Learning that you or someone you love may be in need of long-term care often evokes feelings of sadness, grief, and anxiety. That being said, planning, preparation, and saving can make this transition much easier for yourself and your loved one. Here are some of the best practices for anticipating, planning, and paying for long-term care.
If your loved one has recently been diagnosed with an illness that may eventually lead to long-term care, you should start planning and saving immediately. However, the signs and symptoms of long-term care can sometimes be more subtle. Anticipating the need for long-term healthcare may require you to think about what hereditary illnesses run in your family. Arthritis, heart disease, cancer, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease are all illnesses believed to be influenced by genetics. If you have identified a particular hereditary illness, talk to your doctor as soon as possible – there may be some preventative steps you (or your loved one) can take to minimize your risk. Early identification of potential illnesses can give you and your family more time to plan and save.
When assessing the likelihood of you or a loved one requiring long-term care, you might also want to factor in lifestyle choices. The lifestyle choices made now can reduce the risk of injury as well as the onset of illness. Eating healthy (and in smaller portions), limiting drinking, cutting out smoking, and getting daily exercise can reduce your risk of disease as well as illness. In addition, you may want to consider making modifications that will make your home safer and more accessible. In particular, you may want to address features of your home that increase the risk of falling. Severe falls are a common reason individuals need to transition to extended care. If you want to minimize the risk of of severe injury, start making a plan for modifying common fall culprits, such as bathtubs, slippery driveways, and inaccessible kitchen features. The sooner you identify your home modification needs, the sooner you can start saving.
In addition to saving for home modifications, you may also want to consider the costs associated with long-term care services. While Medicare and Medicaid provide a wide variety of healthcare services, neither offer comprehensive payment plans for long-term care. When determining how to pay for potential care costs, start by investigating the average cost of a care facility in your state. After taking this step, research potential insurance programs to help pay for long-term care. Sometimes, insurance providers turn down applications because an individual has a pre-existing condition. One of the benefits of anticipating long-term care needs is that you may be in a better position to obtain health insurance that helps cover extended care costs. Some experts suggest purchasing long-term care insurance as early as your 50s to ensure lower premiums. If you have questions about your coverage through the government, consider calling the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) hotline.
Next, consider how much you have in assets. For most Americans, their home constitutes the majority of assets. Because of this, individuals anticipating long-term care might consider selling their home to help pay for living expenses and medical fees. In some cities, selling your home can actually cover the cost of long-term care. In Flower Mound, TX, for instance, homes have sold for an average of about $251K in the last month; depending on your needs, those proceeds could cover a significant portion or even all of your long-term care expenses. Selling one’s home also means less responsibility with regards to home/yard upkeep. A new, simplified living facility can also help reduce the likelihood of severe falls as well as reduce overall stress. If you are not currently looking to sell your home, consider possible modifications, renovations, and maintenance that will make your home more livable now and more sellable later.
Thinking about long-term care can be emotionally draining. However, by anticipating your needs, planning, and saving, this process can be made easier.
June Duncan, Author
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.