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When should I start planning for nursing care? Why?

"Early planning is always best," is a statement found in nearly every online or print informational about estate law. It is a good message, but many people ignore that message. You or your parents might even be one of them.

When you are young, it is easy to think that you have plenty of time. When you have kids, life just seems too busy to take a break. When you are older, it can be difficult to confront your own mortality.

It is safe to say that most people do not want to think about long-term care, but they should. More to the point, they should know the reasons why they need to plan carefully. Cost is certainly a big one.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gathers all kinds of data about the costs associated with long-term care. In 2012, the average cost of long-term care in New York was $40,841 to $43,472 annually.

To put things into perspective, below are a few of the average monthly costs for certain types of care expenses:

  • $4,195 for home care with a home health aide/personal care assistant
  • $3,950 for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility
  • $10,083 for a semi-private room at a nursing home
  • $10,478 for a private room at a nursing home

DHHS did not just stop there, the agency also published projected cost-estimates. What will those same numbers look like in the year 2032, just two decades later?

  • $6,294 for home care with a home health aide/personal care assistant
  • $9,168 for a private one-bedroom apartment in an assisted living facility
  • $11,030 for a semi-private room at a nursing home
  • $25,806 for a private room at a nursing home

These numbers do not include any of the medical costs that accompany the need for assisted living or nursing care. You may save and plan to leave a good nest egg for your children or other beneficiaries, but that can quickly disappear and even turn into estate debts when you are not prepared to handle these costs.

No one wants to get sick. No one wants to be in a situation in which he or she needs extensive long-term care. That doesn't mean you shouldn't plan for the possibility. The worst thing that can happen is that you don't need to use your plan.

If you are a person who needs concrete numbers or whose parents are already aging, you should have a plan in place at least five years before long-term care becomes necessary. If you don't, there are still options to protect your or a loved one's assets but they are more limited.

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