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Planning for long term care an important step to take

A recent article in the Pocono Record, written by executive director of Families USA Ron Pollack, discusses the importance of planning for long- term care and learning about all the options available as one makes that transition in life.

Elderly individuals can quickly go from being self-sufficient to requiring care, whether in their home or in a community setting. Pollack particularly stresses the need to plan ahead for these transition times in order to avoid "scrambling" and spending down one's life savings if one ends up in a nursing home.

One point Pollack highlights that is important to realize is that long term care encompasses more than going to a nursing home. There are other options, both in-home and community based services. These services range from assistance in homemaking to medical services provided by health professionals.

Finding ways to afford such care can be a challenge for elderly individuals, even those who have planned ahead. One cannot always anticipate the extent of care that one will need. Whether one stays in a nursing home or in one's home, care can be expensive.

Under the new Affordable Care Act, there are several important programs designed to assist people in paying for long-term care with staying in their homes longer. These programs provide financial incentives and funding to expand home and community based services offered by states. They also seek to ensure there is an adequate workforce to provide home care services for elderly people.

Beginning in 2014, the spouse of a recipient of at-home care will be protected from having to spend all the couple's assets in order to qualify for Medicaid. Such protection currently is only in place for persons receiving care in a nursing home.

The Affordable Care Act also establishes a new voluntary long-term care insurance program called Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS). That program is designed to assist people in paying for long term care, and will be available to working adults of any age or health status probably by 2013. In order to qualify for that program, a person will first need to be enrolled for five years.

The average benefit under CLASS for individuals in need of long-term care will be a minimum of $50 per day, or $18,250 per year, which will be adjusted for inflation. That money can be used to pay for medical assistance and for other costs associated with staying in one's home.

Pollack recommends that, when planning for long term care, people should learn what programs and services are available in their state and local area. One resource for learning about local programs and services is www.eldercare.gov or 1-800-677-1116, which is run by the federal Administration on Aging.

Source: Pocono Record, "Long-term care: Planning for the future," Ron Pollack, 6 April 2011.

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