Yellowstone Financial, Inc.

What’s Your Long-Term Care Plan?

Even though you may not know it, you probably have a long-term care plan. You may not have shared it with your spouse or family, or articulated it out loud.

If you’re in your 50s or older, deep down you have an idea of what would happen if you or your spouse needed assistance to get through everyday life.

Perhaps your plan is a son or daughter. You think they would be able to move you into their house (or even better they could move in with you). They could care for you, still maintain their own lives, pay for their child’s higher education, and continue to save for retirement.

Your spouse could be the plan. You reason that they would have the physical strength, resolve, and ability to care for you if you no longer could do so. Even if you needed assistance in your 80s, your spouse could help you get out of bed every day, get dressed, feed you and help you with the other activities that we now take for granted.

You may not have much in terms of financial resources. So the plan could be Medicaid, the state and federal assistance program for low-income individuals. Retirees think of Medicare for health services, but it generally provides few long-term care benefits. If Medicaid is your plan, then you’ll need to think through the ramifications of your family’s well-being as you must demonstrate financial need before qualifying for support.

Let’s say you are wealthy, but have never discussed with your family how you would handle long-term care costs and needs, whether it’s in-home care, assisted living, or nursing home care. How do you know when your spouse needs help taking care of you? You may have long-term care insurance, but haven’t reviewed the policy lately to determine whether it fits your needs. Most of us would prefer to stay home as long as possible. Does your policy adequately provide for in-home care?

Some have come into my office and discussed euthanasia as their long-term care plan. It may sound reasonable now, but you’ll find that the desire to live in each of us is very strong. The emotional impact on your spouse, children and grandchildren would be profound.

You need a plan. If both of you have reached age 65, the chances that one of you will make it to age 90 is 58 percent. At least 70 percent of us over age 65 will require long-term care services. The need can be brief or it can continue for years.

One way to view retirement is to break it up into three periods, Debra Newman, a long-term care expert said at the FPA National Conference in Denver last month. There are the “go-go years,” that are filled with excursions to family, friends and other destinations. During the “slow-go years,” you may be content to stay closer to home. Finally we have the “no-go years.”

When going through retirement planning with clients, it can be exhilarating to envision to bon vivant go-go years. When we consider the aim of a lifetime of retirement savings, many think about traveling to places we never had time to see and getting to know our grandchildren better. It’s equally important to plan for the no-go years and discuss it with your loved ones.

Long-term care insurance can be expensive, with premiums exceeding $2,000 a year. While details about coverage will have to wait for another column, longtermcare.gov is a good place to start. It could be the first step toward putting a long-term care plan in place for you and your family.

Dave Gardner, for the Daily Camera.