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A 70 Percent Chance of Showers

Teresa Bear | Feb 17, 2014, midnight

With 296 days of sunshine in Phoenix (and Tucson slightly behind with 284 days, according to Current Results), here in sunny Arizona we don’t worry much about rainy days. However, if you read “70 percent chance of showers tomorrow,” what would you do? Postpone your golf game? Cancel your picnic? Grab an umbrella?

While rain in Arizona can certainly upset your short-term plans, nothing spoils a long-term retirement plan more than disability. Even more frightening is the forecast. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “70 percent of people turning age 65 can expect to use some form of long-term care,” reports Thomas Day on www.longtermcarlink.net.

Wow! That’s a huge number. Most people do not believe that disability can happen to them. To clear up some misconceptions, let’s dive into the facts and fallacies of long-term care with this quick quiz. True or false?

  1. “Most people who need long-term care receive care in an institution.”
  2. “I don’t have to worry. I’m covered by Medicare.”
  3. “I’m a veteran—I’ve heard that I can get care.”
  4. “Long-term care is primarily a woman’s problem.”

Answers:

  1. Most people who need long-term care receive care in an institution.”—FALSE

Surprised? When people think of long-term care, they typically think of skilled nursing or assisted living facilities. However, approximately 73 percent of all long-term care is provided in the home—usually by unpaid caregivers. The primary caregiver for those needing in-home care is a spouse (38 percent), daughter-in-law or daughter (33 percent), son or son-in-law (9 percent) with other friends and family members making up the other 20 percent, Day reports. I remember a colleague of mine—Elaine Beaver—the mother of three boys. She used to say to me (as the mother of one boy) “Be nice to your daughter-in-laws—because your son is probably not going to take care of you.” This was her informal advice, but the statistics certainly bear this out.

  1. “I don’t have to worry, I’m covered by Medicare”—FALSE again

Many retirees assume that Medicare will take care of you when you are disabled. Unfortunately, Medicare is designed to fix you up and send you home—sort of like a MASH for retirees. Medicare will pay for rehabilitative care “under certain conditions for a limited time,” according to Medicare.gov. Like the 4077 MASH, Medicare patches you up and sends you off to “Tokyo General.” The problem is, that unlike the wounded soldier, the stay at “Senior Tokyo General” is not paid for after the first 100 days—and in some cases not at all! The rules are complicated, so check with your doctor or Medicare to find out if you are eligible for these limited benefits.

  1. “I’m a veteran. I’m covered”—maybe TRUE and maybe FALSE

If you are a wounded soldier or the widow of a veteran, you may be eligible for what is known as “Aid and Attendance or Housebound benefits.” It goes without saying there’s lots of paperwork to claim this benefit, but it is available. It won’t pay the full cost of skilled nursing care, but it will help. To apply, write to your local VA regional office and they will determine if you qualify. Keep in mind that you must meet financial as well as medical needs tests.

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