Long-Term Care in Old Age: Are You Prepared?

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As our age goes up, so do our healthcare needs. And as our needs grow, so do the costs. However, medical care and prescriptions aren't the only health expenses aging adults must worry about. Long-term care spending rivals healthcare spending for seniors today.

It's estimated that today's seniors will spend an average of $69,500 on long-term care services, Forbes reports. Because women live longer than men, they can expect to spend twice as much on care as their male counterparts.

Many people believe Medicare will pay for any long-term care needed after the age of 65. However, while Medicare pays for many health care needs — and supplemental Medicare plans extend that coverage even further — long-term care services aren't covered. For that reason, individuals must make other arrangements to pay for long-term care. But how do you know if you'll need long-term care, how much money to put aside and where to find the funds?

Here's what you need to know.

Assessing Long-Term Care Needs

It's impossible to fully predict whether you'll need long-term care. Even if you're the picture of health today, it only takes a moment for an accident or illness to change your health outlook. However, there's certain information you can use to assess the likelihood that you'll need long-term care.

Start by assessing your current health status. If you have a chronic illness, disability or are generally in poor physical health, it's probable that you'll need care in the future. Even if you're healthy now, consider whether your lifestyle increases your risk of developing a chronic disease. Adults with poor diet and exercise habits are susceptible to developing a litany of disabling health conditions, as are those who live a high-stress lifestyle. If your lifestyle puts you at risk for chronic health problems, know it's never too late to benefit from lifestyle changes surrounding physical, emotional and social health.

Consider family history as well. Genetics and family history influence your likelihood of developing various health conditions. It also affects your lifespan: If your parents and grandparents have lived into their 80s and 90s, there's a good chance you will, too. And the longer you live, the more likely you are to need support for the activities of daily living.

Finally, consider your home and whether it's a safe environment for aging in place. If you suffer a disabling injury and your home isn't safe to return to, you may have no choice but to move into a care facility. By modifying your home for aging in place or purchasing a new, safer home, you can eliminate fall risks that threaten your health and safety.

Planning for Long-Term Care Expenses

Whether you receive care in a nursing home, assisted living facility or your own home, the price tag is high. According to Genworth, these are the annual median costs of long-term care services in 2017:

●     Nursing home (private room): $97,455

●     Nursing home (semi-private room): $85,775

●     Assisted living: $45,000

●     Home health care: $49,192

●     Adult day care: $18,200

These costs are high and rising 3 to 4 percent every year. If you're a decade or two away from seniorhood, expect significantly higher costs for care services. But because Medicare won't pay, you must make other plans to finance long-term care, such as:

●     Purchasing long-term care insurance.

●     Attaching a long-term care rider to a life insurance policy.

●     Cashing out investments and retirement accounts.

●     Tapping into HSA funds.

●     Selling a home or applying for a reverse mortgage.

●     Asking family for financial support.

●     Spending down to qualify for Medicaid.

No one wants to imagine becoming frail or ill with age, but longer lifespans mean an increasing number of adults will need support in their final years. Paying for that support can be just another piece of your retirement planning or a life-changing financial decision. The difference is all in how you prepare for long-term care expenses. If you want a high-quality of life until the end, start putting your plans in place today.

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.

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