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Long-Term Care: Are You Prepared?

If you're a woman, probably not — even though you're more likely to need it than your husband

Where do you start?

First, come up with a vision of how you want to be cared for once you need assistance, says Black. This includes home renovations to enable you to remain there as long as possible, or determining whom you want to help you with your day-to-day needs, be it an adult child or paid caregiver. Then, sit down with your family members and talk about it.

"We have many people who do want to bring it up with their children and the children will change the topic," says Black. "People don't want to talk about these last chapters in life. But, death is just a natural part of life, and we need to be comfortable talking about this."

The holidays are a good time to broach the topic, says Black, but so is tax-planning season or any other time when you can get everyone together in one place. When it comes to the legal paperwork, an elder law attorney can help not only ensure you have all the right documents but can be a valuable third party as you broach discussions about your estate and inheritance with your heirs.

A financial adviser can help you determine how long-term care will be paid for, either from your own assets or long-term care insurance. The younger you are when you first purchase insurance, the lower your rates will be. AARP also has a workbook that will help you navigate the planning process.

But most importantly, experts advise that you start planning long before you need help. "Otherwise what happens is somebody ends up in the hospital and they can't go home because of a health event," Black says. "Now, you've got to take the first bed available at a facility, and you've lost the luxury of time of choosing where you wanted to go. Planning in advance really keeps people in control."

Cynthia Ramnarace writes about health and families. She lives in Rockaway Beach, N.Y.

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