As more Americans enter their senior years, the prospects that our families will encounter the burdens and financial risks of long term care (LTC) become more likely. No matter where you are in your life, you may face the need to provide a grandparent, parent or other relative with additional assistance with their everyday activities. By the time we reach age 65, we all have about a 50-50 chance that we will need some form of LTC during our lifetime.
LTC differs from medical care because it involves basic, personal assistance with activities of daily living as opposed to treatment for health conditions. It is also different in that medical insurance, including Medicare, does not cover those personal care needs over a long period of time. Medicaid (known as Medi-Cal in California) does pay for substantial LTC expenses, but to qualify, your income must be below a certain level and you must meet minimum state eligibility requirements.
About 80 percent of custodial care is given at home by an unpaid caregiver, usually a family member, partner, friend or neighbor. An AARP survey showed that more than 43 million people in the U.S. had been an unpaid caregiver in the prior year. But at some point, many people will require help beyond the capacity of unpaid caregivers.