Long-Term Care Insurance: What to Know

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on September 04, 2021
4 min read

You may need personal care services due to a medical condition or older age. Long-term care insurance provides coverage to help pay for these services if and when you need them.

Sometimes, a person’s loved ones provide long-term care at home. But there may be gaps during the workday or respite times when you need additional long-term care services. Nursing homes and community living centers also provide long-term care for some clients.‌

In 2018, the average cost of a home health aide in the U.S. was $22 per hour. For 30 hours per week of care, that equals $34,320 per year. More specialized care costs even more. Costs can vary based on where you live and what kind of care you need. As home health needs increase, it often becomes more affordable to move to a nursing home or community living center.‌

You may need long-term care if you have a serious health condition or disability. Long-term care services include:

  • Bathing and dressing
  • Grooming
  • Going to the restroom
  • Moving around the home
  • Cleaning‌
  • Preparing meals‌

People often need long-term care when they have a serious, ongoing health condition or disability, or as they get older. Reasons to consider long-term care insurance may include:

  • Your age. As you get older, you are more likely to need long-term care.
  • Gender. Women tend to live longer than men, and are therefore more likely to need care.
  • Living alone. If you live with a spouse, partner, or family member, you are less likely to need paid care. 
  • Lifestyle. If you are obese, smoke, or drink excessively, you are more likely to need long-term care. ‌
  • Family history. If you have a history of medical conditions or disability, you may be at a greater risk.

When you shop for a long-term care insurance policy, consider what services you are most likely to use. Choose a policy that has coverage options fitting your personal needs.

Home-Based Care

If you are largely independent and just need extra help with some things, home-based care is a great option. You don’t have to leave the comfort of your home. You may save money compared to more expensive around-the-clock care at a nursing home or other community living center. Home-based care is also good for some short-term needs, like recovering from an operation‌.

Homemaker and Personal Care

Similar to home-based care, this type of service is more about home care. While nurses and home health aides provide home-based care, homemaker services may not be medical-based. This type of aide may prepare meals and help with household chores that you cannot manage because of your condition.‌

Companion Services

If you live alone, you may seek the help of someone who visits to check on you regularly. This person doesn’t usually help with personal care or household chores. Instead, they offer their time to sit, talk, and keep you company in between other health visits.‌

Transportation Services 

If your condition prevents you from driving, a transportation service can take you to and from appointments. Many transportation services also offer help going grocery shopping or running personal errands. Depending on the services available in your area, transportation may be free or charge a small fee.‌

Emergency Medical Alert

You may want to have a necklace or other monitor to use in case of an emergency. These monitors are meant to be carried on your person at all times, and at the push of a button will immediately call for emergency services to come and help you. This is important if you are at risk for falls and may not have your phone with you. There is usually a monthly fee for this type of service.‌

Long-Term Care Facility

Many people want to stay in their own homes as long as possible, but it's important to plan ahead for a time when that may not be possible for you. Research long-term care facilities in your area before you think you’ll need one.‌

Assess the cost and ask if your insurance plans are accepted. Determine whether things like meals and transportation are included so that you can prepare a budget in advance. Some facilities may have a waiting list, so have a backup option.

The first step to planning for long-term care is finding an insurance policy that meets your needs. You may be able to purchase add-on coverage to an existing policy, or you may need a completely separate policy.‌

Add the premium into your monthly budget and plan for any co-pays or deductibles you need to meet each year. Long-term care services may be expensive, so consider where your portion of the payments will come from. Your payment sources may include:

  • Pensions
  • Social Security
  • 401K
  • Investment income
  • Savings
  • Family members
  • Medicaid‌
  • Veteran benefits