Does Long-Term Care Bankrupt Some Families?

A recent article in Forbes discussed the problems families could face when trying to provide long-term care for their loved ones. In the story, a family caregiver discussed the toll on her family caused by providing care for her parents and in-laws. MaryAnne Sterling and her mother took care of her father at home as long as possible before depleting their savings so he could receive Medicaid benefits. The result was a financial disaster for her mother who then required substantial financial assistance from Sterling and her husband to pay basic living expenses.

Around the same time her father-in-law was diagnosed with dementia, her mother required the services of an assisted living facility. The couple had to turn to Medicaid to help. Sterling was able to provide care for her mother without Medicaid assistance for 12 years.

For many people, Sterling’s situation is very familiar. Families throughout Michigan and the United States struggle with questions of how to pay for long-term health and personal care. The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) estimates that approximately 12 million adults rely on long-term supports and services. With only 11 percent of seniors 65 years of age or older owning long-term care insurance policies, the number of adults who will rely on Medicaid to pay for nursing home care will likely increase in coming years.

The BPC has made several recommendations to help individuals plan for long-term care including:

  • Offer employers various incentives to encourage employers to offer affordable long-term care insurance;
  • Allow employees to utilize 401(k) funds without penalties to purchase long-term care insurance;
  • Include up to 14 days a year of respite care coverage as an option for some Medicare beneficiaries;
  • Allow Medicare Advantage and Medicap to sell limited and affordable long-term care coverage and an optional benefit; and,
  • Permit federal and state health insurance marketplaces to sell low-cost, limited benefit long-term care policies.

By taking steps, the government can help individuals prepare for nursing home care and other long-term care options. However, until these steps and other steps are taken, many families may find themselves in the same or worse circumstances as Sterling.

Paying for Long-Term Care

Long-term care at home, in a nursing home, or in another assisted living facility can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars over a person’s lifetime. For many families, paying the cost of nursing home care out of pocket is impossible. They must have help from another source. As discussed above, one recommendation is for individuals to purchase long-term care insurance.  However, the cost and benefits of current policies make this option impractical.

Therefore, when the time comes to pay for long-term or nursing home care, families could be forced to use personal assets to pay for care. Using personal assets and funds to pay for care can leave a spouse without the means to pay living expenses. If the person has a child who is disabled or other incapacitated, using personal funds and assets can leave this child without care as well.

To protect assets and ensure Medicaid benefits, we urge you to consider Medicaid planning.

Medicaid Planning in Michigan

Medicaid planning is not illegal or unethical. It is similar to tax planning or estate planning to avoid paying taxes. You are simply using the existing laws to protect yourself, your family, and your assets in the event you or your spouse requires long-term care. Medicaid planning uses the existing laws to protect the equity in your home and other assets from nursing home or Medicaid liens.

Even though it may not be too late to develop a Medicaid plan after you need care, it is best to take steps now to avoid problems in the future. The number of options you have now may be higher than if you wait until you need care. Our Michigan Medicaid planning lawyers can help you prepare for long-term care by developing a comprehensive estate plan, including Medicaid planning.

Find Out How We Can Help

Contact The Elder Care Firm of Christopher J. Berry, CELA at 888-390-4360 to learn how our attorneys can help you and your family prepare for the future. You may also use our online contact form to contact our Michigan estate planning lawyer.


Eisenberg, Richard. “How To Keep Long-Term Care From Bankrupting Us.” Forbes. 12 July 2017.

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