Long-Term Care In America: Americans May Not be Prepared, But Planning Early is a Smart Move

Top Insurance Lawyer, Frank N. Darras offers tips and a checklist for those considering long-term care insurance.

Those of us born in the 1950's and 60's, who don't feel old at all, are receiving AARP cards in the mail. More people are living longer and getting older. The reminders are everywhere and in more places than the mirror.

A poll conducted by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research examined how people 40 and over are preparing for this difficult and often pricey reality of aging and found two-thirds say they've done little to no planning. The AP report says, people are in denial and that denial is fairly common, considering people are living longer, are generally healthier and treatment and medicine have assisted in increasing life spans of an aging population.

In spite of the poll finding more than half of the 40-plus crowd have already been caregivers for an impaired relative or friend - and have a hands on experience about the kind of assistance they, too, may need later on - 3 in 10 would rather not think about getting older. Only a quarter of those polled predict it's even likely that they'll personally need help getting around or caring for themselves during their senior years. (AP, Americans in denial about long-term care, April 24, 2013)

"It's important for family conversations about aging and care to begin now. This is crucial for our own lives and the lives of our loved ones. Ask the hard questions and determine if your relatives have the time, energy and even the compunction to help care for you. Also, be forthcoming with how much you are willing to help an aging relative," says Frank N. Darras, the nation's top disability and long-term care lawyer.

Even though it may be difficult, it is important to discuss whether helping an aging adult will include more than doing the grocery shopping and opening the mail. Family-member caregivers may also have to feed, bathe and even give injections to a loved one. It's also important to define if a loved one can live alone and afford in-home help or whether he or she should consider assisted living when they cannot adequately take care of themselves. If you are over 40, or in your 50's, remember to check out what options are available for yourself as well, says Darras.

"I highly recommend that families investigate long-term care insurance policies and review what is covered, evaluate it and the history and financial health of the company," says Darras.

Always analyze the claim record of any insurer that is being considered for long-term care. Insurance is regulated at the state level, so find out what would happen to long-term care coverage should the company get sold or go out of business.

Here is a checklist for families approaching the inevitable:

  1. How long has the company you propose to buy from been selling long-term care insurance? They should have a long track record.
  2. The more new policies the company sells in your state annually should give you confidence in the company and their long-term care insurance plans.
  3. Has the company requested premium rate increases, how often and at what percent? A company that makes requests for large increases on regular basis can be a red flag that they may have inaccurately analyzed costs and could suggest instability. Even small increases on a regular basis add up.
  4. Does the company have a strong financial record? A major brand-name company is usually the best choice. Take time to research their history, media coverage, market conduct investigations and claim related lawsuits.
  5. Double check for current legal actions against the company.
  6. What is the company's claim paying record? Do they pay on time and regularly?

"The AP survey succinctly points out a pending problem for family members who are not prepared to personally take on the moniker of caregiver for an aging relative. It is a message to us all to prepare now and the sooner, the better. The confidence of having a sound long-term care policy in place provides peace of mind as we age," says Darras.

Always talk to a trusted agent or a top long-term care insurance lawyer to help you navigate the legalese and translate the fine print of any policy. This will help you know what you are getting and ensure you the best value for your hard earned dollars, says Darras.