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Are You Planning for Long-Term Care?


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You’ll probably need long-term care at some point, but are you planning for it? According to the Family Caregiver Alliance, 68 percent of seniors 65 and older will experience a physical or cognitive impairment during their lifetime. For some, it’s a permanent disability that leads to a residence in a senior care facility. For others, it’s a temporary health condition that calls for extra help at home. In either case, an inability to finance care can put a senior’s health at risk.

Will You Need Long-Term Care?

Nearly one-third of seniors won’t need long-term care. If you’re healthy today, it’s possible you won’t need care in the future. However, when assessing the likelihood of long-term care, your current health status doesn’t provide the full picture. Seniors should also consider:

  • Lifestyle: Maintaining a healthy weight, eating a nutritious, varied diet, and exercising daily protects against many lifestyle diseases, some of which are leading causes of death. A healthy lifestyle also protects mobility and functioning for increased independence in old age.

  • Family History: Your genetics may predispose you to certain health conditions, such as diabetes, certain cancers, and heart disease. Your family may also have a history of long lives, which increases your likelihood of needing long-term care.

  • Social Connection: With a strong social network, you may be able to rely on family and friends for help after illness or injury. However, seniors with limited social connections are more likely to require paid care.

  • Home Safety: Falls are a leading cause of injury and disability among elderly adults. According to Aging.com, 30 percent to 50 percent of falls are caused by environmental factors like poor lighting, slippery floors, and uneven surfaces.

If your assessment reveals a high risk of needing long-term care, there are changes you can make today to enable a safer, healthier future. Whether that’s improving diet and exercise to better your health, reaching out your community, or remodeling your home for increased safety, it’s never too late to make changes. However, recognize that while lifestyle changes reduce the possibility and extent of long-term care needs, they don’t guarantee you won’t require care.

How Will You Pay for Long-Term Care?

Many older adults believe Medicare will pay for their long-term care needs. However, Medicare doesn’t cover most types of long-term care. That means seniors must pay for care through private funding. Here are some ways seniors can pay for long-term care:

  • Savings: If you have enough retirement savings, paying for care out-of-pocket is an option. Keep in mind that full-time care costs thousands of dollars per month, even for the most affordable options.

  • Health Savings Accounts: If you funded an HSA while employed, you can use those funds tax-free to pay for long-term care or long-term care insurance. Because HSAs can only be used with High Deductible Health Plans, this option is best utilized when you’re still young and healthy.

  • Long-Term Care Insurance: Long-term care insurance pays for your care in exchange for monthly premium payments. This allows you to spread out the cost of long-term care and reduce out-of-pocket expenses. However, premiums are higher for older buyers; for the lowest costs, purchase a policy before retiring.

When deciding how you’ll pay for long-term care, don’t forget to factor other end-of-life expenses. If you use all your savings for care, your family may be unable to finance a funeral. Ensure you’ve made arrangements for end-of-life expenses as well, whether that’s a final expense insurance policy, a payable on death bank account, or another prepaid option.

It’s unpleasant to think about growing ill or disabled as you age. But planning ahead for late-life disability makes the difference between a high and low quality of life during your final years. Take steps now to improve your health, but don’t neglect to plan for the possibility of long-term care.

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Feeling Good When It’s Your Job To Care: Tips For Caregivers


Taking care of someone is a big job that often requires quite a bit of physical strength and emotional reserve. It can be difficult to manage your own life around someone else’s needs, and sometimes, that job can take a toll on your physical and mental health. For that reason, it’s imperative to make sure you take good care of yourself, learn to cope with stress and anxiety, and find ways to relax and focus on your own needs once in a while.

Fortunately, there are several simple ways you can do this. Managing your stress may seem like a difficult task, but there are things you can do to help yourself learn to cope in a healthy way no matter what is going on in your life. Not only will this allow you to focus on your own needs and boost your mental health, it will also help you find the motivation and energy you need to help your loved one or patient.

Keep reading for some great tips on how to practice self-care when you’re a caregiver.

Get enough rest

Adequate sleep–or a lack of it–can be one of the biggest reasons a person feels unable to cope with stress or anxiety. When you aren’t able to rest, your physical and mental abilities are reduced, making even the simplest of daily tasks difficult. There are several things you can do to help yourself get better rest, but it all starts with a good mattress that addresses your unique sleep needs. If your bedding is more than ten years old, or if you wake up in the morning feeling stiff and unrested, it’s time for a new mattress; be sure to check online for ones with good reviews.

Take a timeout

It can be overwhelming to try to handle everything in your own life when you’re taking care of someone else’s every need, but it’s important to try to take some time for yourself when you can. Whether that means heading out of town for an overnight trip or just sitting with a good book at the end of the day, think of small ways you can reduce stress and have some time to yourself. This isn’t always easy for caregivers to do, so talk to family members or coworkers to see if anyone can help out.

Eat right

Caregivers are more at risk than others for symptoms of depression or anxiety, and it’s common for them to not get enough rest or eat well-balanced meals every day. When you don’t eat right or stay hydrated, your mood and energy level can bottom out, leaving you feeling exhausted and irritable. If your schedule during the day (or night) is hectic, consider packing yourself several small, easy-to-eat snacks that will keep your blood sugar stable and help you get the nutrients you need. Cut-up veggies and hummus, string cheese, whole-wheat crackers, yogurt, and water or 100-percent fruit juice are great starts.

Treat yourself

When you get some time to yourself, make an effort to find a way to treat yourself. Get a massage or pedicure, spend some time doing something you love, or cook yourself a delicious meal. Finding small, healthy ways to make yourself happy will allow you to relax a little and take the weight of your job as a caregiver off your shoulders.

Feeling better when you spend so much time taking care of someone else can be difficult because it can lead to guilt or anxiety. Try to keep in mind that it’s just as important for your patient’s well-being as it is for yours, because you can’t be your best self when you’re tired or stressed out.

To learn more about June and her work visit: June Duncan 💚 june@riseupforcaregivers.org

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Tips on How to Plan and Pay for Long-Term Care


cropped-wp-pj-banner-e1532350609729As the senior population in the United States grows, more and more people will need long-term support and services. Long-term care includes assistance through institutions such as nursing homes, assisted residential care, adult day services and in-home care. The need for long-term support and services depends on the senior’s ability to manage the tasks and responsibilities of daily living safely.

According to AARP:

  • Seniors are the primary demographic needing long-term care because functional disability increases with advancing age.
  • 13 million Americans ages 18 or older needed long-term support and services in 2014; 60 percent of these adults were age 65 or older.
  • An estimated 52 percent of present-day seniors will develop a severe disability that will require long-term care at some point.
  • Women are more likely than men (58 percent vs. 47 percent) to need long-term support and services. Furthermore, women on average need assistance for longer — 2.5 years vs. 1.5 years.
  • More than half of seniors with disabilities rely exclusively on unpaid help. About 75 percent of people who used paid help also relied on family and friends for unpaid care.

Two thirds of seniors today will need long-term care at some point in the future with 20 percent of them needing it for longer than five years. Without an established plan and funding for long-term support and services, the responsibility for cost and care falls on your loved ones. To protect your family and ensure you get the care you want, it’s important to plan for the possibility of needing long-term support and services while securing a way to pay for them.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost?

It may not surprise you to find out that people wildly underestimate how much long-term services cost on average. One-third of Americans think home health care expenses are under $417 a month. The actual national median rate for long-term care costs is about nine times that estimate.

Median annual cost of long-term care:

  • Adult day care – $17,680 annually ($1,474/month)
  • Assisted living facility – $43,539 ($3,628/month)
  • Homemaker services – $45,760 ($3,813/month)
  • In-home health aide – $46,332 ($3,861/month)
  • Semi-private room in nursing home – $82,125 ($6,844/month)
  • Private room in nursing home – $92,378 ($7,698/month)

Paying for Long-Term Care

Older adults receive federally funded health insurance through Medicare. While Medicare pays for many health services, it does not pay for long-term care costs. Seniors can look into alternative policies like Humana Medicare Advantage plans, which offer the same coverage as Medicare Parts A and B. Some plans may include additional benefits for prescriptions, dental, vision, fitness services, caregiver support and a 24/7 nursing advice line. Having comprehensive health care prevents serious illness and injury that requires long-term support and services.

Long-term care insurance can cover all costs that Medicare plans do not. These policies protect your family’s savings while giving you more choices when it comes to the services and support you need. The average premiums for a 60-year-old couple are $2,010 a year when combined, but that small investment can end up saving your family hundreds of thousands on your long-term care in the future.

Avoiding Long-Term Care

One-third of Americans never need long-term care in their senior years. These people tend to be proactive when it comes to maintaining their health and avoiding injury. Make positive lifestyle choices such as exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet and being social. Research also suggests that habits such as learning new skills, pursuing passions and practicing mindfulness also contribute to longevity, however, genetics have a lot to do with how long you live. Researching family history and possibly undergoing predictive and presymptomatic genetic tests are the best ways to predict how your genes will affect your aging process.

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The majority of seniors in the United States will need long-term care at some point. Healthy lifestyle choices can mitigate your risks, but it’s still important to plan for the extreme costs. Look into long-term insurance plans that cover the out-of-pocket expenses of long-term support and services.

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.  June Duncan <june@riseupforcaregivers.org>

 

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