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5 Long-term programs caregivers of seniors need to know

By 2017, the WHO (World Health Organization) predicts that the number of people over 65 will exceed the number of children less than five years old. This population shift is a once in a lifetime shift, and it affects all countries. Japan, South Korea and Germany are the frontrunners who will have the largest population over the age of 50.

In July, members of the legislature and aging-care experts joined President Obama at the White House Conference on Aging to discuss the long-term care challenges that seniors and family caregivers face. The proposed programs and outcomes of the conference will empower all Americans. Key deliverables included long-term care support services, elder justice and elder abuse prevention, healthy aging, technology to help older Americans, transportation initiatives and supports for lifelong learning.

As we move beyond 2015, senior-care experts and the state and federal governments continue to address the noteworthy issues. In the meantime, I’ll discuss important programs existing for older Americans today. It’s essential to know about them, especially when giving care to an older loved one. For example, did you know Medicare does not pay for long-term custodial care?

I’m always astonished to discover consumers don’t know the basics of long-term and health care programs. A significant example is Medicare vs. Medicaid. Most people do not understand the differences and how each applies to paying for care. I’ll discuss the standard approaches.

Medicare: It is a medical insurance program that pays for acute medical care, doctor visits, drugs and hospital stays. It does not pay for long-term custodial care, the type older adults require for everyday help with activities like taking a bath, using the toilet, walking and getting dressed.

Medicaid: It provides free or low-cost medical coverage for low-income people. It is a joint program offered by the federal and state governments, and it pays for health care, medical needs and long-term custodial care. Individuals must meet strict guidelines to qualify.

Private health insurance: It provides coverage that includes health care expenses. It pays very limited short or long-term care costs.

Disability insurance: It replaces income only. It does not pay for any medical or care expenses.

Long-term care insurance: This is a policy that pays for custodial care administered in the home or a residential care facility. If you currently have an LTC policy, be sure you know what it covers prior to using it. If you are researching a policy, learn the ins and outs of the plan and services it pays — and for how long — before buying it. Make sure it pays for in-home and residential care.

Long-term care is expensive, and most consumers pay out of pocket for it. People must prepare for aging now. The sooner you do, the better prepared you will be. Don’t count on programs like Medicare and Medicaid to pay for custodial care. Don’t operate under false hopes either will pay for elder care.

The Aging Conference helps Americans to understand the senior issues faced by all citizens. Let’s get involved and help support the proposed programs. Our population is changing and will forever impact our health care landscape.

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