Prepare for care

We all need a plan for long-term care

You can call us baby boomers, but don’t call us seniors. Today’s grandparents are younger in mind, body and spirit than any generation before us. We certainly don’t feel old. Nevertheless, we’re aging, and living longer than ever before. So it’s inevitable that we’ll need help someday – whether it’s someone getting our groceries, or something more involved like assisted living or home health care. The question is are we ready?

I know what you’re thinking. None of us want to think about, let alone talk about, ourselves as old and needy. But according to a recent Prudential study, 71 percent of adults 35-65 are at least somewhat concerned about needing long-term care services someday. Those costs are increasing, and they’re not covered by traditional insurance or Medicare – which means they can eat away at a retirement nest egg in a matter of months. That’s why I spent the summer traveling across the country with the 3in4 Need More campaign [see video!] on a converted ’60s-era Greyhound bus to raise awareness about the importance of planning ahead for our long-term health care needs. There are myriad ways that we can mitigate the costs of long-term care, but unless we take the time to understand our needs and the options available to us, we’ll be caught off guard when the time comes. This can have a devastating emotional and financial impact on us as well as our loved ones.

3in4 Need More is supported by many members of the long-term care industry, including Prudential, Transamerica, Med America, Life Secure, Mutual of Omaha, One Reverse Mortgage, and the advisory board of the 3in4 Association (the nonprofit organization behind the awareness campaign). This has enabled us to open an incredible dialog between those who need long-term care and those who provide it. Over the course of eight weeks we went from New York to Los Angeles, hitting countless cities in between, to talk with baby boomers about the issues they’re facing. We also met with government officials, caregiving professionals, insurance agents, reverse mortgage providers and others to better understand what they have to offer. Our advice is simple: We all need to “prepare for CARE”:

C: Consider your risks. What’s your current health situation? Family history? How likely is it that you’ll need some form of long-term care? Anyone’s situation can change in an instant, but it’s helpful to consider your potential long-term health risks.

A: Assess your needs. How and where do you want to be cared for as you age? In your own home, or elsewhere? Do you have family support, or need outside help? Now is the time to voice your preferences.

R: Research the costs. In some states, one month in a nursing home can cost up to $10,000. What can you expect in your hometown? Use the terrific calculator on the 3in4 Need More website to find out long-term care costs in cities across the country.

E: Educate yourself. Should you buy long-term care insurance? Get a reverse mortgage? Talk to a financial planner? What government options are available? What resources exist in your local community? The only way to answer these questions is to get the facts about every option, and carefully review them within the context of your own needs.

At the end of the day, not all of us will need help, but we all need a plan. Visit 3in4NeedMore.com for information and resources to create yours.

Marion Somers, Ph.D., is an elder care expert and the author of Elder Care Made Easier. She is currently the spokesperson for the3in4 Need More campaign, raising awareness about long-term care planning.

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