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Self-help necessary for long-term care

Wave of baby boomers urged to plan for golden years as soon as possible

by: REVIEW PHOTO: VERN UYETAKE - Insurance agent Victoria Bramley insists even to her young friends, like Peggy Lawson, that they need to plan now for their own long-term care.The wave of baby boomers coming into the senior citizen ranks are advised to quickly get a firmer grasp on their own long-term care plans.

A colorful nickname created by demographic forecasters for this situation is “The Silver Tsunami,” and no one wants to get hit by a tsunami. Instead of relying on assumptions about Medicare, Medicaid or the Affordable Care Act, Lake Oswego insurance agent Victoria Bramley is urging people to plan now for their own futures.

“The key is planning ahead when you are healthy,” Bramley said. “The best time is when you are in your 50s and 60s. People need to realize we’re responsible for ourselves. The government is going broke.”

Bramley has the background when it comes to expertise on long-term care planning. She recently received an award from Genworth Financial, the largest provider of long-term care insurance in the nation, for having the top-ranked regional office.

Bramley has been deeply involved in educating people about long-term care policies professionally and on a volunteer basis. She started when her own mother passed away in 1997.

“I began educating people like crazy,” Bramley said.

She had her own NPR radio program on the subject, gave seminars at Marylhurst University, worked with the Elder Law Association and started the Seniors First Foundation. Bramley became accustomed to receiving phone calls from people suddenly worried about their future as they reached old age. She set them straight on many issues, including what to expect from the federal government and what the cost of long-term care would be.

“People are misinformed about the costs,” Bramley said. “They believe it will be $36,000 a year, but that’s less than half. In 2012 it was estimated it would cost $78,000 (according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners). By 2030 it will cost $265,000 a year.”

Ann Adrian, manager of the Lake Oswego Adult Community Center, also recommends not putting off research on long-term policies.

“A lot of people don’t think about long-term care until it’s past time,” said Adrian. “We have information available on long-term insurance, and we have some pretty good formulas to help them decide if long-term insurance is for them. For some it’s a no-brainer. For others it’s less clear.”

Adrian noted that the widely used website Angie’s List reports that 70 percent of Americans will need long-term care at some point. Bramley said people must acquire knowledge of the nature of insurance in order to take proper action.

“You need to have everyone involved, including healthy people,” Bramley said. “A pool of healthy people is needed to build up funds over time.”

Bramley said there are 10 ways to package a long-term care program, each of them aimed at taking the best advantage of an individual’s own particular financial situation.

However, there are some basic actions needed for any plan, according to Bramley. Any plan needs to have inflation protection. People must know if they have adequate income when they retire; if not, they need to check if they qualify for a Medicaid spend-down (spending one’s own money for care until the asset limit is reached). Lining up a team of advisers is an excellent way to prepare: an attorney, insurance expert, accountant and financial planner.

“That’s a pretty good crew,” Bramley said. “It’s important to know what your income will be like in later years.”

Bramley said her area of expertise is in finding the best way to package a long-term care program. This involves looking at a person’s whole picture, including life insurance and annuities. She can also give advice about the negative aspects of long-term care.

The bottom line is people should act now instead of panicking later.

“Longtermcare.gov (an informational website of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) is pleading for people to do something,” Bramley said.

For more information about long-term care insurance policies, call Bramley at 503-544-3829 or go to the websites pacificnwagency.com or genworth.com.

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