As our nation ages, America's seniors will require more health care and living options for end-of-life. A variety of long-term care situations are now available, and seniors and their families must consider the payment options as far in advance as possible.

Long-term care is living in a traditional nursing home or long-term care facility, receiving care that is provided in a person's home by an assistant, moving to an assisted living facility, or visiting community centers and adult day cares.

Long-Term Care Costs

The following rates from 2011 show how expensive elder care is in the United States.

  • The average daily rate for a private nursing home room was $239.
  • The average monthly rate for assisted living was $3,477.
  • The average daily rate for adult day care was $70.
  • The average hourly rate for home health aides was $21.

Payment And Coverage Options

Health insurance may not always cover the above long-term care options. Because long-term care, especially nursing home care, is expensive, it is important to know how you or your family will cover expenses.

  • Long-term care insurance covers services that are not covered by traditional health insurance. These insurance plans are expensive and you must maintain continuous coverage or you lose all benefits. Moreover, they include an initial period of time, often 180 days, during which customers are financially responsible for 100 percent of their own care. Customers with considerable assets to protect (homes, savings, stocks, and annuities, for instance), who are not disabled, and whose finances do not qualify them for Medicaid and Medicare coverage may want to consider long-term care insurance.
  • Medicaid is a joint federal- and state-sponsored program that serves people with low incomes. Medicaid insurance covers both personal home care and nursing home stays. Each state has a different set of rules that determines who qualifies for assistance including the number of daily activities that a person needs assistance with or levels of cognitive impairment.
  • Medicare is a federally sponsored program that also works with those who have low incomes. The program focuses on those who are 65 and older, or who are disabled and younger than 65. Medicare pays for fewer long-term care services than Medicaid. Patients must meet specific criteria to receive coverage, and the patient is responsible for 100 percent of their care after 100 days regardless of income level under Medicare regulations.
  • Veterans Affairs (VA) Long-Term Care Benefits are available for veterans who are treated for service-related disabilities and who meet low-income requirements. Veterans Affairs also has programs designed to keep veterans in their homes and independent as long as possible.
  • Older Americans Act Programs provide financial and physical assistance to low-income and minority seniors and those who live in rural areas. They, like the VA programs, work to keep seniors in their homes as long as possible.

A variety of options exist to pay for and subsidize long-term care. As you look for payment options, it is important to consider the type of care that you will require, your income and assets, and any life insurance policies you have that may cover long-term care.