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Alaskans: It's Long Term Care Planning Month

The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services has designated October as  Long- Term Care Planning Month in an effort to raise awareness about  long- term care. Research estimates about 70 percent of people who are 65 and older are going to require  long- term care in their lifetime. While it may seem overwhelming to think about this topic, especially if the need is not yet there, now is a good time to start looking at options rather than waiting.

What is long-term care?

Long- term care (LTC) includes a range of services and supports, and while it can include some form of medical care, LTC actually focuses on providing non-medical care for people who need help with daily living activities. This type of non-medical assistance includes help with housekeeping, food shopping, meal preparation, and personal care such as bathing and dressing. Assistance with everyday tasks such as taking care of pets, paying monthly bills, providing transportation to and from appointments as well as helping with errands are also included in this category.

Who needs long-term care?

The potential for  long- term care depends on a number of issues. Chronic illnesses and disabilities are at the top of the list, while unexpected injuries, infections and diseases contribute to determining factors. People who have dementia, or are challenged by daily living activities as a result of the aging process, need varying degrees of assistance to lead safe and healthy lives.

What are long-term care options?

Many seniors are choosing to stay in their homes and receive  long- term care from family and friends. At first glance, the above overview of personal care tasks can make it seem easy to imagine an organized team of people in these two groups meeting the needs. Often, however, it's not so easy to rally enough people who have the time and ability to complete them. When that's the case, hiring personal caregivers can help.

Additionally, there are public and private programs that can help cover the bases by providing home-delivered meals, visiting nurses and supervised day programs. In addition to staying at home, many people look at retirement communities that remove the burden and add social opportunities. Assisted living facilities offer help with personal care and daily living activities in addition to the amenities offered by retirement communities. When someone needs more round-the-clock care, nursing homes fit the bill.

How much does long-term care cost and who pays for it?

In their most recent 2017 research, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services found that the average monthly rate for semi-private rooms in nursing homes in Alaska was $24,333. One-bedroom units in assisted living facilities cost around $6,000 per month, a home health aide cost about $5,291 per month, homemaker services cost about $4,957 per month, and an adult day care cost about $3,642 a month.

Community-based government programs fund some services that help people stay in their homes. These services include meals, transportation, caregiver support and help with household chores. Some of these programs have waiting lists or limited amounts of support available. Unfortunately, general health insurance plans don't offer much financial help in covering the costs of  long- term care. Medicare covers a limited number of  long- term care expenses and no personal care expenses. Medicaid helps people who meet strict financial, health and functional abilities with medical bills when they use specific providers and receive specific services.

How do people afford long-term care?

The costs of  long- term care can be considerable, and planning ahead is necessary to ensure you are prepared. Start by researching private payment options such as  long- term care insurance, reverse mortgages, annuities and trusts. Other options such as retirement income, savings, and investments can also help cover the costs. A financial planner, investment professional or estate planning attorney can assist you in developing a financial strategy that fits your needs now and into the future. More information about  long- term care can be found at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services  LongTermCare website at


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