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The High Cost of Long-Term Care

Prices can vary tremendously for long-term care, which can be delivered at home, in an assisted living facility where individuals live in apartments and take their meals in dining halls, or in costsly.nursing homes.

At the upper end of the financial scale is the nursing home, which can cost $5,000 a month or more, depending on the state. Typically, nursing home residents are female and in their 80s. Almost half of them suffer from Alzheimer's disease or related dementias, and need close attendance and supervision. The nursing home is for those patients who must have round-the-clock attention.

About half of nursing home costs are paid out of pocket by patients or members of their families. Typically, an individual enters a nursing home using personal or family resources, spends all his, or her savings on the nursing home, and then qualifies for Medicaid, the federal-state program of financial aid for poor people with medical bills. When a person has “spent down,” consuming all the savings and stocks and bonds, wiping out all financial assets but $2,000, Medicaid will pay for the nursing home.

Care also is available for individuals who are able to remain at home. For those who need skilled care, with someone to administer injections, or change surgical dressings, a nurse can be hired through an agency. Attendants who are not skilled nursing personnel can be hired to help with dressing bathing, cleaning the house and shopping. They can be hired through an agency, or in the individual marketplace. These are personal expenses and are generally not covered by the Medicare program.

Massive emotional and psychological burdens fall on the helpers who provide the care, whether they are spouses, other family members, or friends and neighbors who take time from work and other responsibilities.

For a more detailed discussion of long-term care related issues, see: