health care directives and a list of current medication and doses.
By being proactive and planning for these issues in advance, you can help make sure your parents always receive the care they need without worry or financial struggle. You’ll further avoid many costly legal headaches that adult children face when they are not prepared for their parent’s incapacity or ongoing care needs. It’s never too early to get started, so talk to an estate and elder attorney to determine the best ways to protect your parents, their assets…and your own sanity during the golden years.
To receive our FREE e-book, “Surviving the ‘Sandwiched’ Years: How to Protect Your Parent’s Assets, Honor Their Wishes & Provide Long-Term Care . . . Without Losing Money – Or Your Mind!”, please visit: GeorgiaSandwichGeneration.com