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Older Americans Face Tough Choices When Planning for Long-Term Care

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We once heard someone say, “Growing old isn’t for sissies.” If you’re a regular listener to our AgingOptions radio program, or a regular reader of our blog, it won’t come as a surprise to you that aging Americans face some significant challenges when planning for their long-term care. Now this article that just appeared last week in the pages of USAToday makes it official: when it comes to the financial and emotional costs of housing and care, today’s seniors are going to have to make some tough choices as they age.

“Growing old in America can be wrought with legal problems arising from health concerns, long-term care, and the need for appropriate housing,” says the USAToday article. “The good news is that there are tools and products and strategies that older Americans can use to live as well as possible in the last decades of their lives.” We agree – but we hasten to add that the most critical step seniors can make today to ensure their care tomorrow is proper planning, the type of truly comprehensive preparation that takes several critical elements into account. We’ll share more on our approach to that kind of planning in a moment.

The USAToday piece is written by regular contributor Robert Powell. He zeroes in on two areas in which today’s seniors need some aggressive planning and preparation: first, how will you prepare for the likelihood that you will face some degree of cognitive decline in your future? And second, where will you receive the kind of long-term care you’re likely to need, and how will you pay for it? Let’s look at Powell’s suggestions to these two age-related issues.

Regarding the problems associated with cognitive decline, which can sometimes be the precursor of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, Powell’s article in USAToday suggests that the most important question you need to answer today is who will be the one acting on your behalf  tomorrow?  “Who will make decisions for you when you are no longer able to make them yourself?” Powell asks. According to experts quoted in the article, “the best way to address this problem is by searching for and retaining a certified elder law attorney who can draft the appropriate documents that you’ll need.” These can include important legal documents such as a durable power of attorney and an advance health care directive, among others. As tough as it may be to think about, when facing the aging process seniors and their families have to be honest, and that means taking into the account the very real possibility that you as an older adult may find yourself incapable of making financial and health care decisions on your own. It is absolutely essential that you make your wishes known today while you’re in good cognitive health, and then set the systems in motion to make certain your wishes are carried out no matter what your mental state might one day turn out to be.

The second question addressed by USAToday concerns long-term care – which can be a financial and emotional minefield for many aging seniors and their families. We can already see that the costs associated with long-term care are starting to drive the debate in Washington, D.C., concerning Medicaid reform, something we’ll be watching closely here at AgingOptions.  After having discussed this issue with thousands of seniors and their families, our big concern is that people are heading into the future unprepared. Surveys show that most seniors want to stay at home as they age, but that may prove impossible – and the alternatives are all expensive. “According to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey,” Powell writes in USAToday, “home health care costs were on average about $4,000 per month in 2017, while an adult day care facility was about $1,500 per month.”  Assisted living costs nationwide averaged nearly $3,800 per month and the cost of nursing care was at least $7,000 per month – and bear in mind that the cost of care is far higher here in the Pacific Northwest where AgingOptions has its headquarters.

There are, of course, a wide range of housing options for seniors, and a variety of programs in place to help pay the cost. But in order to choose wisely and prepare thoroughly you need good advice. That’s why we appreciate the recommendation from USAToday:  “Care costs may be unavoidable,” the article says, “but elder law attorneys can help families stretch dollars by qualifying for Medicaid [or VA] coverage and certain tax deductions.”  If there are good options out there we at AgingOptions can work with families to help you find them.

Earlier in this article we raised the question of comprehensive retirement planning. In our view the important thing is to see issues like the ones in the USAToday article not as stand-alone questions of housing and health but as part of a total retirement strategy. When we work with clients on such a strategy, we call it a LifePlan, and only AgingOptions offers it. A LifePlan looks at every critical aspect of retirement planning – your finances, your legal protection, your housing choices (both for today and for the long term), your medical insurance needs and even the vital element of communicating your wishes to your family. With a LifePlan in place, you’ll be ready for whatever retirement and aging bring your way, even five or fifteen or twenty-five years from now!

We want to invite you to an information-packed free seminar with LifePlanning expert Rajiv Nagaich where you can get answers to a wide range of retirement-related questions, and you can see how planning for the long-term doesn’t have to be overly complicated and daunting. There’s a series of LifePlanning Seminars coming up, and we would love to have you and your guests join us. Click here for details and online registration, or contact us for assistance. You can face the future with a confidence you never knew you could experience, thanks to a LifePlan from AgingOptions!

(originally reported at

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