Realizing it’s no longer safe to live independently is one of the hardest parts of growing older. It’s even harder if you can’t afford to pay for the care you need to age safely, whether at home or in a care facility. The key to avoiding that heartache is planning ahead for your long-term care needs.
Here’s how you can get started:
Predicting Your Care Needs
It’s impossible to know exactly how your health will evolve with age. However, you can make predictions based on your current health status, family history, and lifestyle.
Work with your doctor to assess your health, addressing the following factors:
Do you have a history of physical or mental illness that might recur or prior injuries that could cause pain as you age?
- Family history: Do your genetics increase your risk of developing certain chronic illnesses?
- Blood work and screening tests: Do tests reveal an increased risk of developing certain health conditions?
- Fitness: Do you have excess weight, chronic pain, or mobility impairments?
- Lifestyle: Do you eat a healthy diet, sleep seven to nine hours per night, and exercise in accordance with CDC guidelines? Do you abstain from smoking, excessive drinking, and drug use? Do you cope with stress effectively?
- Home: Is your home suited to aging in place? Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injury in older adults, according to the National Council for Aging Care.
Financial Planning for Long-Term Care: Insurance, Savings, and More
Long-term care services range from $20,000 to $100,000 a year for full-time professional care, and unfortunately, Medicare won’t foot the bill for custodial care. That leaves seniors and their families to pay for non-medical care themselves.
If you need care today, look to your personal assets for ways to pay for it. These are some resources you can tap:
- Home equity: Seniors can sell a home or apply for a reverse mortgage to receive a steady cash flow.
- Life insurance: Life insurance policies can be sold for cash payouts in a transaction known as a life settlement.
- Savings, investments, and income: Social Security income and retirement savings can defray long-term care costs but ensure withdrawals don’t threaten your overall financial security.
If you simply can’t afford long-term care, spending down to qualify for Medicaid may be the best choice.
If you have time to plan and save, consider the following options:
- Long-term care insurance: Long-term care insurance is designed specifically to pay for custodial care.
- Health Savings Accounts (HSA): These accounts are a tax-preferred way to pay for health care expenses, including long-term care.
- Savings and investments: Contributing extra to retirement savings and investments is a flexible way to pay for long-term care or other retirement expenses if long-term care needs are minimal.
Planning for long-term care is harder than it sounds. Not only are long-term care services costly, but it’s also difficult to predict how your health will change with age. However, long-term care is one situation where it’s always better to be over-prepared than underprepared. Start thinking about your long-term care plan today, because it’s never too early.
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.
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