Anyone who complains about the high cost of rent in most places around the United States would probably recoil in horror if he were presented with the average monthly bill for a simple private room in any of the nation’s nursing homes. The fact is that long-term health care costs have risen sharply in recent decades, presenting many seniors and their families with some difficult choices when it comes to managing costs. Figuring out how to deal with these high nursing home costs can challenge families on both an emotional and budgetary level, and create severe stress.
And while some seniors can either afford to pay for care with their savings, or are in a low income bracket that ensures that Medicaid will cover the costs, there are millions of others who find themselves stuck between those two extremes. For all of those seniors and their families, it is important to recognize that there are strategies that can help.
How Bad Are Nursing Home Costs?
Obviously, the care provided by these facilities is often critical to ensuring that our seniors enjoy the highest quality of life they can during their twilight years, while also having the medical care they need when they need it – and all of that costs money. Still, nursing home costs regularly rise, even when the rest of the economy isn’t necessarily following suit. The MetLife Mature Market Institute reported, for example, that the average U.S. cost for a semi-private room in 2012 rose to $222 per day from the 2011 average of $214 a day, bringing the total average 2012 cost for that care to more than $81,000 for the year.
To make matters even more concerning, another study discovered that a family’s household wealth declines steadily in the first six years after an elder is placed in a nursing home. In fact, median wealth for those households declined by roughly $23,000 in the first two years after an older family member entered the home. That stood in marked contrast to the way that households without older members in nursing homes saw their wealth increase during the same period. Clearly, families need to be aware of these dangers so that they can plan accordingly.
Thankfully, there are some tips that seniors and their families can use to mitigate these financial risks and better manage nursing home costs:
- Plan Ahead. Most of us recognize that nursing home care is something that we might have to deal with years in the future – and many people would simply like to ignore that possibility until it becomes a reality. That can cause decisions to be made without adequate research or planning, and cause you to end up paying more than you otherwise might.
- Consider the Location. This can be an important consideration when a senior has family members in multiple states, since different states can have vastly different cost ranges for nursing home services. For example, Texas generally has the lowest overall average rate for nursing home care. Many other states can offer choice in that area as well, so it sometimes helps to shop around in different locales.
- Research the Medicaid option. With careful planning, many seniors can work to ensure that they spend down or otherwise manage their assets in a way that ensures that they qualify for Medicaid services when they finally need them. To see if you qualify, or to apply for coverage online, visit gov.
- Remember that efforts to reduce your assets must be done with care to ensure that you do so in accordance with existing laws and regulations. Before you set out to transfer any assets or otherwise protect them from the costs associated with nursing home care, consult with an attorney for guidance.
- If Medicaid isn’t an option and your loved one lacks the assets to pay for nursing home care right now, give some thought to in-home care for a time, to shorten the amount of time he or she will eventually have to spend in a nursing home. This can help your loved one to stay in her own home longer, while also ensuring that she gets the care she needs at a fraction of the cost of nursing home care.
- Consider cashing in your life insurance policy. If you have one of those policies that allows you to cash in early and receive half or three-quarters of its value, that can be a way to finance part or all of your needed nursing home care. There can be Medicaid and tax concerns arising from such a cash-in, however – and some policies might limit your ability to do this at all. Moreover, this option is only possible with whole life policies. Again, an elder law lawyer can help navigate these legal waters.
- Be extremely wary of those advertised programs that purport to offer advice on Medicaid qualification and other elder law matters. Many are scams that seek to take advantage of distressed seniors who need serious assistance in managing these concerns.
- Consider all your care options. Different types of long-term care facilities might offer different levels of care. If your senior loved one is relatively independent, he or she almost certainly won’t require the more intensive nursing care that a less healthy elder might. Nursing home care is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
- With that in mind, try to find a nursing home that offers more of an a la carte menu of services. If you and other family members can handle some of the care yourself, you may be able to get long-term care with more limited services at a lower rate.
- Consider room-sharing options that might offer lower costs and the added benefit of companionship. Semi-private rooms tend to be somewhat less expensive than private rooms.
Above all else, recognize that these decisions are not to be made lightly. As expensive as nursing home can be, moving your loved one from one assisted living facility to another – or back and forth from the nursing home to a family member’s house – can quickly add to that cost. By considering all the factors and consulting with an experienced elder law attorney, you can help to ensure that you have a solid plan in place that provides the right level of nursing home care when it is needed most. Contact Robert Kulas Attorneys at Law today to find out how we can help you better prepare for the high costs associated with long-term care, and deal with all your asset management and estate planning concerns.