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Q&A: COVID-19 and the impact on long-term care insurance benefits (Includes interview)

One of the most upsetting impacts of COVID-19 is how devastating it has been to seniors and specifically, to residents of nursing homes. Thousands of residents in long-term care facilities fell ill or died due to the pandemic and many were also isolated from family members to abide by social distancing/quarantine guidelines. While most people prefer to stay home and take care of those who need care and support, this can be difficult – if not impossible – without qualified help, especially during these times.

Looking into these issues is Erin Ardleigh, founder and president of Dynama Insurance (an independent insurance brokerage firm). Ardleigh answers questions posed by Digital Journal.

Digital Journal: What is the impact of COVID-19 on healthcare?

Erin Ardleigh: We’ve all seen the statistics about how devastating COVID-19 has been at nursing homes. People using home health care aides have been affected as well. Aides have rightfully been worried about infecting their patients or their own families and have been wary of public transportation.

DJ: What have been the main challenges on individuals and families?

Ardleigh: Families have not been able to visit their loved ones in assisted living facilities and nursing homes. Those with a loved one at home have had concerns about having an aide coming in to provide care, and possibly spreading COVID-19.

DJ: How should people prepare for home health care, nursing home care, or essential medical supplies in case this is needed in the future?

Ardleigh: It is so important to plan ahead. Research what care options are available and what they cost. Stock up on PPE and essential medications. Consider long term care insurance if you are still healthy. Talk to your financial advisor about your plans.

If you decide to purchase long term care insurance, it is essential to work with an independent broker that can compare products and provide an education so that you can find the best plan for your personal needs. The long term care insurance marketplace includes traditional policies as well as new hybrid policies that also include a life insurance benefit. There single pay options, and indemnity or reimbursement options. Be sure to compare multiple products from different insurance companies.

DJ: How important is it to calculate the costs?

Ardleigh:Long term care services add up quickly and can be incredibly expensive. According to Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey, the national median cost for an Assisted Living Facility is $4050/month while the median cost for a 24/7 home health care aid is over $16,000/month. I advise clients to have two to three years of expenses covered, either through savings or through insurance. This creates a reserve that the client can use before they have to tap into other assets, and it provides the luxury of time. In two years, the family can decide where to live, how to provide care, whether to sell their home or use retirement savings. Those are not decisions you want to make under duress.

DJ: How does someone interpret the various healthcare options?

Ardleigh:A person’s doctor can help them determine their plan of care. It’s important to realize that having an aide at home can end up being the most expensive option. Investigate the benefits of having a home health care aide, getting help from a family member, attending adult day care or moving into an assisted living facility and see which option makes the most sense for you.

DJ: How does this model compare with healthcare approaches in other countries?

Ardleigh:Every country has its own cultural norms and government programs. With more women working, daughters are less likely to be available as caregivers. Americans need to plan for their care because government-provided options are not desirable for most people and are often a last resort. Consider your family’s ability to provide care, the costs of care in your location, your savings and whether a long term care insurance policy is affordable.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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