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Julie M. Sturgeon: Be prepared, plan for long-term care

It’s Your Money

Posted: March 4, 2009 8:37 p.m.
Updated: March 5, 2009 4:30 a.m.
Everyday, 13 million people need assistance with routine activities such as dressing, eating and bathing, according to the Direct Care Alliance. Four out of 10 people turning 65 can anticipate stays in a nursing home, and by the year 2025, 78 million Americans will be over age 65. Most health insurance programs will not usually cover long-term-care expenses.

Are you financially prepared for your care during your golden years?

Proper planning for your future care can ensure that your needs are met when you can no longer perform simple daily tasks. A long-term-care insurance policy can help you manage your care without draining your savings or creating a physical or financial burden to your family.

With a long-term-care policy, you can pay for services in whole or part. You typically pay monthly premiums, and if you need long-term care, the care expenses will be covered as specified in the policy.

These insurance policies vary in benefits. However, most policies cover the cost of nursing care, in-home assistance with daily activities, adult daycare and other community-based programs, such as assisted-living services (including meals, health monitoring and help with daily activities provided in a setting outside the home) and daily nursing supervision for those with chronic illnesses.

Premium costs typically depend on the policy's coverage and the length of time benefits will cover.

One of the major benefits of planning for long-term care is that you can decide where you would like to receive your care. In recent years, home health care has become a popular alternative to care in a nursing home. Other options include assisted living facilities and adult daycare centers. Coverage typically begins when a doctor certifies that you need assistance in performing two or three activities of daily living.

Before purchasing long-term-care insurance, you should consider your age, health, retirement goals and income. While there is no right time to buy long-term-care insurance, there is a cost for waiting too long.

The cost increases the longer you wait, and waiting carries an additional risk. If you wait until you reach your 70s or 80s or experience failing health, policy restrictions or cost could make it more difficult if not impossible to purchase long-term-care insurance. It's important to remember that buying earlier can reduce costs substantially.

Because any insurance policy is a long-term investment, you need to carefully consider a long-term-care policy like a major investment and part of your entire financial plan. You need to consider a reputable advisor who can thoroughly answer your questions and explain all the details of the policy.

Julie M. Sturgeon is a certified public accountant in Valencia, specializing in individual and business tax issues. "It's Your Money" typically appears Thursdays and rotates between a handful of the valley's financial professionals. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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