Many people fear what will happen to them if they or a loved one becomes disabled. Discussing legal options with estate planning professionals such as those at Skeeters, Bennett, Wilson & Humphrey and planning early—while capacity currently isn’t an issue—alleviates some of the concerns and provides peace of mind.
What Your Family Might Face With a Disability
Temporary and long-term disability impacts individuals in various ways and usually, it involves the cost of skilled care to help maintain regular functioning.
Challenges to accomplishing activities of daily living—such as eating, bathing, getting dressed, running errands, and so on—establish a benchmark of how well a person can function independently. Individuals with mobility issues, such as walking or climbing stairs, might also have difficulty with self-care depending on their home environment. Hearing and sight complications rate as a form of disability, too, as do more complex or chronic health issues.
Cognitive disabilities—which include difficulty concentrating, making decisions, and remembering—also pose a serious consideration. A report from the Alzheimer’s Association note:
- The number of people aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s disease is estimated to reach 7.7 million in 2030—more than a 50 percent increase from the 5.1 million aged 65 and older currently affected.
- By 2050, the number of individuals aged 65 and older with Alzheimer’s is projected to number between 11 million and 16 million unless medical breakthroughs identify ways to prevent or more effectively treat the disease.
Temporary and long-term disability of a loved one also causes great strain on an unpaid friend or family member who’s their primary caregiver. In addition to their own health concerns, they might also experience higher levels of stress, reduced immune function, slower wound healing, and develop hypertension or coronary heart disease. Additionally, some studies indicate that spouses who are caregivers to a partner with Alzheimer’s or dementia are at greater risk for emergency room visits due to deteriorating health as a result of providing constant care.
Evaluating the Cost of Disability Care
Not surprisingly, as Americans are now living longer, there’s a greater chance that older adults need long-term care. On average, seniors—as well as other individuals with temporary or long-term disabilities—require significant in-home care lasting close to a year. For people in need of nursing home care, the length of stay is generally between two and three years.
The costs associated with disability care vary significantly by:
- The disability and an individual’s special needs
- Region of the country—and even city and state
- What type of facility, including assisted living, nursing home, or hospice, as well as private and semi-private room options
- Whether a person needs in-home assistance or adult day care, and the scope of care required
- Duration of care, be it short-term or long-term aid
If a parent, a spouse, or another family member needs long-term care, the cost could easily deplete and/or extinguish the family’s hard-earned assets, especially if there’s not an asset protection trust in place.
Long-Term Care Insurance May Help
A payment alternative is long-term care insurance. Most plans allow policyholders to choose the amount of coverage, how benefits can be used and where, and the range of care, from skilled to custodial.
However, depending on when these plans are purchased and an individual’s medical eligibility, the premiums might become too cost-prohibitive over time, and only cover a fraction of the required care.
How an Estate Planning Attorney Guides Your Future
When a person becomes disabled, they’re often unable to make personal and/or financial decisions. As such, someone must have the legal authority to do so. Otherwise, the family must apply to the court for the appointment of a guardian over the person or property—or both.
To ensure assets and life savings aren’t depleted in exchange for a loved one’s wellbeing, an estate planning attorney can work with other professional advisors to address all aspects of a potential disability. Then, they create a comprehensive long-term care plan that uses additional tools to cover all contingencies. These might include revocable and irrevocable trusts, expansive powers of attorney, and other critical legal strategies to provide a foundation for future decisions.
For example, your legal advisor might recommend establishing a power of attorney in advance, allowing an appointed agent to make all health care decisions, oversee detailed financial matters, and ensure assets are protected, so you or a loved one receives quality long-term care you deserve.