Planning for long-term care as a single woman

Did you know that, by 2020, 12 million Americans will need long-term care? Of those 12 million, the majority of long-term care participants are women. Planning for long-term care as a single woman can be confusing and often emotional. For many pre-retirees and retirees, long term care is a shared conversation with a spouse or partner.

Going it alone, so to speak, can be intimidating. Many of my single clients who are considering long term care solutions for their future are worried about affordability, long term care insurance, and how they’ll be able to navigate the transition to long-term care while relying on friends, family, or children to help them.

The most important pieces of your long term care puzzle to think about are the costs associated with long term care, your own health and care preferences, and the strategy you can put in place to protect yourself as you move through retirement.

Know the Costs

The cost of long term care is the most intimidating part of putting together your comprehensive health care planning strategy in retirement. Unfortunately, long term care isn’t cheap – and for many, it’s unavoidable. Long term care includes:

  • Nursing homes
  • Assisted living facilities
  • Homemaker services
  • Adult daycare
  • Memory care facilities

Each of these options offers a different level of care, and what you end up deciding on is largely tied to your unique health situation. For example, someone may be physically able to care for themselves but simultaneously struggle with dementia – which might make a memory care facility or nursing home a good fit.

Alternatively, someone may be able to live on their own, but can’t complete some of the tasks required to care for themselves and their household like cooking, cleaning, performing physical therapy exercises, or running errands. A homemaker service, or in-home health care, might be a better option for them.

On average, a month in a semi-private room in a nursing home costs $6,844. For a one-bedroom unit in an assisted living center, you can expect to pay an average of $3,628 per month. Other services, like memory care, will increase in cost depending on how much care is required.

Understand Your Health

Even if you’re fit and healthy going into retirement, it pays to have a broader understanding of your health and family history. Talking with your doctor about what your future long term care needs might be is a great first step.

Your doctor can also help you to get a better understanding of what preventative measures you can start taking now to push off your need for long term care. Diet and exercise play a big role in your health – even when it comes to what many people view as unavoidable side effects of aging.

Although you may still end up requiring long term care eventually, getting ahead of the curve now by monitoring your health and making empowered decisions could save you money in the long run by reducing time spent in long term care, or by reducing other costs associated with your medical care in retirement.

Save and Plan Accordingly

There are two primary ways you can start to prepare for potentially needing long term care during retirement:

  1. Budgeting for long term care expenses and building your saving and spending strategy around those costs.
  2. Looking into long term care insurance options.

The easiest place to start is by estimating what potential long term care costs you might face in retirement, and starting to save for them now. You can also bake those anticipated expenses into your retirement spending plan and budget. For example, as a single woman, you might have less savings in retirement than someone in a dual-income, retired household might. However, that doesn’t mean you have to have less cash flow.

You might look at cutting out expenses (like a mortgage, if you choose to downsize) that reduce your total cost of living early in retirement and leave some of your savings for future long term care expenses. You might also look to boost your savings in the years before retirement, or by working part-time at the beginning of your retirement, to continue growing your retirement savings.

Long term care insurance is another option that many people consider. Unfortunately, long term care insurance, especially if you’re not receiving it through your employer, can be very expensive. It’s also important to understand what, exactly, a policy covers before signing up. Not all long-term care policies cover every aspect of treatment, and some require you to be in a facility for a specified period of time before their benefits kick in. Before making an investment in long term care insurance, reach out to a financial planner to discuss all of your options.

Talk to Friends and Family

If you’re a single woman heading into retirement, and you’re worried about long term care needs in the future, it’s worth having a conversation with your friends and family. You’ll be able to outline what type of care you’d want, and what you have budgeted for care. You can also ask for help if needed, especially if you’re concerned that you won’t notice when you need long-term care (as is often the case with dementia or Alzheimer’s patients).

Having an open and honest conversation about the financial and emotional aspects of long term care can help to get those closest to you on the same page, and give you some peace of mind knowing that you’re not alone in this. Five Wishes can also help communicate your healthcare preferences in case you’re not able to.

Do you have questions about long term care? Need help determining how to save for long term care needs in retirement? Schedule a call with me today. I’d love to chat with you about your unique concerns, and help you to build a plan that protects your health and your finances!

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