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Lieutenant governor addresses long-term care crunch

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While nothing will completely ease the pain of someone who’s lost a loved one, having a plan in advance helps. That’s the contention of Minnesota Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon, who is working to encourage Minnesotans to make long-term care plans for themselves and their families.

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Solon, 66, lost her husband, then-Sen. Sam Solon, DFL-Duluth, 11 years ago after he was diagnosed with cancer and died a few months later.

“After he died I had a number of things to do: a house to sell: an estate to settle, a funeral to take care of. I was grieving,” she said, “It was an extremely stressful time. I just don’t want my children to have to go through that.”

By planning ahead for long-term care, people can make choices, control their future and establish a degree of peace of mind, she said.

After her husband’s death (she succeeded him in the Minnesota Senate) Solon said she established a living trust, picked someone to make decisions regarding her finances and health in the event she couldn’t and made plans for long-term care for herself.

“I think that if people have a plan, that helps them,” she said. “That gives them some confidence — a feeling that there’s a way to address the problem.

Medicare and health insurance do not pay for assisted living or long-term care for most people, Solon said.

“People that are very poor qualify for medical assistance,” she said. “People that are wealthy are able to pay out of pocket, but most of us are in the middle.”

She said it was clear that if there’s a huge spike in the number of people using medical assistance for long-term care, it will be unsustainable for the government.

“The population of those over 65 is growing exponentially and those under 65 are not growing.” she said.

The lieutenant governor said that between 2010 and 2030 the number of Minnesotans over age 65 will grow 107 percent while the rest of the population grows by about 6 percent. She pointed out that long-term care will be paid for either by individuals or through tax dollars. By making long-term care plans, she said individuals may obtain more control over the final years of their lives.

“There will be a lot fewer people in our work force,” Solon said. “A lot fewer people who will be there to assist our elders.”

Solon is encouraging Minnesotans to visit the Own Your Future website at mn.gov/ownyourfuture. At that website information may be obtained about how much long-term care costs and what options are available. The tools that are available include long-term health care insurance, reversible mortgages and annuities.

“We just tend to bury our heads in the sand,” she said of the public’s attitude. “I think that has been our habit. Then all of a sudden your faced with this time of life. I think people are acknowledging that more.”

MIKE O’ROURKE, associate editor, may be reached at 855-5860 or mike.orourke@brainerddispatch.com. He may be followed at www.twitter.com/MikeORourkenews.

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Mike O'Rourke
Mike O'Rourke began his career at the Brainerd Dispatch in 1978 as a general assignment reporter. He was named city editor in 1981 and associate editor in 1999. He covers politics and writes features and editorials.
(218) 855-5860
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