Sometimes, after visiting her 93-year-old mother at her assisted-living facility in Minneapolis, Ruth Strom-McCutcheon cries for much of the three-hour drive home to Duluth.
"The sadness you feel about your mother getting dementia is overwhelming," she said.
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But Strom-McCutcheon, 62, acknowledges there is one bright spot — she doesn't have to worry about paying for her mother's care. At 75, her mother took out a long-term care policy to help pay for a stay at the assisted-living facility of her choice.
This fall, Minnesota followed 26 other states in urging residents to plan how they will pay for long-term care, the way Strom-McCutcheon's mother did.
The "Own Your Future" education initiative, cosponsored by the federal government, describes various ways to cover long-term care costs, whether it's through savings, a long-term care insurance policy or alternative financing options.
Not covered by Medicare
About 11 percent of Minnesotans ages 65 to 84 require long-term care at some point; after 85, that figure rises to 55 percent, according to the state Department of Human Services (DHS).
Neither Medicare nor health insurance will pick up the tab; rather, Medicaid (called "Medical Assistance" in Minnesota) kicks in to pay expenses only after an individual uses up his or her own assets.
On average, a Minnesotan pays $67,000 a year for nursing home care, $20,000 for home health care and $40,000 for assisted living, according to DHS.
By 2032, the number of Minnesotans older than 65 will nearly double, while the rest of the population is projected to grow only 6 percent. Yet when boomers were asked in a 2010 state survey how they would pay for long-term care services, roughly a third said they had no idea, said LaRhae Knatterud, state director of aging transformation.
Unless more older people privately finance their long-term care, they may simply overwhelm the state's public programs, said Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon (D).
In September, Prettner Solon and Gov. Mark Dayton (D) mailed a letter to Minnesota residents ages 40 to 65 directing them to educational materials on the Own Your Future website. The state has placed online ads on long-term care planning websites and sponsored public-service announcements urging families to discuss long-term care options. Prettner Solon also sent letters to employers and community leaders asking for help in spreading the word about the program.
Next page: Now is the time to start planning. »