We spend time and money planning for many big events in life: college tuition, weddings, retirement, travel “” the list could go on, but one big expense that many people overlook is the possibility of needing long-term care. These costs can really add up, so it’s important to start planning as early as possible to avoid being caught off guard later on.

What Kind of Care Will You Need?

Whether you’re planning for yourself or a loved one, there are a few risk factors to consider, starting with your family. Do you have a family history of illnesses or conditions that would require assistance or medical care? According to Forbes, having a family history of dementia and other neurological problems increases the odds that you will need long-term care.

Besides these genetic factors, it’s also important to look at your lifestyle and changes you could make to reduce the risk of injury or illness. In some instances, applying a more holistic approach can make a huge improvement and lessen your risk of problems down the road.

  • Diet – Are you eating a healthy, balanced diet? What you eat can affect your chances of developing heart disease and other chronic illnesses. Make sure to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains. Avoid too much dairy as well as processed foods, and be sure to drink plenty of water. Remember, you are what you eat!
  • Exercise – Are you keeping your heart and lungs healthy with exercise? Exercise can also strengthen your bones and increase flexibility, reducing your risk of injury. Low-impact exercise can help you make serious strides in your health. Look to activities like walking, yoga and hiking.
  • Meditation – Stress can be a huge contributor to poor health. By finding ways to cope with and curb stress, you can make serious inroads in your physical and mental health. If meditation is new to you, look to guided apps to help you get started.
  • Unhealthy habits – Unhealthy habits like smoking and excessive drinking can lead to serious illnesses. Make a point to look into smoking cessation, and limit your alcohol intake. As mentioned above, it’s also a good idea to cut out processed foods. By cutting back on sodas, fast food and convenience meals you’re adding to your longevity.

Along with assessing your risk of needing long-term care, planning ahead also means learning about your options. Start by researching the options for care where you live and getting an understanding of the different levels of care. Think about what type of care you would prefer. Do you want to stay in your home as long as possible? If so, think about whether you need to make any modifications to age at home safely, and factor those costs into your planning.

How Will You Pay for Care?

Many people who don’t plan ahead pay for long-term care largely out of pocket. With the high costs of care, paying out of pocket means you run the risk of depleting your savings. Kiplinger explains how one option to maximize savings is to use a health savings account (HSA) for long-term care costs. It’s important to keep in mind that the amount you can draw tax-free varies depending on your age, so this is less beneficial if you need care at a younger age.

Another option is to use insurance to cover costs. If you are a caregiver for your parents, it’s natural to be concerned about the costs of their long-term care needs and end-of-life care. It isn’t uncommon for surviving loved ones to be left with bills, whether it’s medical bills, hospice care, or funeral costs. If you’re worried about being able to cover those costs, you may want to purchase a life insurance policy for your parents to have peace of mind that you’ll be covered.

If you’re planning for your own expenses, the traditional option is to purchase long-term care insurance. Long-term care insurance isn’t for everyone, but it can be a good way to protect your savings if that is a concern. These policies are more affordable when you’re younger and healthier, so the earlier you buy a policy, the better off you will be.

Long-term care is one of the greatest expenses many people encounter. Your lifestyle and family history can impact your risk, but there’s no way to know for sure what to expect. With so much on the line, the best strategy is to change your lifestyle and plan ahead so you’re ready for any possibility.

By: Karen Weeks of ElderWellness.net