Don’t wait until it’s too late to plan for long-term care

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We all know about saving for retirement, but how many of us plan for when we can no longer take care of ourselves? While many of us have concerns about health as we age, most of us simply do not want to think about this issue. Few of us are planning for the eventual need for long-term care – for ourselves or our parents.

Even though people are living longer, they are not necessarily living longer in perfect health. And the costs of long-term health care, both financial and personal, can be high. Proper planning and open discussion among family members is essential. It can promote effective financial planning, ensure that the best options for care are chosen, confirm that everyone understands the plan of action and their responsibilities, and help loved ones avoid being caught unprepared.

Not too long ago, long-term health-care choices were limited: you either lived in your own home, moved in with your kids, or moved to a nursing home. But in the past decade or so, there has been an explosion of new housing and care choices. And while expanded choices are good overall, it does complicate the decision-making process. 

With so many new choices available, you now need to think through not only the financial implications of your decision, but also your actual needs in terms of living, health care and lifestyle. Long-term health care can be as minimal as help with errands, or as extensive as moving into a nursing home.

Community services that help supplement long-term care by family members can include visiting nurses, home health aides, friendly visitor programs, home-delivered meals, transportation and chore services. In addition, state governments and the federal government offer additional programs, such as tax incentives, direct caregiver payments, family leave, respite care and specialized caregiver programs.

For more extensive care, a nursing home is no longer the only option. New choices include continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), assisted-living facilities, community-based residential facilities (CBRFs) and adult daycare.

And the options don’t end there – which is why it’s so important to get organized and understand the decisions you face and the available choices. A Certified Financial Planner can help guide you through the maze of long-term health-care planning, saving you time and money and reducing anxiety.

Most people put off long-term health-care planning as long as they can because it’s such an uncomfortable topic. It forces us to deal with difficult issues that we might not feel ready to contemplate: the realities of aging, the decline of our health, and the loss of our independence. Yet by planning, we can place all of these difficult questions on the table now, when we can best deal with them, instead of waiting until it’s too late.

JASON E. SIPERSTEIN, CFA, CFP, is the president-elect  of the Financial Planning Association of Rhode Island and president of Eliot Rose Wealth Management. He can be reached at jes@eliotrose.com.