Nursing Homes: A Shopper's Guide to Long-Term Care Insurance
Long-term care is a type of skilled care or personal care service that you might need if you’re unable to care for yourself because of an illness, disability, or cognitive impairment like Alzheimer's disease.
Long-term care is different from traditional medical care, which tries to treat or cure illnesses. Long-term care may help you maintain your lifestyle but usually won't improve your medical condition. It helps with routine daily activities, such as eating, getting around, and bathing. It can also help if you need supervision, protection, or reminders to take medicine.
Long-term care services can be provided at your home or in a hospice, adult day care center, nursing home, or assisted living facility.
There are two types of long-term care services:
- Skilled care is for medical conditions that require a medical professional, such as a nurse or a therapist. It's usually provided in a nursing home or other care center.
- Personal care (sometimes called custodial care) helps you do routine activities. You can get personal care in your home or in a care center.
Long-term care can be expensive. The cost is based on the amount and type of care you need, where you receive it, and what type of medical professional provides it. You can expect to pay at least $3,000 a month for a care in an assisted living center and more than $6,000 a month for care in a nursing home.
A long-term care insurance policy typically pays from $50 to $250 per day for nursing home care. To find out how much coverage you might need, call local nursing homes, home health care agencies, and adult day care centers in your area and ask about their cost for daily care. Keep in mind that the cost for care will likely go up as you get older.
Unlike premiums for life insurance that are based on how long you might live, long-term care insurance premiums are based on whether you might have an illness that could require long-term care but not shorten your lifespan. For example, having a heart attack might not impact your long-term care premiums, but having Alzheimer’s disease might.
Long-term care insurance help protect your assets against the high cost of an extended long-term care need. Long-term care insurance usually makes sense if you have more assets than a house, a car, or a small amount of cash that you want to save.
It might be difficult for you to buy a long-term care policy if you use most of your money to pay for utilities, food, or medicine.
To decide whether long-term care insurance is right for you, consider your personal risk factors, assets, income, and available alternatives.
Personal 'Risk Factors'
Consider the following factors before buying long-term care insurance:
- Life expectancy. The longer you live, the more likely you will need long-term care. Consider whether your family has a tendency for long life expectancy.
- Gender. Women might need long-term care insurance more than men because they usually live longer.
- Your family situation. If you have a spouse, adult children, or other family members who can care for you at home, you might not need a policy that pays for home care services.
- Instead, you might need a policy that pays only for nursing home care.
- Family health history. You might need long-term care if chronic or debilitating health conditions run in your family.