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Get Ready, Get Set, Plan!

With America’s highest proportion of age 65-plus residents, many Florida families are wrestling with the challenges that come with getting older.  Now AARP Florida is reaching out to Florida women of the Baby Boom generation, offering them new tools that can help them take control of how and where they grow older.

AARP Florida is alerting hundreds of thousands of Florida women this summer that the association has developed new, easy-to-use, step-by-step tools that address not only the financial side of care planning, but also legal and family issues.  

Making thoughtful care plans that protect you and your loved ones has never been more vital.  With average annual costs for nursing-home care running around $65,000 (though care at home can be much less expensive), any unexpected sickness or injury can devastate one’s savings. AARP surveys have found that many Floridians wrongly assume that Medicare, Medicaid or private health insurance policies will cover long-term care.

Actually, Medicare provides very limited coverage for skilled nursing care.  Medicaid will cover nursing-home costs but not care in an assisted-living facility, or, for the most part, care at home – and then only after you have expended nearly all of your assets.  And most private health-care policies don’t cover long-term care.

Resulting unexpected care costs can come as a shocker. Cathy Kerns, 61, of Orlando, faced this after her husband developed esophageal cancer in 2008. Kerns thought she had enough money to cover medical and long-term care costs.  But she lives with a chronic illness, and between her needs and his intensive care, costs were unexpectedly high.  “We lost half of our investment portfolio in the last two years,” explained Kerns. “I’m very much afraid and apprehensive and I had never planned for these financial burdens.”

After her mother’s recent death at 72 from a stroke, Kerns found herself without family support. “I’m single, my husband has died and I have no parents,” said Kerns. “Who do I go to [for help] other than a priest at my church?”  For the time being, she’s doing better than many and hopes the equity on her house will help carry her through.  
Lori Intravichit, a professional Boomer woman who worked in the healthcare industry, says lack of planning was a challenge not only to finances but also to relationships. Although Intravichit had a supportive family and financial security, she wasn’t prepared for her parents’ reaction as they aged. “I didn’t know they would get mad. That’s the part I was not prepared for, was that they would be mad that they didn’t have a car, mad that they were getting old,” said Intravichit. “They were both getting sicker.  They were really, for about a year and half, very angry with me. They felt like I was doing this to them,” Intravichit said when she tried to persuade her parents to move to an assisted living facility.

Intravichit’s mother now resides at an assisted living facility in St. Petersburg. According to Intravichit, her mother is happier there than she would be at home, where she would have been lonelier. “They take them to Bingo, have them do crossword puzzles and they have people encouraging them and checking in on them every two hours,” said Intravichit.

But the good news is that with sufficient advance planning, even difficult situations can be handled.  Good care plans can help you remain independent longer by providing you with the support you need to remain living independently in your home or in another setting as long as possible.

But advance planning is critical.  The recommended window to begin planning for long-term care for your parents is about ten years before they reach 70. For yourself, it’s recommended to start in your mid-40s to mid-50s.

Learn more about resources, planning and available long-term care options.

Other Resources

Planning your long-term care

Be Prepared. Planning for Long Term Care. AARP’s Free Resource Guide

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