Whether through home health services, nursing homes, residential care communities, or other care services, over two-thirds of people turning age 65 today will eventually need long-term care. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come cheaply: assisted living costs families an average of $45,000 a year, and if special care is needed for a condition like Alzheimer’s, that cost can add up to over $58,000.
Thinking about the possibility of needing such care in the future is not fun for anyone, but if you do end up needing it and you haven’t made preparations, it can turn out to be a great burden for your spouse and/or children. Here are some tips for planning and paying for long-term care.
There’s no way of knowing the future, but we can do our best to evaluate whether we or a loved one will need long-term care. Consider these factors:
How you currently live has a lot to do with your risk of needing care in the future. If you eat poorly, abuse substances, and don’t exercise, your chances are higher than if you live a health-conscious lifestyle. It’s good to ask yourself what changes you can make to reduce your risks of injury or illness. For instance, eat well, don’t drink excessively or smoke, and make sure you choose exercises that are easy on your joints.
Making home modifications is one way to ensure that you can age in place and maintain your independence. Whether it’s widening the doorways or installing ramps, walk-in bathtubs, or grab bars/handrails, the key is to make sure your home accommodates you. You should be able to enter and exit your home, move around inside, and access your daily necessities—all safely and easily.
Furthermore, consider any hereditary illnesses or conditions that could affect your well-being. According to NCBI, “Family history is often one of the strongest risk factors for common disease complexes such as cancer, cardiovascular disease (CVD), diabetes, autoimmune disorders, and psychiatric illnesses.” If you’re not sure of possible hereditary risks, consider getting a genetic test done.
Now that you’ve got an idea of how to plan for long-term care, let’s discuss how to pay for it.
The possibility of needing long-term care should definitely be factored into your retirement plan. Too many seniors fail to account for health care expenses when they’re planning for how much they should save. Medicaid won’t protect you from high healthcare costs like you may expect. It’s a good idea to create a separate fund that collects money for the care you’ll need in your retirement years.
Also look into the savings and insurance programs available to help you pay for care. See if a long-term care insurance policy is within reach, and if you don’t qualify for that, look into adding a rider to an existing life insurance policy. Opening a health savings account (HSA) is a great option. Not only does money roll over from year to year in an HSA, but withdrawals for qualified health care expenses are tax-free.
There is much debate about whether or not life insurance is worth the costs. One thing we do know: the younger you buy it, the cheaper it is. Purchasing life insurance as a senior is typically very expensive, but it can come in handy if you’re looking to leave money as a legacy or preserve the value of your estate.
Putting It All Together
Figuring out how you will pay for long-term care takes a lot of research, advisement, and decision-making. Just try not to get too overwhelmed. The earlier in life you start planning for the costs, the better, but that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning if you’re well into your retirement years. This is definitely a situation where “better late than never” applies.
When you prepare for long-term care, you ensure that the physical and financial responsibilities of your care will not solely fall on your family or community. Consider your lifestyle choices, any home modifications you should make, and any hereditary conditions that could be of concern. Think about long-term care when you plan for retirement, and look at the possibilities offered by savings/insurance programs and life insurance.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Ms. Bridges is the creator of AgingWellness.org, a website that aims to provide health and wellness resources for aging seniors. She’s a breast cancer survivor. She challenges herself to live life to the fullest and inspire others to do so as well.
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