Most Americans over the age of 65 will need some type of long-term care services. The average private cost of long-term care in North Carolina is $80,000-$90,000. There are essentially three ways to pay for that care: long-term care insurance, private pay, or Medicaid. Everyone other than the very wealthy who start out as private pay eventually exhaust their resources and need to apply for Medicaid. Without long-term care planning, people private pay until they run out of money, since Medicaid requires the applicant to have no more than $2000 in assets.There are, however, many legal strategies available to protect some of your resources and still be able to qualify for Medicaid. People who plan several years before the need for long-term care arises can usually protect most of their assets, but even those who start planning after the crisis arises can still generally protect about half of their assets and still qualify for Medicaid. So while getting an earlier start on long-term care planning maximizes your options, it is still advisable to contact an elder law attorney for “crisis” planning prior to applying for Medicaid.