Research suggests that most Americans turning age 65 will need some form of assistance with everyday activities, known as long-term care, as they grow older. The amount of care needed will depend on many variables, including overall health, cognitive functioning and home environment.
Age is a strong predictor of the need for help, and because women live longer on average, they are more likely than men to require long-term care. Factors such as a disability, injury or chronic illness also increase the chance that long-term care will be needed.
Three simple steps can help you start planning for care you may need as you age.
1. Know what to expect
Most people know they should save for retirement, but many don’t know exactly what expenses to expect. An often overlooked area is long-term care, a broad set of supports for everyday tasks like dressing or eating. While most of this care is provided by family members and friends, sometimes older adults and their families get these services from providers like home health aides, area agencies on aging or residential providers such as assisted living or nursing homes.
Understanding long-term care is the first step in creating a plan. Key things to know include:
- A person who lives alone is more likely to require long-term care than one who can rely on a spouse or partner for help with daily tasks.
- Long-term care is expensive and represents a major uncovered risk to your retirement savings.
- Medicare does not pay for long-term care services or supports with some minor exceptions. Neither does your employer-based health insurance or Medigap.
- Most people prefer to receive long-term care at home; their odds of doing so may be improved by making home modifications to reduce the risk of falls.
- Many Americans say they do not want to rely on their children for care, but a lack of planning for paid care often leads to exactly that result.
2. It’s not just about you
A choice to plan or not plan will likely have a big impact on family and friends who may also be informal caregivers. Statistics show that most long-term care is provided by family members or other loved ones.
Take the time to make clear your preferences for what kind of help you value most and where you want to receive it. Family and friends will feel better knowing that you are thinking about your needs – and theirs – by planning for long-term care.
3. Better active than reactive
Be proactive. Staying at home is great, especially if it has been modified to help you avoid an injury and continue to care for yourself. However, it won’t happen without taking steps to ensure you can get the supports you need at home. Start thinking about ways to maintain your independence, safety and care needs.
For more information and resources to develop a care plan, visit longtermcare.gov.
Sources: Family Features and Administration for Community Living