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How will I pay for extended nursing care?

Posted February 05, 2014 in Advice Column, Perry

Most people are familiar with financial planning and the need to observe time-honored concepts of saving early for tomorrow. The tomorrows we envision involve leisurely retirements, travel, perhaps moving seasonally between climates.  However, one of the aspects of retirement that we often poorly plan for is nursing care.

It is important to contemplate decisions about long term care if needed. Careful planning is required because nursing care can be expensive and, if not anticipated, can quickly exhaust your resources. For many, the reasons to put off such important considerations range from planning to live with children or family, to letting the government provide what is needed. Either of these scenarios carries with it significant risk and must be planned well.

Another option is to extend your ability to remain in your home by seeking out professional help for everything from lawn care to bathing. Today, many companies provide in-home care for specified tasks to constant companionship. Each variety carries its own cost consideration, and some may require remodeling of your home to avoid using stairs or to ensure more safety when bathing, toileting, etc.

Another option is full-time nursing care in a facility  A 2012 study of average per-day costs of extended nursing care in central Iowa averaged $178 per day for a semi-private room and $196 per day for a private room or between $65,000 and $70,000 per year.

Thankfully the government has provided a way to provide necessary care for those who cannot afford it. However, the rules are strict. The sign-up period is often long and the paperwork extensive. In Iowa, a single person submitting to be cared for under the Title 19 program may have no assets that exceed $2,000 in total. Assets that are considered include bank accounts, retirement accounts, real estate (including the home and farm), automobiles, life insurance equity and more. The only funds exempt from the $2,000 asset ceiling are prepaid burial plans that are established as an irrevocable trust. As you can see, disposing of all of these assets can be time consuming and, in many cases, emotionally difficult. In order to make sure that assets are not hidden or transferred illegally, the state does an exhaustive look back at each person’s finances for many years.

If this sounds a bit confusing, it certainly can be. It is always best to seek out professional assistance when planning for extended care contingencies. Now is the time to start building your plan so that you might be healthy and well cared for in any situation.

Information provided by Pastor Max Phillips, CEO, Partnership of Perry Lutheran Home and Spring Valley Assisted Living Campus, 2323 E. Willis, Perry, (515) 465-5342.

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