Nancy Stein, Ph.D., is the founder of Seniority Matters, a caregiver advisory and referral service in South Florida for seniors and their families. A reader recently asked for advice on getting long-term care insurance for her mother. Her advice may help you make a similar decision.
Q: My mother is 75. She has a few ailments, but is totally independent—both physically and financially. My concern is that her money will run out if she should require a lot of assistance as she ages. I’d like for her to get long term care insurance but she refuses. I have read so much about it, and think it’s something she should have. Is this something I should be pushing? My husband and I don’t have enough money to help her should the need arise.
—Leslie S., Short Hills, N.J.
A: Long-term care insurance makes sense for many people who can afford the monthly premiums. However, your mother’s age puts her at the top limit for purchasing a policy. In fact, few companies, if any, will sell a policy to someone in your mother’s age bracket.
Most seniors who apply will be declined because of existing health conditions even though they are cognitively well. But if one cannot pass a memory test, now a routine part of many companies’ application process, there’s little to no chance of obtaining coverage. Then there is the cost to consider. If your mother is found to be eligible she will likely be paying a higher annual premium than if she had applied at a younger age.
I put your question about your mother’s reluctance to purchase LTC insurance to Jesse Slome, Director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (and a recognized expert in his field. He told me that if this is something you want to pursue, the time to do it is now!
“A good LTC insurance professional will ask important health questions first to see if your mother would qualify before searching for the best company and premium for her,” he explained.
As for her reluctance to purchase a policy, Mr. Slome said it’s a familiar story. “There are two main reasons why individuals are reluctant to purchase LTC insurance, especially older people,” he said.
“They’re afraid they will run out of money if they spend it on premiums and also that they won’t have money to leave to their children.” If your mother does qualify and she is able to afford the premiums, Slome has a suggestion for how to convince her to purchase a policy.
“Tell her that LTC insurance allows loved ones to care about you, rather than having to become your full time caregivers and care for you.”
Has recognizing the potential high cost of your mother’s care convinced you of the need for obtaining a LTC insurance policy for yourself? Slome told me the best age to obtain a policy is between age 52 and 64 and he reminded me that it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing approach.
“Find a policy that suits your budget. If it doesn’t allow for every possible contingency, think of it as a partial payment for future long term care needs.”
For help in finding a long-term care insurance specialist, visit the website of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance where you can search by zip code. The association, which does not sell insurance directly, offers a wealth of information and links to many other resources that can help you.