Long-Term Care: What Will You Need, and How Will You Afford It?

Elderly couple hugging each other

If you are a person who has been a planner, then you certainly know the importance. If you are the type of person who sort of wings it, it’s important to know that’s not the way to go when it comes to your long-term care needs. Anticipating what kind of long-term care you’ll need and how you will pay for it is vital for anyone approaching retirement age - and even well before!

Will I need long term care and if so, what kind?

Around two-thirds of people over the age of 65 will need some sort of long-term care. On average, these people will need three years of care. This may sound strange if you think about long-term care in a narrow way - nursing homes or in-home care providers. The reality is that long-term care encompasses many things. Sure, long-term care can mean actual care - either at home or in a facility - with trained professionals, but it can also mean making home modifications. It can mean using assistive technology to help you as you age. It can even mean having a housekeeper, or someone that simply prepares your meals for you.

So, will you need some sort of care? Odds are yes. A sudden accident or illness can create an immediate need for care. But there are some ways to gauge whether you are more likely than others to need care at some point.

The following increase your chances of needing care:
  • Having a chronic illness of any kind (high blood pressure, for example)
  • Experiencing cognitive decline (dementia, Alzheimer’s)
  • Being a woman
  • Having any sort of physical disability
  • Having a family history of any physical or mental ailment
  • Being overweight
  • Smoking/drug use/alcohol abuse
  • Living alone

You can reduce your chances of needing long-term care or at least lessen the severity of care by improving your health. Though you can’t eat and exercise your way to avoiding an accident or dementia, you can cut back on bad habits, exercise at least 30 minutes per day, and eat a balanced diet. Healthy, active aging is possible and can help put your twilight years more under your own control.

How to pay for long-term care

No matter what insurance coverage you have or how many family members you have willing and able to assist in your care, it’s foolish not to begin to save for possible long-term care costs. Though it’s ideal to avoid paying for all of your long-term care out of pocket, the hard truth is that you will end up paying at least some that way.

  • Reverse mortgage: If extra funds are needed to help pay for long-term care, you could consider a reverse mortgage. Make sure to review the pros and cons of this type of mortgage on your home, which can free up capital.

  • Medicare/Medicaid: Medicare may pay for some short-term care following illness or injury, but Medicare does not usually cover long-term care. Medicaid can help with long-term care but only for low-income situations and if certain qualifications are met (check here for a state-by-state overview).

  • PACE: Some states offer inclusive elderly care through the Program of All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly (PACE) plan.

  • Private insurance: Some plans will cover long-term care costs, some will not, and some will cover something in between. Do your research on your private plan ASAP to figure out what will be covered.

Above all else, the first step of your planning should be talking to your loved ones - children, siblings, and even friends. Knowing how much they will be able to help with your long-term care will inform other decisions you make. Plus, their general love and support will help you motivate yourself to get started on this incredibly important task.

About the Author

June Duncan is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones.

Photo courtesy of Unsplash 

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