We spend much of our adult years planning for retirement, but as that time approaches, our financial goals start to shift and other needs come into focus. Of course, it’s impossible to know for sure whether you will need long-term care or for how long, but there are some risk factors that can help predict the likelihood. Whether you’re approaching retirement or already retired, now is the time to think about those risk factors and start planning ahead.
What are Your Risk Factors?
Over half of Americans turning 65 today will develop a disability serious enough to require long-term care. According to HuffPost, the two most common reasons people need some form of long-term care are dementia and disability. You may not be able to predict these things, but you can ask yourself a few questions that affect your likelihood of needing long-term care.
- Are there hereditary illnesses and conditions that could impact you? Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and stroke all have genetic components, so if you have a family history of any of these debilitating illnesses, your risk of needing long-term care may be higher.
- What lifestyle choices are you making now? You can’t change your genetics, but lifestyle factors play a huge role in your risk of having problems later. For example, high blood pressure, diabetes, and smoking are just a few of the lifestyle factors that lead to a higher risk of stroke.
- What other factors raise your risk? A few other factors that are out of your control may also raise your risk. Women are more likely than men, and single people are more likely than married people to need long-term care.
- How close are you to retirement? The earlier you start saving for long-term care costs, the better. If you plan to get a long-term care insurance policy, AARP recommends shopping in your 50s or 60s. As you get older, premiums will be higher, and worse health could prevent you from getting the best coverage.
What Can You Do Now?
It’s never too late to change unhealthy lifestyle choices. Quitting smoking, exercising, eating a balanced diet, and managing stress can all lower your risk for stroke and other chronic illnesses. You can also reduce the risk of injury by doing a thorough safety check of your home and making any modifications that make mobility easier and safer.
What are Your Options When Preparing for Long-Term Care?
Most people use a combination of personal funds, government programs like Medicare and Medicaid, and personal financing options like long-term care insurance to pay for their care. There are also some commonly overlooked funds, such as VA benefits, so be sure to explore all options that are available to you. While government programs can help, most long-term care costs typically come from your private savings or insurance.
If you have the means and want to avoid paying for an insurance policy you may never need, one option is to put a substantial sum into savings. This isn’t an option for everyone, and it can be tricky to estimate the amount you should be saving. Another option is to purchase long-term care insurance; you can choose from traditional long-term care policies as well as life insurance/traditional long-term care combination policies.
Even with savings and insurance, it’s important to know your options if you end up needing help paying for long-term care. You may want to consider a life settlement as one option. Choosing a life settlement allows you to sell a life insurance policy you already have for a greater value than you would get surrendering the policy. Selling a life insurance policy can help pay for daily living expenses and medical care if you find yourself needing help paying for long-term care. Just be sure to do thorough research before making any decisions to avoid unwanted surprises.
Thinking about long-term care costs is often unsettling. When you’re ready to enjoy retirement, preparing for long-term care is probably the last thing you want to do. Just keep in mind that the peace of mind you will get from planning ahead will be worth it.
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.
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