Americans are living longer than ever before. As a result, we face more challenges and transitions in our lives than those who came before us. One of the most difficult transitions people face is the change from independent living in his or her own home or apartment to living in a long term care facility or “nursing home.” There are many reasons why this transition is so difficult. One is the loss of home – a home where the person lived for many years with a lifetime of memories. Another is the loss of independence. Still another is the loss of the level of privacy we enjoy at home.
Most people who are forced into the decision to move to a nursing home do so during a time of great stress. Some have been hospitalized after a stroke, some have fallen and broken a hip, still others have progressive dementia, like Alzheimer’s disease, and can no longer be cared for in their own homes. Whatever the reason, the spouse or family member who helps a person transition into a nursing home during a time of stress faces the immediate dilemma of how to find the right nursing home. The task is no small one, and a huge sigh of relief can be heard when the right home is found and the loved one is moved into the nursing home. However, for many, the most difficult task is just beginning: How to cope with nursing home bills that may total $6,000 to $8,000 per month or more?
How to Pay for Nursing Home Care
One of the main issues that concern people most about nursing home care is how to pay for that care. There are basically four ways that you can pay the cost of a nursing home:
1. Long Term Care Insurance – If you are fortunate enough to have this type of coverage, it may go a long way toward paying the cost of the nursing home. Unfortunately, many people facing a nursing home stay do not have long-term care insurance.
2. Pay with Your Own Funds – This is how the majority of people pay for long-term care. Quite simply, it means paying for the cost of a nursing home out of your own pocket. Unfortunately, with nursing home bills averaging around $7,000 per month in Nebraska, few people can afford a long-term stay in a nursing home.
3. Medicare – This is the national health insurance program primarily for people 65 years of age and older, certain younger disabled people, and people with kidney failure. Medicare provides short-term assistance with nursing home costs, but only if you meet the strict qualification rules.
4. Medicaid – This is a federal and state funded and state administered medical benefit program which can pay for the cost of the nursing home if certain asset and income tests are met.
Here are a few alarming statistics I found:
- Of people turning 65, 69 percent will need some form of long-term care and Women are more at risk (79 percent).
- More than half of the U.S. population will require some type of long-term care during their lives (nursing home care, home health care, assisted living, or rehabilitative facility care).
- The average nursing home stay is approximately two and a half years, however 20 percent will need more than five years of care.
It is crucial that all of us (at or nearing our retirement years) take the time to educate ourselves and then implement a plan that will address long-term care costs. The corner stone to this education and planning process is Medicare and Medicaid. So, in the coming months, I will present a three part series that will concentrate on Medicare and Medicaid and the roll these programs play in the long-term care arena.