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What Willy Wonka teaches about health care

North Carolina residents may be able to learn a lot about long-term care needs from classic movie "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." Like Charlie's grandparents in the film, the majority of those over the age of 65 will have long-term care needs. Of the 70 percent of people in that group who need care, not all will require permanent assistance. Instead, care may only be required for weeks or months at a time.

In the movie, the grandparents rely on young Charlie and his mother to provide care. It is a relatively accurate portrayal as one study found that family members provide roughly 80 percent of long-term care needs. Specifically, the burden of providing such care tends to fall on a female family member who also works full time.

Although care may be provided for free by children or other family members, it can still cause financial issues. Some caregivers may not be able to find work outside the home or be able to work enough to qualify for retirement benefits. According to a report from AARP, family members who acted as caregivers paid an average of $6,954 out of their own pockets to cover food, medical or other costs each year. That number increased to $11,923 for those who lived farther away.

Obtaining a long-term health care insurance policy may be one way in which an individual may be able to protect assets as he or she gets older. This may be combined with a trust or other estate planning documents to help pay for care without having to sell a family home or deplete a savings account. If done from a proper legal standpoint, it may be possible to keep assets while remaining eligible for government health care benefits.

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