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Underestimating the Risk of Disability

Grand Rapids Disability Attorney

No one likes to think about the possibility of their own disability or the disability of a loved one. Unfortunately, disabilities arise in shocking numbers and there is often no way to prevent them.

We should all plan for at least some type of disability during our lifetime. Disability planning is one area where we can give each and every person and family we work with great comfort in knowing that, if they or a loved one becomes disabled, they will be prepared.

Long Term Care Costs Can Be Staggering

Not only will many individuals and families face prolonged long term care, in-home care and nursing home costs continue to rise. According to the Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey, Assisted Living, Adult Day Services, and Home Care Costs national averages for long term care costs are as follows:

  • Monthly base rate (room and board, two meals per day, housekeeping and personal care assistance) for assisted living care is $43,200 annually, expected to increase .2% annually.
  • Daily rate for a private room in a nursing home is $250, or $91,250 annually, expected to increase 4% annually.
  • Daily rate for a semi-private room in a nursing home is $220, or $80,300 annually, expected to increase 4% annually.
  • Hourly rate for home health aides is $21.50, expected to increase 4% annually.

Most Americans Underestimate the Risk

Perhaps most importantly, despite overwhelming and compelling statistics; most Americans grossly underestimate the risk of disability to themselves and to their loved ones. According to the Council on Disability Awareness 2010 survey:

  • 64% of wage earners believe they have a 2% or less chance of being disabled for 3 months or more during their working career; the actual odds for a worker entering the workforce today are closer to 25%.
  • Most working Americans estimate that their own chances of experiencing a long term disability are substantially lower than the average worker’s.

Given the high costs of care, this underestimation often leaves Americans ill prepared to pay for the costs of long term care.

Long Term Care Insurance May Cover These Costs

If a parent, their spouse, or family member needs long term care, the cost could easily deplete and/or extinguish the family's hard-earned assets. Alternatively, seniors (or their families) can pay for long term care completely or in part through long term care insurance.

Most long term care insurance plans let the individual choose the amount of the coverage she wants, as well as how and where she can use her benefits. A comprehensive plan includes benefits for all levels of care, custodial to skilled. Clients can receive care in a variety of settings, including the person's home, assisted living facilities, adult day care centers or hospice facilities.

Planning in the Event Long Term Care Insurance is Unavailable or Insufficient

Unfortunately, many older Americans will either be medically ineligible for long term care insurance or unable to afford the premiums. In that event, more aggressive planning should be considered as early as possible to make sure life savings are not depleted as a result of having to pay out-of-pocket for care. With the help of an elder law attorney, a plan can be created that will protect much of the assets of an individual or couple that would otherwise be at risk of being depleted.

All Planning Should Thoroughly Address Disability

When a person becomes disabled; he or she is often unable to make personal and/or financial decisions. If the disabled person cannot make these decisions, someone must have the legal authority to do so. Otherwise, the family must apply to the court for appointment of a guardian over the person or property, or both. Those who are old enough to remember the public guardianship proceedings for Groucho Marx recognize the need to avoid a guardianship proceeding if at all possible. Not only for the expense of legal fees in obtaining guardianship, but also for the length of time guardianship proceedings can take.

At a minimum, seniors (and all individuals) need broad powers of attorney that will allow agents to handle all of their property upon disability, as well as the appointment of a decision-maker for health care decisions (the name of the legal document varies by state, but all accomplish the same thing). Alternatively, a fully funded revocable trust can ensure that the senior's person and property will be cared for as desired, pursuant to the highest duty under the law - that of a trustee.

Conclusion

The above discussion outlines the minimum planning everyone, including seniors and their loved ones, should consider in preparation for a possible disability. It is imperative that families work with a team of professional advisors (legal, medical and financial) to ensure that, in light of their unique goals and objectives, their planning addresses all aspects of a potential disability.

Our Grand Rapids law firm is dedicated to helping seniors and their loved ones work through these issues and implement sound legal planning to address them. If we can help in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact our office.