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Effective long-term care planning requires a dual focus. Many long-term care (LTC) advisors address the financial effects a serious health care event may have on the individual’s retirement portfolio. Yet, illness is a stressful time for patients as well as their families and loved ones. Preparing for the emotional impact this event would have on the individual, family, friends, and neighbors is highly recommmended as well.

One of the best ways to minimize stress and confusion for yourself and your loved ones in the event of an illness is to consider the identification of a Health Care Advocate (HCA) in your LTC planning. The role of the designated HCA is to help guide an individual through the often-complicated health care process – every step of the way. This may include:

  • Expressing concerns or asking questions of a health care provider for the patient
  • Assisting with medication and treatments
  • Helping with insurance processes and paperwork
  • Providing transportation – or making arrangements for transportation
  • Researching care options – and helping the patient understand them
  • Finding non-medical professional help for the patient when needed (e.g., legal support)
  • Helping communicate all updates to the family – and facilitating any needed decisions

Consider Your HCA Options

An HCA may be a member of the family, such as a spouse, a child, another family member, or a close friend. While there are many benefits to naming a trusted family member or friend as your HCA, it is important to ensure that the individual you have in mind has the time and the level of expertise to serve as your advocate. Have an open conversation with your trusted family member or friend to discuss responsibilities and comfort level – and begin the dialogue early.

You might also consider providing for a professional HCA in your LTC planning. A professionally-appointed HCA can offer an unbiased focus on facilitating decisions in what is often a delicate and emotionally charged process. An HCA can also help mitigate, or even avoid, the all-too common arguments that can ensue when family members with varying perceptions and opinions attempt to come to a consensus.

In addition, a professional HCA can bring a wealth of experience to the family team. A qualified HCA is a professional in geriatrics with experience and specialized training in developing a detailed plan of care for chronically or cognitively ill patients. Experienced HCAs understand how to navigate the LTC delivery system to provide both the patient and the family with the best care available.

Most quality LTC insurance policies provide an HCA as a policy benefit. This is yet another reason LTC insurance should be part of a well-designed LTC strategy.

No matter which option you choose – either identifying a close family member or friend as your HCA or making financial provisions to hire a professional HCA – see to it that your choice is part of your written LTC plan. Equally important, an HCA is an important component of your ongoing dialogue with your family about your long-term care wishes.