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Create a Long-Term Care Plan in Advance to Better Prepare for Crisis

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Do you have a long-term care plan in place? You’ve heard the old saying a thousand times: if you fail to plan, you’re planning to fail. That’s true in many walks of life, and, as Rajiv Nagaich continually reminds us, it’s especially true in planning for retirement. If you fail to create a long-term care plan, you’re putting yourself and your loved ones at risk. Sadly, a high percentage of people are marching toward their senior years completely unprepared, and for many of them there are storm clouds ahead.

One of the realities of retirement living that people often choose to ignore is the likelihood that they will need some form of long-term care, either at home or in some sort of care facility or group home. Instead of closing our eyes and ignoring that eventuality, how much better would it be to have a long-term care plan in place, long before it’s needed? That’s the point of this recent column by financial reporter Liz Weston.  We found this one in the Seattle Times but you’ll also find Weston’s columns in other sites including NerdWallet and the Associated Press.

Weston’s point is hard to refute: making the effort now to create a care plan, and making certain your family and loved ones know what it contains, can give you much greater peace of mind, both today and tomorrow. Let’s take a closer look.

Why a Long-Term Care Plan? Because Most Will Need Care

Weston begins her article with a startling but practical observation: “At some point, most older people will need help getting through the day. Someone turning 65 today has a 70 percent chance of eventually requiring assistance with basic living activities, such as bathing, dressing and using the toilet, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.”

A grim reality, perhaps, but it gets grimmer: Medicare typically doesn’t pay for this kind of help. And the unfortunate fact is that most families don’t plan for care of this magnitude until a health crisis rears its head, and by the time that occurs there’s plenty of stress, conflict, and cost to go around.

Carolyn McClanahan, a physician and certified financial planner based in Jacksonville, Florida, believes wholeheartedly in “an ounce of prevention.” She told reporter Weston, “A care plan is thinking through the logistics of what you’re going to need as you age, so that when the poop hits the fan with aging, then you are prepared.”

Biggest Barrier to Creating a Long-Term Care Plan: Denial

According to author Katy Butler, the issue isn’t necessarily education or resources. It’s wishful thinking. “We want to picture a perfectly healthy life followed, if absolutely necessary, by a quick and painless death. The reality may be quite different, and that can be awful to contemplate,” she says.

One way to handle this is to change one’s mindset even a little. Instead of planning for a permanent disability, for example, plan for a temporary one as a thought exercise.

Weston writes, “What kind of help might you or your loved one need after a hip or knee replacement? How well is the home set up for recovery? Who would help with household tasks? Contemplating a two- or three-month disability with an eventual return to health is less daunting, but involves much of the same planning as a more lasting decline.”

Butler adds, “I think that really would help people visualize without terrifying them.”

A Long-Term Care Plan Considers the “Where” and the “Who”

As we’ve written here on the Blog many times, plenty of people picture “aging in place”, or staying in their own homes when they imagine getting older. But this inevitably means relying on family members, paid workers, or a mix of both to maintain care.

“If family members will be tapped, discuss the logistics, including whether and how much they will be paid,” Weston writes. “If home health aides will be hired, consider who will supervise the process.”

She adds, “Costs can mount quickly. Nationally, a full-time home health aide costs an average of $5,148 a month, according to long-term care insurer Genworth. (You can use Genworth’s cost of care calculator to estimate costs in your area.)”

A Long-Term Care Plan Helps You Cover the Costs

Thankfully, you might have more options than you think to fund care. Take a close look at savings that can be tapped, long-term care insurance in place, or the possibility of attaining a reverse mortgage. Are there other family members who can chip in, or do you or your loved one qualify for government help (veterans’ benefits, Medicaid, or state programs)?

Benefitscheckup.org, a site run by the nonprofit National Council on Aging, can help you search for resources that help people age in place. Families may want to consult an elder law attorney for personalized advice. (We encourage you to contact the team at Life Point Law as a helpful first step. You can also get a referral from the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys at www.naela.org.)

McClanahan advises taking a close look at the current home, as well, to make sure that’s appropriate for aging. “An occupational therapist can suggest adaptations that could allow the older person to remain in the home if they’re disabled. Some changes might be simple, such as removing throw rugs that could cause falls, while others — like widening doorways or constructing a walk-in shower — might be part of a larger remodel. The sooner you get this evaluation, the more time you will have to plan and pay for it,” she says.

“I recommend everybody do this when they hit their 50s if they’re planning on staying in their home,” she adds.

The Right House in the Wrong Location?

“Even if the home supports aging in place, the neighborhood might not,” says Butler. “Consider how the older person will socialize, get groceries and make it to health appointments if they can no longer drive.”

While an independent living or senior living facility could provide more amenities, these typically don’t provide long-term care. Butler poses, “Is the older person OK with moving again later, or should they start with an assisted living or continuing care facility that can provide more help?”

McClanahan adds, her words concluding the article: “Once you have a plan, write down the details and consider sharing it with family members or other people who may be involved. Revisit the document periodically as circumstances change. Aging planning is not a one and done thing. It’s an ongoing process.”

Breaking News: Rajiv’s New Book is Here!

We have big news! The long-awaited book by Rajiv Nagaich, called Your Retirement: Dream or Disaster, has been released and is now available to the public.  As a friend of AgingOptions, we know you’ll want to get your copy and spread the word.

You’ve heard Rajiv say it repeatedly: 70 percent of retirement plans will fail. If you know someone whose retirement turned into a nightmare when they were forced into a nursing home, went broke paying for care, or became a burden to their families – and you want to make sure it doesn’t happen to you – then this book is must-read.

Through stories, examples, and personal insights, Rajiv takes us along on his journey of expanding awareness about a problem that few are willing to talk about, yet it’s one that results in millions of Americans sleepwalking their way into their worst nightmares about aging. Rajiv lays bare the shortcomings of traditional retirement planning advice, exposes the biases many professionals have about what is best for older adults, and much more.

Rajiv then offers a solution: LifePlanning, his groundbreaking approach to retirement planning. Rajiv explains the essential planning steps and, most importantly, how to develop the framework for these elements to work in concert toward your most deeply held retirement goals.

Your retirement can be the exciting and fulfilling life you’ve always wanted it to be. Start by reading and sharing Rajiv’s important new book. And remember, Age On, everyone!

(originally reported at www.seattletimes.com)

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