The average life expectancy in the U.S. has almost doubled in the last century. Living longer is certainly good news; however, the longer you live, the greater your odds of needing long-term care. The lifetime probability of becoming disabled in at least two activities of daily living or of being cognitively impaired is 68 percent for people age 65 and older. Of those who do become disabled or cognitively impaired, about 40 percent will need nursing home care. Given the importance of the care you receive and the cost of that care, planning for the possibility that you will need to enter a nursing home at some point in the future makes sense.
The U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging explained the difference as follows: “It [long-term care] differs from other types of health care in that the goal of long-term care is not to cure an illness, but to allow an individual to attain and maintain an optimal level of functioning….Long-term care encompasses a wide array of medical, social, personal, and supportive and specialized housing services needed by individuals who have lost some capacity for self-care because of a chronic illness or disabling condition.”
One of the most important reasons to include nursing home planning in your comprehensive estate plan is the cost of that care. As of 2017, the average cost of a month in long-term care in Illinois was $5,700 for a semi-private room and $6,500 for a private room. Experts tell us that in 20 years those figures will increase to $10,300 and $11,800 respectively. With an average length of stay of 2.5 years, it is easy to see how the cost of nursing home care can deplete a retirement nest egg if those expenses must come out of pocket.
For seniors who need assistance with the daily tasks of living or who require less extensive medical care, there are alternatives to nursing home care, including home health care, adult day health care, and assisted living facilities.
Doing your homework when searching for a nursing home is crucial to ensuring that the care you, or a loved one, receive is the best possible care. In Illinois, there are several excellent resources available, including the Illinois Department of Public Health and gov (the federal government’s official site for Medicare).
Nursing home care is expensive. Most basic health insurance plans will not cover the costs associated with long-term care nor will Medicare. Unless you have the resources to cover the cost of nursing home care out of pocket and indefinitely, you will likely find yourself turning to Medicaid for help, like over half of all seniors in nursing home facilities. Medicaid will help with your nursing home expenses if you are eligible for benefits. To be eligible, you must contend with very low “countable resources” limits that can put your retirement nest egg at risk if you failed to plan ahead – hence the need for Medicaid planning.
Medicaid is a healthcare program that is primarily funded by the U.S. federal government; however, it is administered by the individual states. Consequently, the eligibility guidelines and benefits offered can vary somewhat from one state to the next. Most states, including Illinois, offer different categories of Medicaid, such as Medicaid for children, for pregnant women, and for the aged and disabled.
Sadly, elder abuse is a very real problem in the United States. Conservative estimates indicate that over two million seniors are the victim of some type of elder abuse every year and that you stand a one in ten chance of being victimized at some point. Although the most likely (3 out of 4) perpetrator of elder abuse is a family member, nursing home residents are also extremely vulnerable. Research from 2010 indicates that up to half of all nursing home attendants have admitted abusing or neglecting elderly patients.
There are several steps you can take that will help keep you safe. The most important of those is to plan ahead. You may never need nursing home care; however, it is always better to be prepared and not need something than to need it and not be prepared. Do your “homework” now so you know which facility has the best reputation and which facilities have been repeatedly fined for violations. Visit facilities in your area now, while you have the opportunity. Put everything in writing within your nursing home planning component of your estate plan. Finally, talk to an adult child or other loved one about the subject of elder abuse. Make sure they know what to look for in case you develop dementia or are otherwise unable to express yourself.
Although we all hope to never need the level of care offered at a nursing home, the reality is that the longer you live, the greater the odds that you will need long-term care at some point. Planning ahead for that possibility by including a long-term care component in your estate plan is a good idea to ensure that you can cover the high cost of nursing home care. It is also important to research facilities now so that you receive the best care available if you ever do need the type of care offered at a nursing home. To help you get started with your plans, the attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP have created the following questions and answers related to nursing home planning. If you have specific questions about long-term care planning, please contact our office to schedule a consultation.
If you have questions relating to nursing home planning in the State of Illinois, contact the experienced Illinois nursing home planning attorneys at Nash Bean Ford & Brown, LLP by calling 309-944-2188 to schedule your free consultation.