ColumnistsLong-term Care

Those Darn New Year’s Resolutions…

By Susan Suben

How many of you made New Year’s resolutions in 2017 that you did not follow through on? How many of you are making New Year’s resolutions for 2018?

I’m hoping you had long-term care planning on your to-do list for 2017, but if you didn’t get to it, you have another chance this year and I’d like to encourage you to fulfill this goal.

Below are questions that need honest answers regarding LTC planning. Some of them you might easily answer. Others are meant to get you thinking.

1. Do you know someone who needed LTC and, if so, how did they manage and pay for their care?

The majority of us in our 50s and 60s have witnessed or assisted a family member or friend deal with a chronic illness. We might have helped coordinate home care services, given advice on placement in an assisted living facility or nursing home, managed finances, spent the night, gone food shopping or managed medication. These tasks can be costly, arduous and frustrating not only for you but for the individual you are caring for. When answering this question, think about the strain you would be placing on your family and friends if you were to become ill without a LTC plan in place.

2. Do you want to have control over where you receive care?

According to LTC insurance data, most claims begin and end in the home which is where many individuals prefer to be if they are ill. The average cost of a home health aide is $25/hour for approximately four hours/day. Assisted living in CNY costs approximately $150 to $200/day. Nursing homes can exceed $12,000/month or $400/day. If you were able to receive funds from a LTC plan that would allow you to stay at home and make care easier for your family, wouldn’t that be something to strive for?

3. Are you healthy now?

All LTC planning policies require medical underwriting. Unfortunately, the older we are, the more ailments we seem to get! If you are relatively healthy, now is the time to put a plan in place. Talk to a LTC planning specialist about your medical conditions and medication. Don’t risk the chance of becoming uninsurable.

4. Do you want to preserve your assets?

Most individuals want to preserve their assets for a purpose — to feel secure in case of an emergency, travel, maintain their status of living or leave a legacy. If you were to become ill, could you or would you want to tap into your assets to pay for your care? Having outlined the cost of care above, how long would your assets last? It takes the average person 13 months to spend-down their asset base to qualify for Medicaid. Another question: Would you want to be reliant on Medicaid for your care, which more often than not means being in a nursing home?

5. Are you concerned about the standard of living/well-being of your spouse/partner should you become ill?

If you do have to invade your asset base to pay for your care, will that action compromise the standard of living of your spouse/partner? Will they be able to take care of themselves should they become ill?

6. What type of plan best fits your needs?

There are many available LTC planning strategies that makes it plausible to say there is a plan for everyone, in any circumstance. The old stand-by is LTC insurance but you can also consider a life insurance policy with LTC rider. There are even life insurance policies with chronic illness riders for individuals with multiple medical conditions. Often times, some legal planning is also necessary, such as placing your home in an irrevocable trust to protect it from a Medicaid spend-down.

7. Do you love your family?

I think we all love our family even with their crazy quirks. If you become ill, they will hopefully pitch in and do their best to care for you. Why not make it easier for them? Allow them to supervise your care instead of being the hands-on providers. Having a LTC plan will provide a support system and funding so your care remains consistent with your wishes and places less stress on your loved ones. There are even some plans that would allow you to reimburse your family for the care they provide to you!

How did you do answering these questions? New Year’s resolutions usually include exercising, eating better, volunteering, enjoying more time with your family, etc., but don’t forget to add LTC planning (again) to your goals. It may not be the easiest resolution to fulfill but it is one of the most important ones.

Don’t let 2018 go by without planning for your future.

Susan Suben is a senior certified adviser and president of Long Term Care Associates, Inc. and Elder Care Planning. She is a consultant for Canandaigua National Bank & Trust Company. She can be reached at 800-422-2655 or by email at