When it comes to aging, says elder law attorney Victor J. Medina, there’s both good news and bad news.
The good news is that thanks to healthier lifestyles and the miracles of modern medicine, we are living much longer than at any time in our history.
The statistics are amazing. In 1930 the average life expectancy for an American was 59.7 years. Today that number is a stunning 78.7 years — almost a full third longer — all within the lifespan of a single human.
As part of that increase, we are also staying healthier for a longer period of time. Most of us know someone well into their 80s with a mean golf or tennis game.
“That’s the good news and we can all feel pretty happy about it,” says Medina. “Unfortunately, there’s also some bad news.”
He explains that, while we are living longer, we are often out-living our money and outliving our own ability to care for ourselves, physically and mentally.
We live long enough to become a burden — financial, psychological, even physical — on those we love.
“I’m sure that most people, when they envision their own death, wish that they could finish their lives at home, surrounded by people they love,” says Medina. “Unfortunately that’s becoming increasingly rare. Most now finish their lives in an assisted living facility or a nursing home.”
Many if not most people will lose their independence before they lose their lives.
And a lot of those same people are under the misapprehension that their long-term care costs will be covered by Medicare. They are in for a nasty surprise. While Medicare covers all or most of the acute care costs for seniors over 65, such as for hospital stays and doctor’s visits, coverage for long-term care costs is extremely limited.
Alzheimer’s disease, a disease affecting more than five million Americans in 2014, is a perfect example. President Ronald Reagan lived 10 years after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in August of 1993 and penning his famous letter to the nation.
Given that most nursing homes in New Jersey cost almost $120,000 for one year, most families would be bankrupted by the almost $1.2 million it would have cost to pay for 10 years of nursing home. Money that seniors have worked all their lives to save, and hope to pass on to their children and grandchildren, can vanish in a matter of months.
Fortunately there are legal and financial strategies that can prevent such disasters, explains Medina.
“There are actions we can take to protect families from financial stress and preserve inheritances — even if a senior is already in the nursing home,” Medina says. “While it’s true that the sooner a family begins planning, the more we can preserve — we are still able to help families in the middle of an immediate crisis.”
Victor Medina is an elder law and estate planning attorney, and the founder of the Medina Law Group, a law firm dedicated exclusively to serving seniors and their loved ones.
For a comprehensive consultation on your family’s situation, please call Susan Halem at 609-818-0068 or visit www.medinalawgroup.com.