The following is a guest post by June Duncan, who 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, and the author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. If you’d like to contribute a guest post to Money Q&A, check out our guest posting guidelines.
Long-term care is something we will all need, but few of us are really willing to think about. Considering what could go wrong with your health and what you intend to do about it seems like an exercise in negativity, but it is an essential part of growing older. The sooner you address the question of long-term care head-on, the more comfortable, happy, and fulfilling your senior years are likely to be.
In order to effectively plan for your long-term care needs, you will need to ask yourself two questions: What care are you likely to need? How do you plan to pay for it?
Assessing Your Needs
It goes without saying that you can’t fully predict the future. Your future health problems could be completely unexpected, due to a chance accident, or you could end up staying healthy well into old age. However, you can make informed assessments about what your needs are likely to be, based on a few factors.
- Lifestyle: Assess your current lifestyle: Do you eat a healthy diet, get enough sleep, and get 150 minutes of moderate activity every week? Many of the diseases commonly associated with old age are preventable through a healthy, active lifestyle, including osteoporosis, strokes, heart attacks, and certain cancers. The earlier you start making changes, the better your chances.
- Genetics: If you do not have a detailed medical history, get one. This will tell you whether there are any hereditary illnesses that could impact you. If you think you are likely to have a genetic disorder, you can carry out genetic testing, which while not definitive can tell you if there is a significant risk.
- Environment: According to the National Council for Aging Care, every 11 seconds, a senior is treated in an emergency room for a fall. Falls are the most common accident among older adults, with over half of them resulting in further adverse events. Consider whether there are any modifications you should make to your home to make it safe as you grow older, such as installing grab bars and improving lighting.
Planning The Finances
Knowing what care you may need is one thing, but you also have to think about how you intend to pay for it. Your plan should cover any hospital bills, living arrangements, and even things like funeral costs, which you can pre-pay for now. Creating a solid budget and financial plan prevents worries down the line and removes the burden from your family.
First of all, your budgeting will depend on how close you are to retirement. If you are in your 40s or 50s, you have more time to gather the money, whereas if you are close to retirement age, you may require a more drastic savings plan. If you can, sit down with a financial advisor to assess what you need to be saving in order to retire on your timeline.
Savings & Insurance
You can simply set a savings target and start putting money aside, but there are various savings and insurance programs available to help pay for long-term care. There are also other ways to help you cover your costs. For example, you could sell your life insurance policy to free up some cash to help you pay for living expenses and medical care. The ability to cash out an insurance policy depends on the type you choose. Talk to an agent to determine what’s best for you and your family and what could be of financial benefit down the road.
Making a solid plan for long-term care can be uncomfortable at first: no one wants to think about the worst-case scenario. But the fact is that when you address the potential negative aspects of old age, you give your senior quality of life an immense boost. You are in control of your health and of how you spend your old age – all you need to do is to take some time to ask yourself the difficult questions.
About June Duncan
June Duncan 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 the author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.