The Cost of Not Preparing for Long-Term Care

Families frequently come to our law office seeking help for a long-term care crisis.  Long-term care needs cause the loss of independence and the depletion of assets and they know we can help.  In one instance, a couple saved enough cash and retirement assets to support them for their lifetime.  However, one spouse’s chronic illness required daily assistance that ultimately led to nursing care.  Even though the nursing care was expensive, the spouse was confident their assets would hold out without impoverishing her.  Unfortunately, without an asset protection plan in place the couple’s assets quickly diminished.  The spouse didn’t seek help until she panicked over running out of money.  Her big mistake was waiting until their resources were low.  We got her husband on Medicaid within a few weeks, but if we had seen her two years earlier we could have preserved almost all of their assets while getting Medicaid, and she could have enjoyed plenty of money for the rest of her life.  While a bigger crisis was avoided, waiting to get good advice cost the family hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Requiring long-term care means you need help performing activities of daily living (ADLs) such as bathing, dressing, toileting, eating, and/or taking medicine.  Most people are optimistic hoping they will never need assistance; over half are wrong and will suffer 3 years as nursing facility patients.  Long Term Care expense remains the biggest single financial risk for seniors.  Chronic illness and injury can require long-term care services immediately and at any age. Assistance with ADLs is growing dramatically; it is 120 times more likely to occur than a car accident and 20 times more expensive on average. A long term crisis for most families requires spending the equivalent cost of your home burning to the ground with no insurance coverage.

Everyone wants to remain at home as long as possible. In fact, spouses provide the majority of assistance at home for loved ones in need of long-term care, and that has a double impact on the family.  The high demands for a caregiving spouse creates stress, fatigue, and depression with its own negative health effects.   Being chained to your loved one doubles the pain over time, but stress over running out of money or feeling impoverished causes fear and resentment.

The cost of long-term care services rises every year and varies based on the level of care needed; ranging on average between $44,000 and $91,250 annually. There are programs available to help pay for long-term care. Assistance programs vary based on need, income, and assets. However, Medicare and your health insurance do not cover long-term care.  There are some government assistance programs, including the VA, Special Assistance, and Medicaid, that can help when you know how to navigate those programs.  Many individuals can qualify for Medicaid with assistance.  If your loved one requires nursing facility care, the good news is that most middle-class families can qualify for Medicaid quickly with the help of an experienced elderlaw attorney.  The key is seeking help quickly.  Planning in advance of D-Day provides more affordable options for long-term care; waiting until the crisis strikes to consult with your elderlaw attorney results in fewer options and greater costs but still allows solutions to preserve most of your remaining assets and resources.

If you have questions about elderlaw, asset protection or retirement planning, consider W.G. Alexander & Associates – we are experienced attorneys who offer a unique blend of asset protection, Elder Law and estate planning. You can also attend our free seminars. Learn more through our website at, or call us at (919) 256-7000.

Attorney Bill Alexander of W. G. Alexander & Associates discusses these issues and more every Saturday morning on his radio program, “Asset Protection Today,” on TalkRadio 680 WPTF (AM). Be sure to listen from 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM.