No one knows what the future holds, but for 70 percent of those over 65, we do know this: long-term care is on the horizon.
As we age, our bodies change, and we start needing extra help. But some of us will require more than a helping hand. Whether it’s a long-term disability or the onset of dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, long-term care is there.
Unfortunately, long term care planning needs to start well before you reach the point where you or your loved one needs it. Early planning helps you make the most of your years by finding the right facilities and making financial plans. It also offers more choices and allows you to remain at the center of all the decisions that affect your life.
1. Staying in Your Home: Learn the Options
Almost everyone wants to stay in their home for as long as possible. You can make sure you’re there for as long as you want to be with a little planning.
First, you need to think about your home’s design. Size and space make a huge difference when significant life changes occur, so here are a few things you’ll want from your home’s design:
- Step-free entrances
- Open plans
- First-floor bedroom and bathrooms
- Wide hallways and doorways
These make a huge difference whether you take a fall and need temporary help or if you develop a disability. These are the most essential features that you need to plan early for, particularly if you have an older home because they require more expensive modifications.
Other things to think about include making friendly changes like adding handrails, brighter lights, and easy-to-use door and cabinet handles.
In addition to your home, you’ll need to think about your community. While everyone today delivers to your doorstep, you still want to live in a place where you can get out and about by car, foot, or public transport.
Then, there’s extra help. Whether it comes from a relative or a professional, almost all of us will need it at some point. You’ll want to think about where your help will come from and how you’ll pay for it. Doing this now not only prepares you and your family, but it protects you from unsavory characters who prey on older people.
Are you getting older and wonder what’s available to you? Get in touch with your local Area Agency on Aging for more information.
2. Think About Advanced Directives
Advanced directives are legal paperwork that shares your medical care wishes with your family, friends, and healthcare team. The document dictates explicitly your end-of-life wishes.
End-of-life directions may seem to be too much if you’re living in your house. But these are less designed for making decisions 30 years from and instead direct your loved ones if something tragic and unexpected occurs in the near future.
An advanced directive is there for you in the event of a heart attack, stroke, or even a car accident. You’ll provide instructions on issues like:
- Organ and tissue donation
- Do-not-resuscitate (DNR) directives
- Dialysis instructions
- Tube feeding instructions
It also provides a power of attorney in case you become incapacitated.
3. Start Financial Planning
Whether you need extra help at home or more skilled care, you’ll need to think about how you will pay for it.
It’s good to build this into your retirement care plan, if it’s early enough because the cost of medical care is increasing.
As you age, some care will cost you money. Medicare or health insurance may cover other care (usually only the essentials).
Some people find that the combination of cost of living with care is more expensive than moving into an assisted living home. It all depends on your age, location, care needed, and your finances.
One way to plan is to invest in programs dedicated to long term care. Long-term care insurance is one way to prepare for the potential of expensive care and protect your retirement income. You might also choose to use a long-term care savings plan to put aside money.
Remember that you will benefit from Medicare and Medicaid, but you often don’t receive the full benefit until your financial resources are depleted.
You can read more about using Medicaid for long-term care in Georgia here.
4. Consider Local Care (or Further Afield)
If you are close enough to a point where you believe assisted living, or nursing home care is on the horizon, then start looking for facilities early.
You’ll want to decide where you want to go: do you want to stay in your neighborhood or be near family (if they live elsewhere)? You may also find that your preferred facilities have waiting lists and applications, and these are good to know about in advance.
5. Share Your Thoughts with Your Close Family and Friends
Your trusted family and friends should know about your long-term care plans. They’ll be an instrumental part of helping you make the transition to a new living space, but they may also need to give you the push you need to get there.
Acknowledging a change of such magnitude is hard. When you can talk about it with people you love and trust, it will be easier to come to even the most challenging decision.
Long-Term Care Planning Starts Now
Starting your long term care planning now may seem premature or even daunting, but it will ensure you feel less overwhelmed and more ready to help your family and friends in the future. If you are retired or nearing retirement age, now is the best time to start planning for the next phase of your life.
Do you want to learn more about the estate planning process?