Preparing for Assisted-Living

Tips on Preparing for Long-Term Care in an Assisted-Living or Nursing Home

None of us like to think about the possibility of not being able to live on our own someday. But almost 70 percent of us will need some level of long-term care in our golden years, and making preparations before you actually need it can help you navigate the process more smoothly if that day comes.

A well-dressed elderly woman with gray hair

Premiums for long-term care have shot up 44.5 percent in recent years, and while Medicare is invaluable for many seniors, it won’t help much if you or a loved one needs to live in an assisted-living or nursing home. Here are some tips for planning and paying for this type of long-term care.

Establish your decision making, and stay open to change with your needs.

One of the first things you should do is get your advanced care wishes in order. Establishing an advanced directive and power of attorney are paramount in ensuring your safety and well-being, as they will appoint someone you trust to make medical and financial decisions in the case that you cannot. These documents are often confused with—but are different from—a living will. A living will is also an essential legal document, and it deals with desired quality life, approved treatments, and other medical matters. An advanced directive and power of attorney can never contradict your living will; rather, they are in place to fill in any gaps not covered by the living will. All of these documents should be reviewed frequently and kept up to date.

None of us can predict the future, which is why it’s important for us to stay open-minded when it comes to our options. The better prepared you are for different long-term care options, the more flexibility you will have in your golden years. Maybe you’ll age in place in the home you made all your family memories in. Maybe you’ll only need minimal home care to achieve a top-notch quality of life. Or maybe you’ll begin your retirement years in your home and eventually need to bring in home health aides, then move to a retirement community, then to a nursing home. Thorough plans and an open mind will better your chances of enjoying life—however it progresses.

Along with getting your affairs in order, it’s important to know how you’re going to pay for an assisted-living or nursing home if the day comes. There are a number of ways to save and pay for care over time, such as LTC insurance, a retirement fund, a health savings account, personal savings, etc. But if you’re a little late to the game or find yourself in a tough situation, you may need to look at other options:

Consider a reverse mortgage or selling your life insurance.

A reverse mortgage is basically a loan through which you receive a monthly payment based on a percentage of home equity you’ve accumulated, rather than paying a monthly mortgage. You must be a homeowner 62 or older to qualify, and your home must meet FHA property standards and flood requirements, among other factors. Even though it can get you cash for long-term care, do your research and weigh the pros and cons before diving into a reverse mortgage.

Another viable option for getting cash for long-term care is to “surrender” your life insurance policy—or in other words, sell it for a cash payout, which essentially means you are relinquishing ownership and death benefits to your insurance provider. Typically, your provider will cut you a check for the full amount of cash you’ve accumulated. However, you want to be careful if you plan on using Medicaid for long-term care, because your cash payout from your life insurance can count as an asset, which would affect your Medicaid eligibility.

Starting to plan now for possible long-term care in the future can end up saving you and your family a lot of money and stress. Establish your living will, advanced directive, and power of attorney. Plan thoughtfully and stay open-minded as you age. Look into ways to start saving now for long-term care, and if you need immediate cash, consider a reverse mortgage or selling your life insurance.

Written by Hazel Bridges

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