There are many reasons why someone would need long-term care, whether it be in the form of in-home nursing care, time at an assisted living facility, or actual nursing home care. As US News notes, “people are living longer, but they aren’t necessarily living healthier.” Couple that with accidents that cause disabilities, hereditary disease, and mental decline and you can see why long-term care is an inevitability for over two-thirds of seniors.
Affording Care If You Need It
If you spot risk factors early in your life you can begin to prepare in advance - this is the best method for putting yourself in a position to afford care. Early on, you can begin to put money away for this possibility/inevitability. While simply tucking income away in a savings account is ok, you should diversify with an IRA, 401k, Health Savings Account, and other investments. You should also look into long-term care insurance (but it’s not for everybody).
While Medicare will not cover long-term care, Medicare supplemental insurance like the Humana Medicare Advantage plan can offer help with prescriptions, dental, vision, fitness services, caregiver support, and a 24/7 nursing advice line -- things anyone in long-term care will probably need. It’s important to learn about Medicare open enrollment so you know all the crucial details, such as when to sign up (October 15 to December 7) and what’s required to do so.
If you fail to store enough away early on and the sudden need for long-term care arises, there are still things you can do. This includes steps like taking a reverse mortgage on your home, activating illness riders on a current insurance policy and cashing out your life insurance policy.
How to Know If You’ll Need Long-Term Care
Very few people can predict, with absolute certainty, whether they will need some sort of long-term care. But there are factors that make it much more likely. These include:
- Being a woman
- Being over 65
- Smoking, heavy alcohol use, and drug abuse
- Family history of illness
- Mental decline (Alzheimer’s)
- Chronic health conditions
- Serious illness
- Disability and/or mobility issues
- Lack of close family support
If you check one or more of these boxes, it may be smart to begin to plan for eventual long-term care. But even if you (smartly) begin to plan, there are lifestyle changes and other measures you can undertake to reduce your chances of needing long-term care. A good diet, proper exercise, and reducing your intake of unhealthy chemicals (nicotine and alcohol) can help you prevent illness and decline.
Another crucial focus should be on preventing falls as you age. Nothing increases your chances of needing nursing care more than a major spill. Dealing with vision issues and getting fitted for a walking aid can help. So can home modifications like ramps, handrails, grab bars, non-slip floor replacements, and increased lighting in dimmer areas.
Will you need long-term care? The statistics say it is probable. So consider your risk factors, take stock of your lifestyle choices, and begin to plan financially.
About the author
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 author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers.