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Until the Fountain of Youth is bottled and sold in aisle six, you'll want to read up on this topic.

Long Term Care

When you need help to dress, bathe, use the restroom and so on, your help is called Long Term Care (LTC). This is not to be confused with TLC, which often comes with a cup of warm soup.

LTC isn't just for the elderly, but people with a variety of disabilities also need it.

LTC usually starts with your loving family or friends volunteering to take care of you at your home.

Once your LTC is more than what family can handle, paid caregivers are often hired to help at home and can range from basic "adult sitters" (called "hands off" care) to skilled nurses ("hands on") and therapists.

If care needs grow, an assisted living facility is often the next step and usually has a home-like feel.

A nursing home provides the greatest level of LTC support and often looks more like a hospital.

LTC services can be super-expensive. The average cost for a home aide for six hours a day is around $40,000/year. Nursing home costs average around $80,000/year and can run much higher.

Long Term Care Insurance

LTC insurance is one way of preparing for the time when your family can't meet your LTC needs, or the expenses are more than your savings.

LTC insurance generally helps to pay for a caregiver, companion, housekeeper, therapist or private duty nurse. It typically won't pay for your relatives to play any of these roles. If they did, most of our mothers would be rich.

Alternatives to LTC insurance

With costs ranging in the several thousands per month, substantial savings are needed to pay for your own long-term care costs.

This government-sponsored health program helps folks with low incomes and few resources. Many facilities do not accept Medicaid. If you want to avoid the "unflattering" nursing home, don't make Medicaid your backup plan.

Standard health insurance:
These policies usually do not pay for any LTC needs.

This government-sponsored plan pays for LTC services under very limited circumstances for a short time (up to 100 days) and usually requires co-payments.

When to Buy

It's generally a good idea to buy long-term care insurance before major health problems arise. Most people get LTC in their 60s.

As you get older, your chance of needing LTC increases, so you'll pay a lot more (often for reduced benefits). Coverage is typically not available for anyone over 80.

LTC insurance is also something to consider discussing with your parents or anyone else in your family who might be planning on you as a source of LTC in the near future.

Story Time

When Bert lost his job, he thought he could spend time helping his Aunt Matilda who suffered from a disability.

Though initially disappointed that her long-term care insurance wouldn't pay Bert for his services, he was pleasantly surprised when the new visiting nurse figured Bert was the one in need. His sluggishness and awkward limp were finally paying dividends!

At first, Bert loved the attention, but when the nurse consulted her records and began to "reinsert" a feeding tube, he finally snapped. "Just stop it," he yelled. "Aunt Matilda is the one you want!"

Bert opened up a package of Oreos, turned on the TV and breathed a sweet sigh of relief.