• Karen McPhail

The Importance of Having a Plan for Care

Planning, planning, planning. It seems like that’s all we hear about these days. Career planning, family planning, meal planning, retirement planning. Then what? What do we plan for after planning for retirement?

We also need to plan for living a long life. As a population we are living longer. I met recently with a 64-year-old gentleman whose grandfather was alive and in good health at age 103! A 65 year old today can expect to live another 17 years but many are living far longer than that. The fastest growing age group is the group over age 85. When the social security system was initially put into place, it was set up as a safety net for those few people who lived much beyond age 65. Now there are people who are drawing from the Social Security system for almost as many years as they paid into it.

So how do we plan for living a long life? Obviously, we need to have our finances in order as best as possible. The greatest fear of many retirees is outliving their assets. Many are dependent on investment income to supplement Social Security earnings to meet their day-to-day expenses. Most people are reluctant to tap into their principal, wanting to preserve it at all costs. They want to preserve the income stream but they also want to preserve the principal so they have something to leave to their partner, family, or favorite charity.

One of the greatest risks to a portfolio is that of an extended care need. And the likelihood of needing care increases significantly with increased age. The older we are, the more likely we are to develop conditions that may require us to have assistance with day- to -day activities such as bathing, dressing, getting in and out of a chair. The need for assistance can be due to things like severe arthritis, emphysema, cardiac problems, or even an accident. It may also be due to conditions such as multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s. It may simply be due to growing old and more frail or developing dementia. Of those over age 85, fifty percent have some level of dementia. Remember, this is the fastest growing age group in our country!

Planning for a long life must include planning for disability or incapacity. Have you given this any thought? If you were unable to care for yourself, what would you do? Who would be able to care for you? Would your care be considerate and accommodating to your current lifestyle? What would needing care mean for your friends and loved ones? Would you be able, physically, emotionally, and financially to provide the necessary care?

Have you made your preferences known if you need care? Many of us have living wills and other documents that may say we do not want to be kept alive by artificial means. Chronic conditions such as arthritis, cardiac problems, emphysema, Alzheimer’s disease, do not require life support. These are not situations where you are given the choice of “pulling the plug”. You could live with these conditions for many years, still enjoying many activities and relationships while needing assistance on a daily basis.

As part of your planning, it’s important first of all to acknowledge that living a long life is a near certainty, that the longer we live the more likely we are to need some type of day to day assistance; that Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veteran’s Administration do not provide for the type of care that we are most likely to need. The care most likely to be needed is having someone come into our own home to provide assistance.

It’s then important to acknowledge that an extended care situation will have a tremendous impact on those close to you. What would the impact be on these individuals if they become responsible for your care twenty-four hours a day? Think about the impact even if they provide care only eight hours a day. What does that do to their lifestyle? To their career? To their other responsibilities and commitments? What would it mean to them financially?

I firmly believe that loved ones will do all they can to provide care, but it can be very difficult. They will do the right thing, but having a plan in place can help them in this new role as caregiver.

If care is needed, how will you pay for it? Have you considered investigating long-term care insurance as an option to provide the financing for extended care services? Many people are unaware that long term care policies will pay for a caregiver to come into your home to provide care there. Many people are also unaware that such policies may reimburse for home modifications that allow you to age in place. Have you considered purchasing an annuity that provides an endless stream of income to supplement social security? Are you aware that some annuities may provide an extra benefit to pay for care?

Do a favor for yourself and for your loved ones: have a plan for long term care. Seek information from professional experts to provide you with proper guidance and support! Build a team that includes a proper elder care or estate planning attorney to draft or update your legal documents making your wishes both known and binding. Consult with a trusted financial advisor who understands you personally and will help develop a efficient funding strategy that will pay for your care when needed. Consult early with a RN care manager to not only guide your path clinically, but to also provide reputable referrals, guidance on a variety of areas, assist in forming an emergency plan, relocation support, and advocacy if needed. Care Managers often serve as a primary contact and a liaison between support team members. Let people know your wishes and seek out liked minded individuals to support you along the way! Then, enjoy the peace of mind that comes from good planning and enjoy the years that you have been given!

If you would like help starting your own long-term care plan feel free to email the Daniel Kuper one of our inclusive service financial management providers at or contact him directly at 585-267-9387. RN care management support for care planning, advocacy, clinical guidance, and support can also be obtained from our resources page where we have many inclusive service and care providers!

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