by June Duncan
According to the annual long-term care poll carried out by AP-NORC, 54 percent of adults over 40 admit to having no plan in place for their long-term care. What this shows is that we know we may require assistance in our old age, but are unwilling to address the issue until the very last minute. This is an unwise approach, one which may end up placing unnecessary strain on our loved ones when the time comes to decide and budget for long-term care.
This is why it is essential to take matters into your own hands as soon as possible, while you are still capable of making decisions and able to save up money. You’d be surprised at how much you can prepare for, prevent and mitigate with some foresight.
Step 1: Figure Out Your Long-Term Care Needs
It’s impossible to know for sure what kind of long-term care you will need, however you can make some educated guesses. For starters, are there any genetic illnesses in your family which are likely to show up in old age? Common examples include Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, diabetes and heart disease.
However, these are also heavily influenced by your lifestyle, which should be your other main focus. Many people imagine that the deterioration of health in old age is inevitable, but the truth is that habits and lifestyle choices make a huge difference. This is a good thing, since it means you are in control. Begin making small changes to build up long-lasting habits: These simple five healthy habits by Inc.com are a great place to start.
Finally, you also need to take a look at your house. If you intend to age in place, you will need to make sure your home is safe for a senior with potential mobility, balance, or sight problems. If not, you will either have to tackle some home modifications or consider another living arrangement for your old age, such as a smaller house.
Step 2: Budget For Care Through Savings And Insurance
The second part of your plan is figuring out how you will pay for your long-term care. Research has shown that Americans tend to vastly underestimate these costs. You can save yourself and your family heaps of worry and panic by setting out your financial plans right now.
Your plan will depend on the potential health issues you established in the first step, what your preferred type of care is (in-home help, nursing home, etc), how much money you already have set aside, any insurance plans you currently signed on and how close you are to retirement. It’s up to you to decide what your budget should cover, but it’s a good idea to plan for emergency hospital bills, home modification (or moving) costs and end-of-life expenses including funeral costs and everyday care.
If the final figure you arrive at seems too intimidating, know that there are options if you need help paying for long-term care. For instance, the Medicare Advantage Plan and Medicare Supplement insurance are both great sources of extra support for care costs, just keep in mind that you can’t have the advantage plan and the supplemental insurance at the same time. And if you have an eligible policy, you can also sell your life insurance as an option to free up cash for living expenses and medical care.
Long-term care doesn’t have to be a scary unknown. You can prepare for it, as long as you are willing to face the issue head-on and be realistic about your goals. Once you do this, you can relax knowing that your health and well-being are secure and focus on making the most of your golden years.
June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.