Why long-term care options could include a reverse mortgage

Syndicated columnist Liz Weston helps seniors navigate the creation of a long-term care plan, which could include a reverse mortgage for certain people

Looking at long-term care (LTC) options could be considered “grim” for a couple of reasons: the older a person gets, the likelihood they will need some sort of later-life care increases; and the resource most Americans rely on in older age does not cover many conventional LTC options.

This is according to syndicated columnist Liz Weston in a new piece published by the Associated Press and NerdWallet.

“Someone turning 65 today has a 70% chance of eventually requiring assistance with basic living activities, such as bathing, dressing and using the toilet, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,” Weston wrote. “Even grimmer is that Medicare typically doesn’t pay for such help. Plus, families often don’t try to figure out how to provide this care until there is a health crisis, which can lead to unnecessary stress, conflicts and escalating costs,” according to a financial planner who spoke with Weston.

A barrier toward coming up with a substantive LTC plan can be denial and wishful thinking on the part of the person who needs help making LTC arrangements, Weston explained. 

But, according to her, people can consider a few different recommendations when forming an LTC plan for themselves or their aging parents.

“One way to cope is to plan for temporary rather than permanent disability,” Weston wrote. “For example, what kind of help might you or your loved one need after a hip or knee replacement? How well is the home set up for recovery? Who would help with household tasks?”

Contemplating a shorter stint of disability with an eventual return to greater health can be less daunting for people but often involves the same facets and details of planning for a longer-term decline, according to Katy Butler, an author of multiple books dealing with the topics of decline and late-life planning.

Since many people prefer to age in place, discussing the logistics of how that will work is essential in determining a plan, especially if the family will be involved in the older person’ affairs, Weston explained.

“If family members will be tapped, discuss the logistics, including whether and how much they will be paid. If home health aides will be hired, consider who will supervise the process,” Weston said. “Costs can mount quickly. Nationally, a full-time home health aide costs an average of $5,148 a month, according to long-term care insurer Genworth.”

Finally, determining ways to cover the costs will be an essential element of the plan. Bringing the person’s resources to bear could include any option, including the employment of home equity to help cover costs associated with aging, Weston explained.

“Are there savings that can be tapped? Does the older person have long-term care insurance or can they get a reverse mortgage? Will other family members chip in? Does the older person qualify for government help, such as veterans benefits, Medicaid or state programs?,” Weston wrote.

Weston also points out the need to determine if a home a senior will live in is “aging friendly,” based on input from financial planner and physician Carolyn McClanahan.

“An occupational therapist can suggest adaptations that could allow the older person to remain in the home if they’re disabled,” Weston wrote with McClanahan’s input. “Some changes might be simple, such as removing throw rugs that could cause falls, while others — like widening doorways or constructing a walk-in shower — might be part of a larger remodel.”

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