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Women – Stay in Control: Women and Long-Term Care Planning

Written by Featured Organization on 29 November 2010.

Today’s women have more lifestyle options than ever before. We consistently assume many important roles – from caring for our loved ones (both young and old) to pursuing vibrant careers and lives.

In fact, women are often heralded for their multi-tasking skills. However, there is one task many of us put on the back burner, and that’s planning for our own futures. When it comes to our home, health and finances, we like to be in control. Understanding and arranging for long-term care is one of the smartest decisions we can make to stay in command of our future. But for too many women, particularly those of African-American descent, there is still a great deal of important information we are not familiar with and don’t incorporate into critical planning for our futures.

Long-term care is a combination of a wide range of health and personal care elements that enable us to live as well as possible, how and where we want to live, including providing daily help, if we develop chronic conditions that last a long time. AARP research shows that nearly nine in 10 Americans want to stay independent and in their own homes, but as people grow older and/or chronic conditions or disabilities develop, they may need help bathing, dressing or getting around. Planning for long-term care can help you and your family be more comfortably equipped to meet your future needs. This preparation includes assessing future lifestyle needs and goals as they relate to your home and community, health, finances and personal wishes.

We’re living in a wonderful world where many people are enjoying longer lives. In fact, women outlive men by five years, and two-thirds of Americans over 85 years old are women. However, a woman’s income is nearly 25 percent lower than that of their single male counterparts and one-forth that of their married counterparts – reducing a woman’s capacity to afford long-term care costs. Even if a woman never requires long-term care, a family member or friend probably will. Understanding your long-term care needs and options is the first step towards taking control of your future.

AARP’s research has also discovered that while African-American women are less in denial about the necessity of long-term care planning than other groups surveyed, at the same time these women have the fewest financial plans in place. African-American women say they will rely highly on family for future support; but they voice serious concern as to whether the younger family members will be prepared to step in and help out when needed.

Overall, caregiving is a key component in many Americans’ lives. In fact, more than 43 million Americans over the age of 18 provide unpaid care for people age 50+. African-American women caregivers spend 20 hours a week as an unpaid caregiver to a loved one. In essence, caregiving can be similar to holding a part-time job. Additionally, many caregivers may need to take time off from their full-time work, which often cuts into their pay.

This brings us back to the importance of long-term care planning among women. As caregivers, many women see and experience the angst of uncertainty surrounding finances and health that often accompany administering care during a crisis. In a moment of reflection, you may realize you don’t want others to have these same experiences and you want to be in control of decisions affecting you. Taking a few steps now will give you peace of mind in the future.

Because so many women live longer, it may mean living alone later in life, which increases the likelihood of requiring long-term care from a paid provider. Planning ahead is so very important because long-term care is expensive, and Medicare and private health insurance do not cover these high costs. Did you know that the average nursing home costs $77,000 a year! Most people cover the cost of any long-term care they may need out of personal savings or other financial assets. And, most likely, for many of your expenses you could end up paying out-of-pocket.

So, as an African-American woman, how do you get your long-term care plan into action? First, make healthy choices now to support an active lifestyle. Also, it is very important to share your medical and financial wishes with your family and friends today, so you stay in control of important, future life decisions as well as help ease your loved ones’ uncertainly. Next, investigate how your home and community will serve your future lifestyle needs and goals. And finally, know the costs of long-term care options and how those expenses will be covered.

AARP’s Decide. Create. planning resources can help you get started. The Decide. Create. campaign is supported by three major non-profit organizations focused on women: the American Association of University Women (AAUW), MANA – A National Latina Organization, and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW).

Focused mainly on the nearly 40 million baby boomer women in the U.S., the campaign is a call-to-action to every woman from every background. Through online tools and resources, local community events and a variety of media outreach, AARP and its collaborators will use Decide. Create. Share. sm to raise awareness of long-term care planning among women – and men – across the nation.

Take this message to heart. Think about your future and the future of your loved ones. There are simple things you can do now that cost little or no money. Also, make use of resources through Decide. Create. Share. sm Find out what’s possible. Think about long-term care now – it’s that important. Call 1-888-OUR-AARP for a free long-term care planning guide and for more information.

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