Planning for Long-Term Care

By Tamara Polley


“I am in great health,” my client said. “Why should I worry about long-term care?”

“I don’t want you to worry about it,” I answered. “I want you to plan for it so that you don’t end up in a crisis situation some time in the future.”

Here are five good reasons to plan for long-term care:

1. Avoid stress when a crisis hits.

Whether the need for long-term care results from a sudden event (such as a stroke or a fall) or from a progressive illness that can no longer be managed alone or by a family member (such as Parkinson’s or dementia), determining the type of care needed and making arrangements for that care is stressful.

When paying for care is added to the mix, the task is overwhelming. Clients in this situation are very anxious and emotional, and I usually have to walk them through the process step-by-step because they are unable to handle multiple instructions.

If the client has investigated available care options and costs, and has a strategy in place, then implementing the plan is much more manageable.

2. Retain some control.

One of the consequences of growing old is the loss of control over your own circumstances. This is especially true when it comes to arranging for long-term care.

By planning early, you decide who makes decisions for you when you are unable to do so, and you have a voice in determining what type of care you will get, be it an in-home caregiver or moving into a residential facility. You may also decide who your caregiver will be and how to pay for that care. If a crisis happens with no plan in place, usually all of these things will be decided for you by others, and you may have little or no input.

3. Have a voice in care options.

When we boomers hear the phrase “long-term care,” we usually think of the nursing home our grandmother lived in 30 years ago – the one that smelled antiseptic and looked like a mortuary waiting room. Nobody wants to go there!

Today there are many more options available, including assistance in your own home, independent living (an apartment in a facility with staff available to provide help if needed), and assisted living (in a facility where you have your own room, but meals, transportation and housekeeping are provided).

Planning ahead, you can study all the options and make a choice, which you may not have the time or clarity to do in a crisis situation.

4. Stay in your home longer.

I say this for two reasons. First, a crisis often occurs when a family member providing care can no longer cope with the workload, or that person’s own health problems – in some cases, brought on or exacerbated by caregiving – leave him or her unable to work.

For this reason, it is imperative that you find out what assistance is available in the community and get help as early as possible. By doing this early, your caregiver will stay healthier longer, to everyone’s advantage.

Second, a crisis can occur when a loved one who has “managed on his or her own” has a sudden problem that could have been avoided with proper care. By educating yourself about the assistance available and getting help early – including managing medications or meals, or having someone come in on a regular basis to assist with housekeeping or hygiene – you may stay healthy longer and prolong your own independence.

5. Save money.

If we are doing financial and legal planning in a crisis, when everything must be dropped to create the plan, it is going to cost more. If you plan before the crisis, the financial and legal costs will be reduced.

This also gives you the ability to shop for services and consider alternatives. In a crisis, you typically have neither the time to shop nor the availability of multiple alternatives. You take what you can get and pay what you must.