By Karen Weeks, guest contributor

Most of us like to think of ourselves as living long, healthy, happy lives.  Even if you are fortunate enough to enjoy a long life, chances are good at some point you will require long-term care.  With that in mind, what are your plans?  How will you pay for it?

Planning for your long-term care needs

Who needs it?  Many people don’t feel they will experience a need for long-term care.  After all, if you’re in good shape right now, requiring long-term care can seem like a remote possibility.  However, some statistics say otherwise, with more than half of those turning 65 expected to need long-term care in the future.  In fact, by 2050, 15 million Americans are expected to have a high long-term care need.  How do you decide if you or a loved one will likely fall into those numbers?  Here is food for thought:

  • What lifestyle choices are you making now that could impact your need for long-term care? For instance, cigarette smoking increases your risk for stroke and for weakened, brittle bones.
  • How can you reduce the risk of injury or onset of illness? A regular exercise program lowers your risk for several health issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
  • Are there any home modifications you should make? Homes designed for aging in place can better support your independence throughout your golden years.
  • Are there hereditary illnesses and issues that could impact you? Several health conditions tend to run in families such as certain cancers, stroke, heart disease and diabetes.

Make a plan.  If you or a loved one are at increased risk for requiring long-term care, it’s important to start planning sooner rather than later.

Paying for your long-term care needs

I’ll use government funds.  While you might expect the government to take care of you or your loved ones in later years, you could be in for a surprise.  Long-term care can be quite costly, and as some experts point out, government assistance is minimal.  Medicare will only cover custodial expenses for a limited time, and Medicaid only chips in if you have essentially depleted your assets.

During this time, you may think about signing up for a Medicare Advantage plan, which will help with coverage in Part C of Medicare.  However, it’s important to know what sort of coverage your state provides and whether you qualify for coverage.  As with everything that involves your healthcare coverage, it’s important to do your research to ensure you’re well-informed.

So how much are we talking about?  Many seniors are shocked to discover how expensive long-term care costs.  According to Kiplinger, a private nursing home room costs about $230 per day, or $84,000 a year.  That’s a hefty sum, and unless you’re quite wealthy, you need a plan to cover the cost.  Consider:

  • How close is your retirement? The sooner you expect to retire, the more aggressively you need to prepare a safety net to pay for long-term care.
  • What savings and insurance programs are available now to help cover the costs of long-term care? For example, purchasing a long-term care insurance policy is a popular option, and it’s to most people’s benefit to select a policy when they are young.  Premiums increase with age.

Finding funds.  How do you plan on paying for the costs of long-term care?  Thankfully, options abound.  For instance, if you need cash to help pay for long-term care, a reverse mortgage can be a good choice, depending on your situation.  However, it’s important to be careful and weigh the pros and cons/best-reverse-mortgages of this decision.  Finding reputable lenders is equally as important, so use websites like to help you out.  Of course, there are other options available to you as well.  Veterans and surviving spouses can receive help through the Veterans Administration, and if you have a health savings account, you can use those funds for expenses.

You can also opt to self-insure by paying for long-term care through an IRA, though you should do your homework if you opt to go this route. And if you have assets you own outright, such as a vacation home, RV or boat, selling them can also provide a quick solution to your long-term care expenses.  Consider discussing your decisions with an attorney or financial planner to help you understand the potential ramifications on your estate and your taxes.

Choices now affect care later

Most of us will need long-term care at some point.  Make sure you are prepared and plan carefully to cover your expenses.  Your future can be brighter with wise choices about long-term care.


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