What You Should Know About Long-Term Care

Research shows that roughly one in seven adults aged 65 or older will need long-term care at some point in their later years. Meanwhile, tens of millions of Baby Boomers in the United States are growing older and living longer. It seems inevitable, then, that the future of long-term care will be undergoing significant changes.

The challenges of providing quality care to an ever-larger senior population are numerous. Policy changes, investments in the health care workforce, technological advancements, and more may all be necessary. To ensure you have a plan in place for your care, connect with an experienced elder law attorney sooner rather than later. Continue reading to understand why attorneys in this legal area are especially suited to assist you.

Challenges Facing Long-Term Care

  • Aging Population – The U.S. is experiencing a rapidly aging population, largely driven by the Baby Boomer generation reaching retirement age. Projections show that, by 2050, the number of Americans aged 65 or older will reach 82 million. This demographic shift is stepping up demand for long-term care services on an enormous scale.
  • Increasing Demand – With a growing number of older adults, the need for more long-term care options is greater than ever. These options include nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and home health care services. The demand for quality care in these kinds of settings is putting pressure on an already stressed health care system.
  • Strained Workforce – The existing shortage of health care workers, from caregivers to nurses and physicians, may get worse still. The increase in demand is already straining the existing workforce, potentially affecting the availability and quality of care.
  • Cost – Most long-term care options are expensive, and most individuals struggle to afford the services they need. For many seniors, Medicaid serves as the primary payer for long-term care. However, Medicaid costs also place a significant financial burden on state budgets. Federal and state governments must explore alternate funding models to make program expenses more affordable.
  • Shift to Home-Based Care – More and more older adults prefer to receive care in their homes rather than in an institutional setting. Home-based services require greater advancements in technology and telehealth to facilitate these kinds of care options.
  • Community-Based Services – Beyond home-based care, other types of services for older adults are ripe for expansion. For example, transportation assistance, meal delivery, and social engagement programs remain key to aging in place safely.
  • Integration of Technology – Technology continues to play a significant role in the future of long-term care. Innovations like remote monitoring devices, robotics, electronic health records, and artificial intelligence can potentially enhance the efficiency and quality of care delivery.
  • Policy and Regulatory Changes – Lawmakers recognize the need for long-term care reform. Initiatives have been focusing on expanding insurance coverage options, increasing workforce training and support, and implementing quality standards.
  • Caregiver Support – Family caregivers provide most long-term care in the U.S. today. Recognizing and supporting the needs of these caregivers is essential, including providing resources, respite care, and financial assistance.
  • Declining Birth Rate – Fewer younger people are entering the U.S. workforce and paying into the tax system. As a result, state and federal governments are finding it difficult to keep pace with the funding they need to meet the growing challenges of long-term care.

5 Ways an Elder Law Attorney Can Help You Plan for Long-Term Care

Elder law attorneys understand the challenges of planning long-term care amidst the shifting care environment. Evaluating costs and developing strategies to pay for long-term care before you actually need it is crucial. The earlier you develop a comprehensive long-term care plan, the better.

1. Protecting Assets

The costs of long-term care today are excessive for most families. For instance, as of late 2023, the average cost of a semi-private room in a nursing home totaled nearly $9,000 a month.

To protect against long-term care costs depleting your assets, an elder law attorney can use various legal tools to help preserve your wealth. This may include creating trusts or transferring assets so that you can qualify for government assistance programs like Medicaid.

Medicaid is a federal and state program that covers long-term care for eligible individuals with limited financial resources. Elder law attorneys are familiar with the complexities of the Medicaid program application process. They also can also help you meet the criteria you need to meet to qualify, which often vary depending on your state. Their work includes navigating which steps you should take to structure your finances to meet Medicaid guidelines.

2. Executing  Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directives

Long-term care often involves planning ahead for important financial decisions, authority to sign documents and health care decisions, too. Creating a Power of Attorney and an advance health care directive with an elder law attorney is part of this. In Michigan, an advance health care directive is called a “Patient Advocate Designation.” With it, you can outline your specific health care preferences and empower someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to communicate your wishes.

A comprehensive and well-drafted Power of Attorney is an essential document in planning for Medicaid and will enable an agent to take the legal and financial steps necessary to obtain care and benefits, including Medicaid. Getting a Power of Attorney prepared while you are still able to make your own decisions is very important. If you already have a Power of Attorney, it is always wise to have it reviewed by an Elder Law Attorney to assure that it contains the necessary language which will enable your agent to take all action that may be appropriate and necessary.

3. Securing Guardianship

When an individual can no longer make decisions for themselves, an elder law attorney can help initiate guardianship proceedings. (In some states, attorneys may use the term conservator instead of guardian.) This legal process appoints someone to make financial, medical, and personal decisions for the individual who has lost capacity. (Learn more about claiming guardianship of an aging parent.)

4. Navigating Nursing Home Contracts and Disputes

Suppose you are considering entering a nursing home or assisted living facility. In that case, an elder law attorney can review your contracts, advise you on your rights and obligations, and explain potential concerns. Your lawyer can also assist in resolving disputes with care providers. If someone you love has endured elder abuse, they can advocate for their interests in cases of neglect.

Additional Information

An experienced elder law attorney specializing in long-term care planning will understand your state’s specific laws and regulations. They have the knowledge to provide you with personalized advice based on your unique circumstances and help you make more informed decisions.

Proper planning will protect your interests and ensure appropriate arrangements. The sooner you develop a comprehensive long-term care strategy, the better your chance of receiving quality care while protecting your assets. At Wenzel Bennett & Harris, PC, we offer a Long-Term Care Consultation where an experienced elder law attorney and paralegal will review your assets and income and offer recommendations on the steps that you can take now to prepare for your long-term health care and discuss how to obtain benefits to assist with that care. Contact our client care specialist at 989-356-6128 ext. 103 to learn more or to schedule a Long-Term Care Consult.

 

If you have specific questions about your situation or would like to learn more, reach out to the team at WBH here.

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