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An older woman with a younger one.

University of Minnesota Extension advises discussing your long-term health care issues with your loved ones--because such talks could save you tons in long-term care bills in the future.

Long-term care issues can affect everyone

By Rosemary Heins

From eNews, September 27, 2007

The majority of people who need long-term care are elderly, but that need can come at any age--because of disabling diseases, car accidents, AIDS, brain injuries, strokes, and other events. Of the 12 million people in the United States who say they need assistance with daily living activities, 57 percent are age 65 and older. The remaining are working adults or children. People 80 and older have the highest rate of disability at 72 percent. The disability rate is 8 percent for those under 15 years of age. Options for financing long-term care will change and evolve in the future, but this doesn't mean you can't plan ahead. Those who plan will be better able to understand changes, weigh the options, and make decisions to help achieve what is most important.

According to a national survey, only half of adult children had ever discussed long-term care with their parents. And only 28 percent of parents had discussed long-term care with their adult children. This lack of family discussion is a significant challenge in long-term care planning. It's important that couples or family members sit down to plan their long-term care needs together before a crisis. Talk about expectations and beliefs (to help avoid misunderstandings, wrong assumptions, and conflicts later on, as well as the cost of long-term care and how to fund it. Keep in mind that different states have different policies and practices regarding long-term care financing options and long-term care services. Medicaid policies, for example, (known as "medical assistance policies" in Minnesota) differ significantly from state to state as do long-term care programs. Long-term care insurance is regulated by each state with differences in consumer protection options and state-specific information. If you have insurance -related questions, are in need of information you can trust, contact your state's Health Insurance Counseling and Assistance Program.

For more information about planning and financing long-term care, including common myths and facts, see the University of Minnesota Extension. The Minnesota Board on Aging also has helpful resources, or call the Senior Linkage Line at (800) 333-2433.

Rosemary Heins is a family resource management educator with University of Minnesota Extension.