Insurance is the best. Help with the LTC maze is good, too.

If you yourself are a veteran LTCI specialist: You know all of this.

If you’re relatively new to the LTCI field, or you’re visiting here from another section of the LifeHealthPro website just to find out what LTCI is all about, then you may have just started running into clients like the one I’ll describe here.

That client, who has weathered the financial markets and has managed to build a modest retirement nest egg, possibly with your help, takes a seat in your office and says, “I’d like to rent a room. Just a modest room down the road. I’ll share a bathroom to cut costs and I’ll get three meals a day. I can’t buy the room, but I can rent it for months or years on end if need be.”

You don’t know how to break it to her, but you know that room will cost her $8,000 per month. Maybe more. (The $8,000 figure is the cost of my own mother’s monthly nursing home bill in the Midwest; check Genworth’s Cost of Care Survey for averages by state).

A client aged 65 today will eventually require an average of three years of long term care, according to the National Clearinghouse for Long-Term Care. Women are particularly vulnerable, and they tend to require more years of care than men do.

Rather than stare like deer in the headlights when the need for long-term care (LTC) hits, let’s see how you can help those clients prepare for the future.

Even if the clients don’t have enviably large savings to cover their long-term care needs or have not invested in long-term care insurance, you can be a tremendous resource.

So, put on your team jersey and follow this advice.

First, get familiar with government programs.

Let’s start where most people do… with Medicare. Generally, many Americans incorrectly assume that the government program pays for long-term care needs.

While Medicare can provide very limited in-home services for short-term durations based on a variety of factors, long-term care is not covered. From homemaker services and transportation to adult day care and round-the-clock nursing care, we all have four main payment options for these high expense services: our own savings, our family’s pocketbooks and savings, long-term care insurance and Medicaid (for those who qualify).

Ensure that your client understands their short-term Medicare benefits before deciphering how to tackle LTC. Medicaid.gov is a good place to start. Medicaid is a need-based program for low-income individuals and families, but some of your clients may qualify or have loved ones (ie. parents) who do.

PACE is a joint Medicare/Medicaid program that provides all-inclusive in-home care to those over 55 meeting certain qualifications. It’s an important resource but is not available in all locations to everyone. Check the PACE website to see if this is available to your clients and their loved ones.

Lastly, VA Benefits continue to serve as a backbone for veterans and their families. It’s important that your clients who have served our country understand the extent to which the Dept. of Veterans Affairs (VA) covers long term care and what they may have to cover themselves based on their needs. Visit the VA website to connect with your local VA programs and learn more.

Now, bring in the team.

The best advisors I’ve worked with through the years have taken the team approach to helping clients navigate the long-term care maze. Hosting an evening event at your office or elsewhere for your clients is a great way to introduce them to fellow community members who possess insight and knowledge they need.

For vulnerable clients without a long-term care insurance policy, piece together a plan of attack beforehand by utilizing a team. Here are a few helpful people that you should reach out to in your community:

1. A long-term care insurance (LTCI) specialist
Of course, if you, the reader, are a diehard LTCI specialist, you know why you’re the first on this list.

If you are some other type of advisor trying to learn about the LTCI line, you should realize that the sooner clients talk to your LTCI specialist colleagues, the better.

While not all of your clients may qualify for insurance policies due to their health, many will if they act early before health concerns arise. For those who are uninsurable, a specialist can still offer guidance so that you and your clients better understand the current landscape and costs of services in your area.

2. A geriatric nurse or licensed health care practitioner
Few among us want to envision ourselves in a future state of requiring care, but most of us would like to be prepared if not for ourselves than for the sake of our loved ones.

After all, long-term care impacts them just as much (sometimes more so) than the recipient of care. Gain a better understanding of the many forms of long-term care from a geriatric nurse in your area. They can help your clients decide which tasks a family member may be able to perform, what community services are offered locally and more.

3. Elder care attorney and Certified Public Accountant (CPA)
By finding a trusted attorney in your area who specializes in elder law (ElderLawAnswers.com is an example of one online resource) along with a seasoned CPA, you can help your clients understand the nuances of government programs, withdrawing from retirement investments to pay for long-term care, estate taxes and more.

A team meeting in your office can help clients who are dealing with these issues determine the best route for their potential needs, now and in the future.