by Tamra J. Fairchild, MPH, CSA; Griswold Home Care, Greenville-Spartanburg, SC
Planning ahead is ideal, but more often than not, families do not have the luxury of time on their side to research available care options. More often than not, a family seeks in-home care for their loved one when they need help on short notice. Usually, an event will precipitate the need; such as a fall, a sudden event such as a stroke, or a diagnosis of a chronic illness will prompt families to spring into action to find quality and qualified care for their loved one. Worrying about the care and condition of a loved one adds to the complexity of the decision-making process. While it may be challenging to investigate the best available options for care on a given budget, the added emotional stress and time constraints make the process much more difficult!
In an effort to help guide you, first try to understand your loved one’s needs. It is helpful to begin looking at care options early on rather than being unprepared when an event triggers this need for care. Does your loved one require medical care, such as wound care or physical therapy or does your loved one require assistance with day-to-day activities? This helps you determine the type of provider to contact and whether insurance will cover the services. Health insurance will usually cover medical care when prescribed by a physician. Unfortunately, this coverage is only episodic care. This type of insurance doesn’t cover the care needed for someone with Alzheimer’s or someone suffering from the residual effects of a stroke. These services are short in duration so when more assistance is required, non-medical assistance can be very beneficial. Does your loved one need safety supervision? Do they need assistance with bathing and dressing? Do they need transportation and/or need someone to pick up food for the week? Do they need toileting reminders or do they wear briefs and need assistance in keeping them dry? Assistance with day-to-day activities is considered non-medical care and is often funded privately unless your loved one has a private long term care policy that covers “custodial care.”
Whether you are early in planning stages or you have an immediate need, meet with case managers of home care organizations. Many reputable home care providers will meet, free of charge, with families to discuss their objectives for home care. This allows you to walk through the process with the care manager of a home care provider to discuss care options and discuss ways to pay for care. Make sure before signing anything, that the home care provider does not require a commitment to engage their services. You should be free to explore your options. Your information will stay on file confidentially, yet you are free to choose another provider if you wish. This saves you time when an urgent need arises. While doing your research, ask how long the company has been in business, ask for references, and now new to South Carolina; in-home care organizations are required to be licensed. Every reputable in home care company in SC is in the process of filing for licensure or licensure is already underway. According to the Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC), licensure applications will be processed at different intervals. A reputable home care organization will thoroughly evaluate caregivers, which includes a criminal background check, annual TB/PPD screenings, behavioral interviews, competency testing, and much, much more.
Learn about the different ways to pay for in-home care. Private pay is the most common way to pay for these needed services but not everyone has sufficient funds available but there are options. Long-term care insurance can be a godsend when it is needed but unlike health insurance, the coverage is usually for a certain amount of money, not a period of time. It is best for families to spend that money as wisely as possible.
South Carolina is a state that has a Partnership Program with Long Term Care. It’s a program that allows you to buy a long-term care insurance policy with an additional asset protection feature. With a Partnership-approved policy, the State gives the incentive of increasing the level of “exempt assets” counted when applying for Medicaid. So for every dollar spent on insurance, it can protect a dollar of assets. Go to www.aaltci.org to learn more or talk to a trained expert.
Often times, when faced with financial constraints, seniors will allow a life insurance policy to lapse or surrender their policy which could have been converted into an FDIC insured benefit plan to cover the costs of home care. Many well meaning seniors want to leave an inheritance to their loved ones, often putting off their own home care needs. Putting a plan in place such as a long-term care insurance policy can help alleviate the burden and anxiety that adult children carry when worrying about their parents getting the care that they need.
Beyond available funds and long term care insurance, there are other options to pay for home care depending on eligibility such as Medicaid. If you are a veteran or a surviving spouse of a veteran, ask your home care provider about your options.