Key Considerations for Long-Term Care Planning

  • Estate Planning
February 1, 2022

Making the decision to place a loved one in long-term care is a difficult one. There are endless emotions and questions that need to be addressed. To make the process more difficult, family and loved ones often have preconceived notions of what it means to be in a facility. We have all heard a horror story of poor care or abuse - knowledge that understandably creates hesitancy to allow your loved one to be placed into a facility. Deciding to place a loved one in a long-term care facility requires thoughtful reasoning and complex financial planning.

Making the Initial Decision

Family and friends often struggle with the decision to take away their loved one’s independence. Family may feel that they have become incapable of caring for their loved one on their own; loved ones may feel that they are not unwell enough to investigate long-term care options. Some loved ones only need minimal assistance; others may need around-the-clock care.

What the loved one can and cannot do factors heavily into what types of care and facilities will be available to them, or appropriate for them.

Skilled Nursing Facilities

Skilled nursing facilities, commonly referred to as nursing homes, typically come to mind when long-term care is mentioned. Generally, eligibility for skilled nursing requires the inability to accomplish activities of daily living without direct or readily available assistance.

The primary factors that qualify a person for this type of facility are the inability to fully eat, bathe, or clothe themselves. Commonly, these types of facilities are for those that are significantly impaired. Skilled nursing facilities provide around-the-clock medical care and require the presence of medical doctors and licensed nurses.

Assisted Living Facilities

Individuals that are able to do self-care tasks, more or less, on their own may qualify for a minimized level of care called assisted living. In these facilities, caretakers take on a less direct role in the care management of the loved ones residing there. Residents typically handle the activities of daily living while staff provides 24-hour availability for assistance.

These communities typically do not offer 24-hour medical services. In these facilities, residents are expected to manage their own time, and there is little supervision from staff.

Memory Care

Memory care facilities are ideal for those living with dementia or Alzheimer’s. These facilities provide specialized care for residents, and staff members must undergo specialized training in caring for those with memory loss symptoms.

Memory care usually includes 24-hour supervision to help ease the agitation, anxiety, and other symptoms residents commonly experience. Memory care facilities often coordinate structured social activities and set routines to reduce the stress of residents.

Evaluating Facilities

It is important that you leave no stone unturned in the search for suitable care facilities. Not only should you look to the facility to answer questions, but you should also seek out the opinions of others that may have had a loved one in the facility.

If you learn that Facility A had a history of the staff being inattentive, you will know what questions to ask at the facility and what signs to look for in their care history.

Be very observant when you visit these facilities – this is potentially where your loved one will live out the rest of their years. Some things to consider when visiting a facility:

  • Look at the cleanliness of the facilities, the activity rooms, and the dining areas.
  • Does it look like it is well maintained – no chipping paint, bubbling wallpaper, unstable dining tables, poor lighting?
  • Does the nursing staff appear to enjoy their job?
  • On your tour, does the guide barge into resident rooms to show you the amenities, or do they knock and wait to go in?
  • Talk with a few residents. Ask them how they like living there.

The federal government’s Nursing Home Compare Website is a certified resource that can be used to evaluate nursing homes. Additionally, The Pat Summit Foundation has published a comprehensive guide to evaluate the qualify of residential care for those with memory care issues.

Financial Planning

Placing a loved one in long-term care can be costly. Paying privately for a skilled nursing home can exceed $8,000 per month. The average cost for Coloradans in memory care is $5,119 per month. Similarly, the average cost of assisted living in Colorado in 2020 was $4,095 per month; however, this cost varies depending on the level of care needed.

Whoever ends up taking on the financial liability for long-term care costs will be responsible for securing payment from wherever possible to cover the expenses. This process typically entails lining up Medicaid assistance, selling assets, and making sacrifices along the way. Assisted living facilities are usually paid for using a resident’s private funds; however, some facilities do accept Medicaid.

The decision regarding how to obtain the best care for a loved one involves complex and tedious financial planning. However, the attorneys at Jorgensen, Brownell & Pepin, P.C. can answer your questions regarding long-term care options and can assist with long-term care financial planning for you or your loved one.

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