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Dont wait to win the lottery when planning for assisted living
Rich DeLong

According to Genworth’s “Cost of Care” survey for 2015, the national average rate for assisted living/residential personal-care services is $3,600 per month, or roughly $43,000 annually.

As my friend would say, “That’s a lot of change under the couch cushions.”

If you asked your neighbors how they plan to spend their late-retirement years, most if not all would not include the term “assisted living” in their response. Yet the need for some form of assistance and/or personal-care services is almost certain if you live long enough. And people are living longer nowadays, but still not planning for what appears to be the inevitable.

Most people — like my mom, who will be 88 this year — pay for assisted living out of their own pocket using a combination of Social Security, pensions and savings. Fortunately, my father had made certain provisions for her just in case of his untimely death, which occurred when he was only 67 years old. Still, if it had not been for the sale of her home during the real-estate boom of 2007, she would not have had enough money to carry her on through her later years.

Today, many seniors are faced with the challenge of how to pay for needed care. My first piece of advice for someone seeking help in the planning process for retirement years and later is to speak to an expert — someone you trust to help you plan for the future. Here are a few more traditional ways to pay for care as one ages:

• Long-term-care insurance can be a lifesaver for many. There are all kinds of policies out there, so investigate them carefully and make the best decision for you. But do it sooner rather than later because the older you are, the pricier the policy. Plus, insurers vary widely in their criteria; look at more than one company to make a wise choice.
• Aid and Attendance is a benefit from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for people who have served their country during wartime. There are specific requirements to receive this benefit, and spouses of veterans may also be eligible. This benefit can help pay from a third to almost half of the cost of an assisted-living residence depending on the community chosen. You can find more information about this program on the VA website.
• Many people ask me about Medicare and Medicaid paying for assisted living. Medicare may pay for short-term rehab in a licensed senior-care community. Traditionally, however, this is reserved for skilled nursing and rehab centers. Some states have Medicaid programs that will now pay for assisted living and home-based care programs in an effort to delay entering a skilled-nursing center. This varies from state to state.
• There are more nontraditional ways to pay for assisted living, but these options may also carry more risk to the buyer. If you have a life-insurance policy, you may be able to sell it for a percentage of the value in return for money to use now for care. Also, many people have seen commercials for reverse mortgages, which is basically a home-equity loan. These options are less-desirable for sure, but either may be what is necessary to obtain the care needed when other options do not exist.

Then there’s always the lottery. I’m not recommending that strategy, however.

Plan well, my friends.

DeLong is the executive director of Station Exchange Senior Care. Call him at 912-531-7867 or email

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