If you haven't considered long-term care during the latter stages of retirement, now's the time, says Sean Kell, CEO of A Place for Mom, the country's largest senior-living referral service.
Kell says his organization works daily with the families of people in need of care who scramble to find a solution and are shocked by its price tag. The cost for caring for someone with Alzheimer's is especially high.
Dealing with the realization that they can't afford the kind of care they want for their parents -- or for themselves -- is hard to do, Kell says, especially when people are forced to accept an option they feel isn't suitable.
Kell believes planning for aging is the part of retirement planning many people ignore because it is unpleasant to think about. But coming to grips with the problem can help you avoid its worst aspects. Here are three key steps to take:
Identify a preferred place for care. If you would prefer to stay at home, as many people do, get your home ready for the possibility that you will still be living there when you are old and frail.
Prepare the necessary paperwork to give a family member or a friend the legal capability to make medical decisions for you and manage your affairs when you aren't able to do it yourself.
Figure out how you will pay for the care you need. Kell urges people to take another look at long-term care insurance -- even if they have already decided they can't afford it. He says some companies are offering innovative plans that make this kind of insurance more affordable.
Other options for paying include the Veteran's Administration Aid and Attendance benefit, which is available to veterans who served in the military during time of war and their spouses. The VA estimates that 25 percent of people older than 50 are eligible for this benefit, but only 5 percent of those who are eligible claim it. Call the VA for more information.