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.