Most people over 65 will need some kind of help with the activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, or moving around. The need for such help can stem from a chronic illness or the natural decline of eyesight, hearing, strength, balance, and mobility that comes with aging. It’s never too early, or too late, to start planning for long-term care.
Many people think the phrase “long-term care” refers to an insurance policy. While insurance may be part of your strategy, long-term care encompasses many other decisions. You will need to decide where you will live, how you will navigate the myriad of legal, family, and social dynamics along the way, and the many options for paying for everyday help. Though a number of government programs may help pay for some long-term care services, many people are faced with significant out-of-pocket costs.
In partnership with LongTermCare.gov, Huffington Post took a look at eleven myths that may be keeping some from planning for long-term care, and ways you and your loved ones can prepare for the future.
Myth 1: I won’t need it
About 70 percent of Americans over 65 will need some kind of help with the activities of daily living for months or years as they age. It may be due to an illness, chronic disease, or disability. But often, the care is required because of the natural decline due to aging of one’s eyesight, hearing, strength, balance, or mobility.
Myth 2: It means an insurance policy
Many people confuse “long-term care planning” with “long-term care insurance plans,” but they are not the same. Insurance is just one of many options people consider for covering the costs of long-term care. Long-term care planning means developing your personal strategy and making decisions now for how you want a range of things to be handled later when you or a loved one is in need of long-term care services.
Myth 3: Medicare, Medicaid, or another government program will pay for it
A number of public programs, including Medicare and Medicaid, may help pay for some long-term care services under certain circumstances. However, each program has specific rules about what services are covered, how long you can receive benefits, whether or not you qualify for benefits, and how much you have to pay in out-of-pocket costs. It is best not to assume that a government program will pay for long-term care services until you have fully researched the program rules and limitations in your area.
Myth 4: It’s too soon or too late for me to plan
The best time to create your long-term care strategy is before you actually need long-term care. If you’re over 50, there’s no time like now to begin. But, even if you are in the midst of receiving services for yourself or a loved one, it’s still helpful to go through the planning steps. That way, you can be better informed, prepared, and in control of decisions ahead.
Myth 5: It doesn’t cost that much
Long-term care is more expensive than most people think, and you will likely be responsible for paying out of your own pocket for the care you need. Because there are many kinds of long-term care services and supports, there is a wide range of costs depending on the type of care, where it is given, and by whom.
Myth 6: My current home is the best place to age
Most people prefer to stay in their home or apartment for as long as possible. But, whether your home is “aging friendly” depends on its condition and whether it can be modified for someone with limited mobility. It is important to consider architectural obstacles such as stairs as well as the safety and ease of use of the bathroom. Another option is to move to a community or facility that is more supportive of long-term care needs. Some states offer low-interest loans and grants for home renovations, so check with your local Area Agency on Aging to see whether you qualify.
Myth 7: My family will take care of me
Unpaid family members are the most common source of long-term care help. But, they may not be able to provide all the care you need, or be there every hour of the day. As part of your long-term care strategy, look into caregiving services in your area, including in-home care providers and elder daycare centers. Find out about elder shuttles, meals on wheels, and other low-cost services offered in your community here.
Myth 8: Falls just happen, there’s no sense worrying
Did you know that one in three older Americans falls every year? Falls are the leading cause of both fatal and nonfatal injuries for people aged 65+, and can result in hip fractures, broken bones, head injuries, and significant loss of independence. The good news about falls is that most of them can be prevented.
Myth 9: Alzheimer’s can’t be cured, so there’s no reason to think about it
While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, you can plan ahead to make a difficult situation better for everyone. In general, planning for long-term care is like planning for dementias like Alzheimer’s disease. While many of the same planning steps apply, certain steps take on added importance. The loss of executive function associated with dementia can create hardships for caregivers in arranging or paying for care.
Myth 10: Long-term care means nursing homes, and I don’t want that
Long-term care is a lot more than nursing homes, and getting care where you want may require thinking ahead. In thinking about long-term care, it is important to consider where you will live as you age and whether your place of residence can accommodate your needs should you become unable to fully care for yourself.
Myth 11: I don’t need to worry about how to pay for care, I can save enough on my own
Long-term care can be very expensive and represents a huge financial risk to retirement savings. While some people may qualify for a public program to help pay for these expenses, most people use a variety of options, including long-term care insurance, personal income and savings, life insurance, annuities and reverse mortgages to ensure they can pay for the care they require.