Eldercare: How to develop a long-term care plan
Senior citizens get a bad rap for being cheap. But there’s no way to stick to a low budget when it comes to eldercare: It costs $77,745 annually to live privately in a nursing home. That’s a jump of $17,520 per year compared to 2005, according to the Genworth 2011 Cost of Care Survey, which sees prices continuing to rise.
Navigating your way through the individual-care maze and determining how you will pay for eldercare can be daunting. Wendy Boglioli, Olympic gold medalist and long-term care advocate, is on a mission to help aging populations live the life they’ve always envisioned. She spoke to Reuters about fostering a passion for preparation and developing a long-term plan for successful aging.
From Olympic athlete to long-term care expert and Genworth spokesperson — tell me about your journey from the podium to elder advocacy.
My parents were my Olympic coaches until I was 18. My father had became really ill about nine months before I went to the Olympics and when we came back, his health went downhill. I saw what it did financially and physically to my mother and my siblings — I’m one of seven children — to find placement for my dad in a nursing home, to determine costs and to research help for my mom. It was absolutely devastating for our family.
I couldn’t believe how many people were going through the same thing and that’s what lead me on the path to long-term care. I always say my father trained me to the meter of an Olympic gold medal but he failed to plan in the area of needing care for his life and my mother’s. Now, almost 30 years after his death, we recently put my 90-year-old mother in a nursing home. No family is immune to it. This experience has given me the passion to help people.
What are the first steps individuals should take when exploring, and planning, their long-term care needs?
I think, first and foremost, if you’re not healthy than get healthy. It’s a relatively easy fix on the physical side for most Americans.
If you have money, look at the ways that you can pay for your care. For those working with a financial adviser, discuss long-term care insurance. Look at your family — families still provide 83 percent of caregiving in this country — and ensure you feel comfortable and confident in planning conversations.
For those that aren’t healthy, who don’t have insurance, or assets to protect — they clearly need a winning strategy. That’s where a circle of friends and influence comes in. Look at the costs as they arise and determine how this community will help you as an individual. How does that support combat the cost? Reaching out and asking for help is important to start doing now, way before retirement.
How can a financial adviser help with planning for geriatric care?
I’ve sat with a lot of financial advisers over the years. There is an increase in awareness and planning for long-term care costs for their clients and their portfolios. I didn’t see that 10 years ago. Today, a couple over 65 needs, on average, about $230,000 for healthcare costs in retirement. That doesn’t include long-term care costs, dental or vision. This is where financial advisers are actually getting really good, zoning in with the client and having those tough conversations saying, “Hey, you might not have enough money and here’s the planning we have to do now.”
You mentioned the importance of long-term care insurance. Why do you consider it essential and what can it add to your long-term plan?
Long-term care insurance is predicated on certain factors. First, the client has to be healthy in order to purchase a policy and they have to be between the ages of 18 and 80. Also, you want them to have some assets to protect. Those are three good standards for consumers to look at when asking themselves if they should purchase a policy. Working with a good financial adviser can help you weed through what’s important to you in a policy because companies vary in underwriting and cost.
If something happened to either myself or my husband, I don’t want to go into my 401(k), I don’t want to disrupt my portfolio, and I certainly don’t want my kids to provide that care. Also, the industry finds that people are coming in and out of care. Often times, people think long-term care insurance is death row, but in fact, it can bring a great quality to your life because somebody else is paying for your care and your money can continue to grow in your portfolio. If something happened to me at 56-years-old and I went into care, but I got better and went on with my life, a policy would allow me to preserve my funds.
There is such a variety of services available for the aging population. How important is it to commission the right kind of care for an individual?
Once you’re in the situation, as we were with my father and later my mother, control is everything. Having control of where you want your care, how it will be provided and what the costs will be requires homework. Nobody brings this to the table, you have to search it out. Our cost of care survey has done that for people and continues to do that every year so individuals aren’t blindsided.
It’s also important to have a plan in place. There are a lot of people who don’t have a power of attorney, wills or trusts set up. This has a huge impact on women because we live longer than men, are the caregivers and are the primary recipients of care so women have to prepare even more.
(This interview has been edited and condensed)