Own your future by planning for long-term health needs

JOHANNA HICKS | Hopkins County Extension Agent / Family and Consumer Sciences

Oct. 22, 2006 - If you are between the ages of 45 and 65, you will be hearing about a long-term care planning campaign called "Own Your Future." Texas was one of six states selected by the federal Department of Health and Human Services to participate.

Nov. 5-11, 2006, has been declared Long Term Care Awareness Week. The "Own Your Future" campaign encourages Americans to begin thinking about long-term care needs, such as long-term care insurance, legal decisions about major life events, physical fitness and retirement savings.

Today's older Texans enjoy a longer life expectancy than any generation in history. Even though we usually consider this a blessing, it may also be true that as people age, chances increase that they may develop a chronic condition or physical or cognitive inability that requires assistance.

An excellent example of this is evident in my dad's situation. He has always been an active person — physically fit, and mentally sharp. However, a few years ago, he had a near fatal heart attack which left him living with 1/3 of his original heart power. Four years passed, incident-free, with the exception of his mind showing early signs of Alzheimer's Disease. Things took a sudden turn when he got tangled up with a leaf blower and a ladder when clearing leaves from the gutters on their house. Following hip replacement surgery, his mind deteriorated at an increasing rate. Today, he is in a full-time care facility.

According to Gary Hancock of Genworth Financial, we can choose anytime to start saving for retirement, to draft a will or to fund a trust, but the same cannot be said for the purchase of long term care insurance. A change in health can make it impossible to qualify for long-term care insurance. A study by the Agency for Health Care Policy and Research determined that some 42 percent of Americans who reach the age of 70 will need some form of long-term care during their lives. Years ago, long-term care was thought of as "nursing home insurance", but it actually encompasses more. Today, most people prefer home care and many individuals are able to receive this assistance in their own homes. Assisted living facilities are for those who can't stay home, and possibly only need skilled care, rather than chronic care. Nursing homes and specialized facilities provide around the clock care.

"But I have health insurance," you might be thinking. There is a common misconception that long-term care is covered by health insurance. Most health care insurance policies do not cover long-term care costs. Check your policy to see exactly what is covered.

Texans over the age of 45 are encouraged to request a long-term care planning tool kit from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The kit contains information about Medicare and Medicaid benefit packages, legal issues to consider, and offers guidance on how to assess private financing options. Texans who order the kit will also get a brochure listing agencies and services for the elderly around the state. The website is: www.aoa.gov/ownyourfuture.


UPCOMING EVENTS

�Sunday, Oct. 22 � 4-H'ers meet on the downtown square for Red Ribbon Week ribbon distribution, 2:30 p.m.

�Monday, Oct. 23 � "Food Safety & You,� for Head Start parents, Early Childhood Learning Center, 11 a.m.-1 p.m.; Lunch provided

�Monday, Nov. 6 � "A Touch of Tradition,� 33rd Annual Christmas Joys holiday program, 1:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m., Southwest Dairy Center.

Call my office for more information on these events, 903-885-3443 or 903-885-3726



CLOSING THOUGHT

Accept that some days you're the pigeon, and some days you're the statue.

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