Top Reasons Women Need to Plan for Long-Term Care
Long term care planning is important for everyone, but in certain ways it's even more critical for women.
Not only is the average life expectancy for women rising, but women typically live longer than men—four years on average. We are statistically more prone to disability or chronic illness. And that means we need to factor in higher health care costs and the possibility of assisted living and other senior care. What's more, we are more likely to be the caregivers for others, or to live alone at some point, as a result of widowhood or divorce. All women need to plan carefully to ensure they'll have adequate resources to provide for their needs throughout their lives.
Long-term care refers to the services needed by those who can't care for themselves for a long period due to chronic illness or disability. Care in these situations can include basic needs involved with daily living such as bathing, dressing, and eating. It's unpleasant to imagine such a scenario, but two of every three Americans who reach age 65 will eventually need long-term care for as long as three years.
As you might imagine, long-term care can be expensive. In 2012, the average cost in New Hampshire for a private room in a nursing home was $122,000. And the average lifetime cost for women who reach age 65 and need long-term care is $240,000. Keep in mind that Medicare does not cover extended long-term care: It provides very minimal support for home healthcare and nursing-home expenses.
Tips to get started
Consider how you will fund your care. The best way to prepare for possible long-term-care expenses depends on factors like your age, health, finances and support network. Some people pay for it from their own resources, while others invest in long-term care insurance. This insurance can be costly; annual premiums of more than $3,000 are par for the course for a healthy, 60-year-old couple. An alternative is building up your savings. This, of course, requires creating a clear goal and exercising the discipline to put money away consistently.
Think through housing options and where you would like to live if your needs change. Do you plan on residing in your home until the end of your life? If so, you'll likely need some level of assistance at some point. One alternative is to move to a retirement community. Certain retirement communities are organized like neighborhoods, in which the level of care you receive changes with your age and needs. They can be expensive, but provide you the ability to "age in place." It is important to be healthy to get into one of these communities though, so waiting to the last minute may not work when considering one of these communities.
Prepare a living will and financial and health care powers of attorney. These documents can help ensure that your medical and financial matters are carried out according to your instructions.
Communicate your plans to family. A majority of those who need long-term care rely completely on volunteers—typically their children or spouses. Many times family members want to provide this committed assistance, but if they hadn't planned on it, the situation may become awkward.
It may be counterintuitive to plan for aging and long-term care when we are relatively young and healthy. But it's important to act while your mind and body are healthy, and while there are still options at your disposal.
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