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Why Long-Term Care is a Women's Issue

4 reasons you should plan for later — now!

If you're like most women in the boomer generation, you've spent the past few decades of your life focusing on other people. Maybe you've raised kids and have been busy putting meals on the table, helping with homework and coordinating everyone's schedules. Or perhaps you've been caring for aging parents and dealing with all the demands that role entails. Or you might have been focusing your energy and attention on building your career.

Also see: Assess Your Long-Term Future Plan

No matter what you've been doing until now, though, it's time to shift the spotlight so that it's focused on you. If you're in your 40s, 50s or 60s, these are the prime years to start thinking about what might happen to you in the years ahead. The sooner you put a plan in place for your long-term care, the better prepared you'll be for whatever the future holds. Some things to keep in mind:

  1. This is your life — and you deserve to live it the way you want. Think of long-term care as the support you will need as you grow older and possibly more frail. That care might involve renovations to your home that will make it easier for you to get around; or new technology to keep you independent yet still connected; or help with transportation, shopping or personal needs; or medical care from, say, a visiting nurse or physical therapist. Unfortunately, though women are proactive in many areas of their lives, even those on the verge of retiring still don't know how much income they'll need and what costs they must cover.

  2. You're likely to live a very long time. Women outlive men by five years, and two-thirds of Americans over 85 are women. According to Georgetown University's Health Policy Institute, 65-year-old women today can expect to live about 20 more years — and the majority of them will need at least some help living independently.

  3. Long-term care is expensive. In 2010, the average costs for assisted living was more than $38,000 a year, according to the annual Genworth Cost of Care Survey. The annual cost of a private room in a nursing home was nearly $75,000, and home health aides averaged $19 per hour. The federal government's Long-Term Care Savings Calculator can help you figure out figure out the costs in your state.

  4. Most likely, you'll be paying out-of-pocket. A lot of people mistakenly believe that Medicare and private health insurance will cover all the costs of care as they age. Not so: Americans pay for most long-term care themselves until they run low enough on funds to qualify for Medicaid. But Medicaid often means fewer choices — especially in these budget-crunching times. Although the tide is shifting, in most states, the majority of Medicaid funds for long-term care go toward institutional care. But most of us much prefer to stay in our own homes or communities.

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