By Brian M. Johnson
When it comes to where and how you live, and what you do with your money, you want the freedom of choice and confidence that you’re making the right decisions. The same is true with your long-term care strategy, helping you set the stage for the future and legacy you have planned.
Long-term care is quite simply assistance with simple everyday tasks, even as simple as eating or getting dressed. The need for care could arise from an accident, illness, cognitive impairment or the aging process. You may never need it. But, the best time to start thinking about it is before the need arises and while you’re still able to take control.
Many Americans work hard, save diligently for retirement, yet fail to address the single biggest risk to their portfolio and families: extended healthcare.
When it comes to long-term care, do not be swayed by common misconceptions such as:
“It won’t happen to me.”
People unrealistically downplay their personal risk. Some 79 percent of people put off discussions about long-term care, but 98 percent of financial professionals say they have clients who have needed it. In fact, being healthy presents even a higher risk of needing long-term care services than someone who is managing chronic a condition.
“Medicare or Medicaid will cover me.”
If qualified, Medicare will likely be insufficient for long-term care needs and Medicaid does not account for your choices or preferences, and one must financially qualify for benefits.
“That’s what my savings are for.”
Many Americans significantly underestimate long-term care costs. Home care, assisted living and nursing care can run between $40,000-$150,000 per year in today’s dollars.
“My family will take care of me.”
This might not be a misconception; however, do you really want to put the burden on your loved ones?
Interestingly women and adult children are more likely than men to become family caregivers. Due to life expectancy rates, women are also more likely to need care. With an aging population, that contradiction means it’s more important than ever for women to be open and honest about the expectations for the future. 87 percent of caregivers surveyed say emotional challenges are among the most difficult aspects of providing long-term care.
When should you begin planning? Clients tends to wait until they age 60 before beginning their long-term care planning, but financial professionals suggest moving that timeline up a decade or more. The earlier we start, the more options we will have. Planning ahead not only protects our assets and loved ones, but it also gives us peace of mind. Long-term care is in the back of all of our minds and dealing with it up front can be extremely freeing.
When planning, we should consider:
• Caregiving. Let your loved ones know your preferences. Do you want to be home, in assisted living, etc? Share your expectations with your loved ones and encourage them to discuss their intentions with you.
• Health-related decisions. Designate who has authority to discuss your medications and treatment and inform your physicians. Give your designee your doctors’ contact information.
• Finances. Find out what the costs of different types of services may be where and when you retire. Take inventory of your assets, income, legacy planning, and any debt obligations. Let your loved ones know how you will cover care costs and establish who can manage your finances.
• Legal matters. Make sure you have a living will, a trust, a durable power of attorney and healthcare proxy. Be sure your attorney is also in tune with your wishes and desires.
Above all, planning starts with a conversation. Some of the most important conversations about your care are not the easiest, however, the easiest time to discuss the topic is when you’re healthy and not yet in need of long-term care.
In putting together a plan for long-term care services, people typically utilize insurance, a geriatric care manager, personal assets and pre-paid home health care plans. By talking with your advisor, you’ll be able to piece together a strategy that runs parallel to your goals and budgetary constraints.
Remember, it’s never too early to address long-term care and the sooner you do it, the sooner you’ll have that peace of mind.