Don’t Put Off Planning for Long-Term Care

It’s time to get real. Even though the majority of Americans need long-term care sometime after retirement, only one-third of people over the age of 40 have made any preparations whatsoever to pay for services such as home care or assisted living.

Do not fall into this group. By getting a head start in anticipating your health needs and paying for them, you’ll put less strain on your family while providing yourself with a higher standard of living well into old age, even with a chronic condition. This is no easy task, as nursing homes cost more than $82,000 per year on average. Here are some tips to make it less stressful.

Know Your Care Options

On the lower end of the price range, there’s adult day care, which refers to non-residential facilities that provide medical, social, and daily living support as well as transitional care and rehabilitation. This costs almost $18,000 annually on average. If that’s insufficient, there are other services such as home health aides, who provide help with tasks around the house, as well as basic medical services and assisted living and nursing homes.

Examine Your Health Baseline

It’s an assessment of your current health condition as well as the likelihood of future illness, and it’s getting easier to perform as technology progresses. Your medical history, your family’s medical history, blood work, and a metabolic panel are examined to generate your baseline, in addition to measurements such as pulse and blood pressure. Though no crystal ball, it’s one of the most accurate predictors of what health conditions you may confront as you age and could help you gauge the care you need moving forward.

Make Lifestyle Changes

Avoiding those conditions may require a change in your lifestyle. That primarily means eating healthy and exercising, both of which work wonders in staving off heart disease, as well as diabetes and even cancer. Aim for a diet that’s rich in fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains. As for physical activity, there’s no consensus on how many hours a day are necessary, though an effective routine includes cardio, strength-training, and stretches. Meanwhile, modifications to your home, like slip-free surfaces, would reduce the risk of injury.

When it comes to financing your future care, there are a number of methods that can be pursued in combination.

Pursue Medicare Programs

While Medicare itself does not cover long-term care, there are a number of related private programs that do offer additional medical services that will likely come in useful in the years ahead. For example, Humana Medicare Advantage plans offer the same coverage as Medicare A and B as well as prescriptions, dental and vision care, fitness services, caregiver support and a 24/7 nursing advice line. Premiums can be as low as $0, which makes it even more attractive.

Choose the Right Savings Plan

Many experts recommend that long-term health care be budgeted into your retirement, and there plenty of savings plans to choose from. Which one is right for you depends on factors such as how close you are to retirement, how much you would like to contribute, and what tax advantages you’re seeking. A Roth IRA, for example, allows you to pay in after taxes though distributions are tax-free. Health Savings Accounts should also enter the discussion, as they are designed specifically for retirees to pay medical expenses.

Look Into Insurance

There are a number of ways to use your life insurance to pay for daily living and medical care. The simplest is selling your policy through a broker to free up cash for retirement or medical expenses. The most marketable policies are universal life insurance and death benefits of over $100,000, though term and smaller policies could have buyers as well. Besides selling, it’s possible to tap into the wealth you’ve accumulated through a living benefit.

These are not easy matters to think about as they involve confronting your own mortality and the possibility that you will suffer from a chronic condition. However, the longer you put it off, the more difficult it gets, so start your planning today.


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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