Long-term care differs from acute care.
Acute care is provided in a hospital and is
intended to help you get better. It usually lasts for only a short time.
Long-term care, on the other hand, is
provided to people with chronic, degenerative illness or disabilities who require
continued support over a long period of time.
Long-term care costs are high.
Generally, older people pay more for long-term
care than for anything else they buy. The annual cost of a nursing home stay is
approximately $50,000. Home care can also be very costly. An older person who
receives just three home health visits per week could pay about $12,000 for home care each
year. Those with severe impairments will pay more for home care. So will those
who have no friends or relatives to help them. The cost of other long-term care
services, such as adult day care and assisted living facilities, varies. However, many
people cannot afford these services.
Public programs help only a little.
Public programs provide only limited help with
long-term care costs. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Social Services
Block Grant program (SSBG), and Title III of the Older Americans Act (OAA) provide some
help. Each of these programs has its own eligibility criteria.
Medicare won't pay for long-term care.
Medicare only pays nursing home bills for
persons who needs a more intensive form of care, called "skilled care."
Skilled care is usually provided in a nursing home after a patient is released from a
hospital. Medicare also covers a limited amount of medically-necessary home health care,
but only for beneficiaries who are homebound and need skilled care. Even if you have
Medicare supplemental insurance -- called "medigap" -- you will receive
very limited long-term care benefits. Neither Medicare nor medigap policies cover
long-term custodial care, such as assistance with activities of daily living.
Medicaid is the major source of funding for
The major source of public funding for
long-term care services is the federal and state-funded Medicaid program. Medicaid covers
the cost of nursing home care. It also pays for a limited amount of home and
community-based care for persons who otherwise might need to go to a nursing home.
Medicaid has very strict financial
requirements. Generally, you can't receive help from Medicaid until you spend
almost all of your assets and income on care.
Private insurance can pay for long-term
For the most part, individuals who want
coverage for long-term custodial care must buy separate insurance, called long-term care
insurance, from a private insurance company. Services covered under these insurance
policies vary greatly. Each policy has its own eligibility requirements, restrictions,
costs, and benefits.
Read the Fine Print.
The cost of long-term care insurance usually
depends on the coverage you choose. Therefore, you must read the fine print before buying
a long-term care insurance policy. Find out if there are any conditions that you
must meet to collect the benefits. Other questions to consider, include:
The Older Americans Act provides federal
money so states can operate programs for people age 60 and older. The money is distributed
by your state to local Area Agencies on Aging (AAAs). AAAs provide some community-based
long-term care services, either directly or through local agencies, organizations, or
firms. AAAs do not charge for services, but they may accept donations.
For information about Older American Act
programs, contact your local AAA (check the government pages of your phone book) or call
the Eldercare Locator at 800-677-1116 (toll-free). The Eldercare Locator is a nationwide
directory assistance service that helps older persons and their caregivers find help
locally. You can call from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. (EST), weekdays.