Accessing Long-Term Care Shouldn’t Be So Hard
Technology could be helping families take control of their long-term care planning
(Editor's note: This content is provided by FamilyAssets, a Next Avenue sponsor.)
Thinking about long-term care can feel overwhelming. People are living longer than ever, often with a very high quality of life, but even the normal aging process can bring with it a loss of independence. For the many people who have spent their lives working hard, raising families and taking care of themselves and others, that loss of independence is hard to handle. Additionally, most families only begin to consider their long- term care options when a loved one is already experiencing a care crisis. At that point, they are left looking for help during an emotional and desperate time.
On top of the emotional difficulties, there are practical concerns that make accessing long-term care even more challenging. Not only do people need to find the best care available, but they also need to find a way to pay for it. Try Googling "am I eligible for Medicaid?" You may spend hours parsing your state's website or on the phone with an Area Agency on Aging, trying to figure out the difference between Medicaid for nursing homes and Medicaid for home care or whether your state has a months-long waiting list for assisted living.
Technology has the ability to simplify industries that struggle with efficiency, including the long-term care industry. It can democratize information so that you can access and understand the information you need in order to advocate for yourself and your family. Ultimately, it has the potential to empower families to take charge of their long-term care plans.
There are three main areas in which technology can help:
Technology can aggregate information about what care options exist and make that information easy to access so that you can decide what care option works for your family. Often during a crisis, it is difficult to make sense of things. What level of care is needed and for how long? While doctors will perform the necessary medical assessments, you will also need to make personal decisions about the advantages and disadvantages of nursing homes, assisted living facilities and in-home care.
Websites like A Place for Mom and Caring.com connect families with assisted living and nursing home care providers. These sites act as directories and offer placement services to help get your loved one into the facility they select. Hometeam Care and Honor are two more examples of companies that are leveraging technology to offer similar help with in-home care services. These services are great examples of technology that improves the long-term care landscape, but one major limitation is that they typically focus on families that can afford to pay for care privately. It is not particularly useful to find a facility that you cannot afford.
Once you determine what type of care is best for your loved one, the next question becomes: how do we pay for it? Families quickly learn that long-term care is extremely expensive and can exceed $10,000 per month. To make things even more difficult, many people are caught off guard during a crisis when the health insurance or Medicare they expected to rely on does not actually cover most long-term care costs.
Benefits do exist that are able to help families who cannot afford to pay for care privately. However, the benefit landscape is complex and information is hard to find, buried mostly on state websites and in federal and state regulations. Medicaid.gov provides Medicaid-focused resources similar to A Place for Mom and Hometeam Care, but it does not go far enough. Technology has the ability to de-code the complicated financial eligibility requirements for various funding sources so that you can determine the benefits your family qualifies for to help pay for your choice of care.
The long-term care industry is extremely complicated and difficult to access for those who need its services. Often, a personalized plan is needed to find the best care option and to figure out how to pay for it. Nursing homes and funeral parlors may offer assistance but they both have a financial stake in your long-term care plan. Lawyers and financial advisors provide individualized advice, but they are only accessible to those who can afford their services.
Technology should be able to help formulate an individualized plan for accessing long-term care. Much like TurboTax does for your income taxes, a similar service could evaluate your financial situation, apply it to the complicated state and federal rules associated with available benefits and determine the best outcome for you. Moreover, if you need to work with a professional, you should be able to go online and find the expert that has the best knowledge and experience to fit your specific needs.
FamilyAssets is working on using technology to create this type of individualized funding plan. The first version of this technology is a basic eligibility tool that you can use to understand which benefits you qualify for in your state and if there are any planning options you might need to consider before you apply.
Technology is just beginning to respond to the needs of this industry, but some helpful tools are already being developed that help reduce the time, money and energy families must spend trying to understand long-term care. Technology should be able to make the emotional, complex and frustrating process of accessing long-term care easier. The sooner we build the necessary tools, the sooner families can regain control.