Planning for Your Later Years
When we're young, it's hard to even imagine ourselves in our "golden" years, perhaps needing help with everyday activities. But the fact is, Americans are living longer now; and the longer we live, the more likely we'll be to need some kind of long term care.
It's smart to start planning for that care now.
What is long term care?
Long term care is any kind of personal care provided on an extended basis for people who need help with certain activities of daily living. It can include feeding, bathing, dressing, etc., and it can be provided at home, in a community center, an assisted care facility or in a nursing home.
Things you should think about now
You and your family should discuss these topics before you're forced to make quick decisions:
- Who do you want to make decisions regarding your care if you are unable?
- How can you make sure you ease the potential burden on your family?
- What long term care options are available for you (or for your aging parents)?
Who pays for long term care?
Unfortunately, long term care services are not adequately covered by most types of insurance or government programs. Medicare often covers some nursing care, but for a limited time. Medicaid steps in and pays for nursing home care only after most of your money is gone.
A Certified Financial Planner™ can help you put together a financial plan, which may include long term care insurance.
Long term care options
Choosing the best type of care for your particular needs and finding the most appropriate care providers can be difficult and confusing. But there's lots of help available.
- Area Agencies on Aging can provide information on all kinds of services for the elderly – from home care and meals to legal help and nursing services. The Eldercare Locator (1-800-677-1116 – 9AM to 8PM EST weekdays) can refer you to your Area Agency on Aging.
- Nursing Home Compare on the Internet at www.medicare.gov/nhcompare/home.asp helps you locate and review nursing homes in your area.
- Hospital Discharge Planners and Social Workers can help coordinate long term care services.
There are also many free brochures available that provide very helpful information, including:
- "A Guide to Choosing a Nursing Home" – available from Medicare (1-800-633-4227)
- "Resource Directory for Older People" – from the Administration On Aging (www.aoa.gov/eldfam/eldfam.asp)
- "How to Choose a Home Care Provider" – from the National Association for Home Care (202-547-7424)
End of life planning
It's seldom easy to face the end of a life. So it's only natural that we resist preparing for it.
Unfortunately, a lack of planning just makes it that much more difficult at the end. And when important decisions have to be made quickly and under great stress, it's not uncommon to make very costly mistakes.
So the time to make those decisions is now. The following information will help you get started.
An estate plan
Everyone should have an estate plan, no matter how much or how little you have to leave behind. It is the only legal way to ensure that your wishes will be carried out — not only after your death, but if you become incapacitated. An estate planning attorney can draft the components of your estate plan based on your wishes.
A letter of instruction
In addition to the legal documents, you should write a simple letter of instruction; and make sure that those close to you know where to find it. This letter may include:
- Your wishes for a funeral and any prearrangements you've made with a funeral home and or cemetery
- Information about your insurance policies including Medicare
- A list of your financial accounts including checking, savings, CDs, investments, loans, etc.
- The location of important papers and the key to your safe deposit box and/or any locked containers
- Persons to contact
Review your estate plan periodically to ensure that it is up-to-date with your assets and your wishes.
Preplanning funeral arrangements
One of the most thoughtful things you can do for your family is to give them the freedom to celebrate your life instead of the burden of planning your funeral. When you are ready to take that step, a trusted funeral provider can explain all of the options available to you, including the details of your service, from the music to the flower arrangements.
A great level of customization can go into funeral or memorial services today, and preplanning allows you to share the specifics about which type of service you prefer. Reflecting on your options and planning something meaningful to you and your loved ones ensures that your final arrangements appropriately celebrate your life. It also allows your loved ones to grieve and remember without the emotional and financial burdens often associated with planning a funeral.