Conversations around the costs involved with aging can seem scary and uncomfortable, especially for those who are already caring for their loved ones as they grow older. When a parent begins to develop dementia signs, it’s often too late to plan for how to pay for care, but it is not too late for you to prepare for what may come as you age.
Every person’s aging experience will be different, with one person retaining abilities another lacks (and so forth!). You must approach the idea of aging by really understanding what you want, while not being in denial about the type of care we may one day need. The ends of our lives should be sacred – our dignity preserved with an allowance of autonomy. Learning from our parents’ journey can help make the process easier for ourselves and our children.
To have the experience you want, you need to plan accordingly (and quickly). We may wish to believe that we will not need memory care or assisted living, but we don’t know, and now is the time to make a plan.
When you start thinking about long term care early, padding your retirement savings, utilizing a 401(k) with matched contributions from your employer, creating a Health Savings Account (HSA) for saving for care that is far in the future, are all great. But let’s focus on another option, long-term care insurance. Long-term care (LTC) insurance provides nursing-home care, home health care, and personal or adult day care for individuals age 65 or older or with a chronic or disabling condition that needs constant supervision.
One primary consideration is that Medicare does not cover assisted living, skilled nursing, or memory care. Without an alternate plan to cover some form of skilled nursing that you may require as you grow older, the annual costs can be financially devastating. In the Washington, D.C., area, memory care, or skilled nursing costs can be more than $12,000 per month. Unfortunately, due to Medicaid’s limitations and the spiking cost of skilled nursing care in the United States, we must consider financing our long-term care before we need it. Aging, while universal, is an expensive process.
Many people apply for long term care insurance in their 50s and 60s. The premiums are known to be notoriously expensive, which causes many to find ways to justify not needing it. It’s important to note that if you have previously started considering long term care insurance at a younger age and began saving money through an HSA, you can use those funds to pay for the insurance premiums and other fees. Michelle Stair of Michelle Stair Insurance in McKinney, Texas, puts it well when she says, “people buy their insurance with age and health. If they put it off too long, it may not be an option for them when they need it.”
Time is incredibly valuable in this process, and age marches forever forward no matter the state of the world. Michelle says, “It is vital for us to be able to talk about long-term care early and often with our aging parent, loved one, or selves.”
The pandemic has made it even easier to include long-distance loved ones in the conversation via tools like Facetime and Zoom. Increased digital contact can help to make conversations about planning for aging more natural and less intimidating.”
At the Windward Foundation, we believe in the art of listening. We believe in doing what we can to ease the burden of caring for others with dementia, and in turn, using the lessons learned to better prepare for our future. By setting yourself up for success with long term care, you are setting your children up for success as well. You are easing their future financial burden and instilling in them the notion that hard conversations are worth having.
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