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Long-term care

a home entryway with the front door open to a sunny day, a home healthcare aide assists an elderly woman with a cane
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Most of us want to remain independent and in our own homes for as long as possible. But that isn't always possible. That's why you need a plan for long-term care — and how to pay for it.

Long-term care doesn't necessarily mean a nursing home. Other possible options include community services, home health care, or assisted living. For instance, a person who can't make it out to the grocery store might get community-based "meals on wheels." Someone who needs help with daily activities but wants to stay at home might have part- or full-time home health care aides come in. Other options are retirement and assisted-living communities.

Most of these options cost a lot of money. And regular insurance plans and Medicare don't usually cover these costs. Medicaid pays for long-term care, but only after you have used most of your money and assets.

Another option is long-term care insurance, which covers some, but not all, of the costs of a variety of long-term care services should you need them. These policies can be expensive, but are a good option for some people. People more likely to need long-term care services include:

  • Older people
  • People who are single or live alone
  • Women
  • People who have, or have risk factors for, chronic diseases or disabilities

According to the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), the best time to buy these policies is middle age. The premiums will be cheaper, and you are more likely to be eligible for a policy. The Affordable Care Act (health care reform) includes plans to create a voluntary long-term care insurance program that is affordable to older adults and people with disabilities.

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Content last updated: September 20, 2013.

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