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How to Plan for Long-Term Care and Cover the Associated Expenses by June Duncan

Tags: senior home modification, retirement, caregivers

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How to Plan for Long-Term Care and Cover the Associated Expenses by June Duncan

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How to Plan for Long-Term Care and Cover the Associated Expenses

Many people wait until it’s too late to start thinking about their long-term care needs. Although it’s hard to hear, about 52 percent of people over 65 are expected to have long-term care needs at some point. With these odds, it's better to be safe than sorry. Start planning to meet the physical and financial requirements of long-term care as early as possible so you can maintain a high quality of life in the unfortunate event that you can no longer care for yourself.

Planning to Meet Your Potential Long-Term Care Needs

You can assess your likelihood of needing long-term care by taking a look at your family history, your lifestyle, and your current health. Did your parents live long and healthy lives, or did they require continuing care to support their cognitive or physical decline? Although you can’t expect to age exactly like your parents, you may be prone to any hereditary illnesses or conditions that they had. Talk to a doctor about your chances of facing these same ailments and what kinds of actions you can take to prevent them.

Your lifestyle and health can also indicate the possibility of requiring long-term care in the future. A healthy lifestyle that consists of eating a diet rich in nutrients and exercising on a regular basis can help keep your brain resilient from age-related cognitive decline and keep your body from becoming prone to injury. On the other hand, people who experience obesity in later life have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.  Fortunately, you can reduce your risk of illness or injury as you age by eating healthfully, getting regular cardio activity, and engaging in strength exercises a couple of times per week.

The need for long-term care can also be triggered by accidents, so it’s important to make home modifications to reduce your risk of injury. The bathroom and kitchen are especially dangerous areas and present many slipping hazards.

Try to make some of these modifications to prevent falls in the home:

  • Install nightlights along pathways and staircases
  • Remove area rugs that can slip or bunch
  • Store items in low cupboards
  • Add non-slip mats to showers and bathtubs
  • Install grab bars in the bathroom
  • Add traction and reflective strips to stairways

Paying for Your Long-Term Care

Even if you don’t anticipate needing long-term care, you should still be prepared to cover the costs. According to Forbes, a simple homemaker's service, which helps with cooking, cleaning, chores, and errands, can cost as much as $3,994 per month. A home health aide, or someone who helps with bathing, dressing, and eating, can cost $4,099, while a private room in a nursing home costs twice as much. If you have a family member who can help provide care after their work hours, adult day care still costs $1,517 per month. How are you prepared to meet these costs?

Medicare Advantage plans are popular among seniors (with about 3.3 million enrolled) because they offer the same coverage as Medicare Parts A and B, meaning they can help you fund your long-term care needs. For example, Humana Medicare Advantage offers three plan types -- HMOs, PPOs, and PFFs -- and depending on the type of coverage and care you need, you can sign up for additional benefits like coverage for dental, vision, prescriptions, wellness and weight-loss programs, and even caregiver support. Another option is a life insurance policy with the option to have long-term care coverage instead of life insurance benefits if you end up needing care. Check out this article by FreeAdvice Legal for more information.

Alternatively, many people self-fund their long-term care or seek options other than Medicare or insurance. This can be done by opening a health savings account or using your own personal savings. US News has detailed a few more ways to pay for long-term care if insurance is not affordable. Selling your home may be another viable option to help you cover the costs, depending on the current average home listing prices in your area.

Not everyone will need long-term care in their lifetime, but it’s a good idea to be prepared nonetheless. With good planning, you won't have to worry about meeting your financial needs during retirement. You may even be able to prevent the need for long-term care altogether by making healthy changes to your lifestyle now.


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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