Long-Term Care Brings Financial, Legal Issues and Requires Early Planning
People plan for so many events in life - for college, buying a house, having children and retirement. Yet, too many seniors today find themselves facing long-term care issues with which they are unfortunately unprepared to handle.
Statistics show the cost of caring for a patient with Alzheimer's can be over $42,000 per year, roughly triple the costs of a patient without it. And the forecast offers little hope for relief: an AA report anticipates an increase in the costs of care for such patients from a current $183 billion to a whopping $1.1 trillion by 2050. By 2020, insurance companies estimate 12 million Americans will need long-term care.
As if such financial challenges weren't enough by themselves, consider that an individual suffering from dementia or Alzheimer's may be unable to think clearly about housing and finances due to the illness.
Resources Available to Address Concerns
The U.S. National Institute on Aging recommends that Alzheimer's patients and other chronic sufferers engage in advance life care planning as soon after the diagnosis as possible to ensure the patient's wishes are carried out. You will want to make use of all of the legal and financial tools available, which include an advance directive, a living trust and a will.
An advance directive provides health care are instructions for the patient's care after the patient becomes incapacitated, so that medical care will be given according to the wishes of the person unable to communicate or understand health care decisions on their own. The advance directive will also name an individual who can make health care decisions on behalf of the incapacitated person. A health care advance directive may include:
- A "Do Not Resuscitate," or DNR order, for certain terminal conditions if the patient so chooses
- Where the patient wants to receive care (which hospital, the desire for home care, etc.)
- A medical power of attorney
Advance directives are also available for financial planning in the case a long-term care patient is unable to manage finances. These include:
- A will or living trust
- Naming a financial power of attorney
- Obtaining long-term care insurance
To help navigate these often complex legal matters, families should consult an expert in the field of long-term planning and elder care. Long-term planning with expert advice is crucial to give incapacitated patients a chance to make their wishes known, and to ensure they will be followed.