Long Term Health Care

Written by Tara Peris
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Finding long-term health care can be a stressful, time-consuming process. Between seeking out high quality care and finding a way to pay for it, most people find themselves at their wit's end. If you are venturing into the world of extended care arrangements for the first time, know that you are not alone and that with some savvy maneuvering, you too can find a suitable health care plan.

A significant challenge related to finding long-term health care stems from the fact that Medicare does not provide for extended care for senior citizens. Although some packages cover specific rehabilitation costs, these are usually for short-term stays. Long-term care is provided only when it is linked to a severe medical injury or illness.

At the same time, the cost of health care continues to skyrocket, creating a significant out of pocket expense for the elderly. Most people expect to use Medicare to pay for their post-retirement health care needs and are dismayed to discover the financial juggling act they must negotiate in order to make ends meet. It is a challenging situation for patients and policy makers alike, and at present, the only viable solution is careful planning on the part of patients and their families.

Think Ahead

It's a sad state of affairs when our nation's elderly must deprive themselves of basic needs in order to secure adequate health care. Yet, it is the natural byproduct of an era in which the average life expectancy continues to reach new highs and insurance coverage plummets to new lows. The only way to protect yourself and those you love is to think ahead.

Recent national statistics suggest that the average annual cost of nursing home care is close to $45,000. Needless to say, this is a financial burden that few people can shoulder in the best of times, never mind the current economic recession. It creates a situation in which family members often attempt to provide care on their own.

Although well intentioned, this is often a poor decision. The emotional strain of caring for a sick or needy parent not only takes a toll on the caregiver, but on the broader family system as well. Many elderly people are eager to retain independence as long as possible and find that when their children care for them, their autonomy is necessarily undermined.

Quality Care

Of course, in a good many cases, living at home alone is simply not an option. There comes a time when despite everyone's best efforts, it simply makes more sense to look for a long-term care facility. This need not be a depressing or demoralizing experience. When chosen wisely, an extended care center can make life easier for all involved, and can ease the strain on family relationships.

There are a variety of options for those interested in long term care. From live-in nurses and community-based care to assisted living and traditional nursing homes, there are health care arrangements to meet every need. The key is to focus not only on cost, but to consider the quality of the services carefully. You must think about the extent to which a given facility can meet unique patient needs, both in terms of medical care and lifestyle choices. Let these considerations govern your decision and you are likely to make a smart choice.

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