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**This guest blog was written by Lydia Chan from Alzheimer’s Caregiver**

When you look to the future, what are your thoughts about long-term care? While it’s not a pleasant topic, many seniors end up requiring care in a nursing home or assisted living situation. Should you or someone you love need assistance, what are your plans, and how will you cover costs? These are important questions to ask, as the answers can have a major impact on your assets and the care you can receive.

Expanding your Coverage

Growing older often means increasing medical costs, and care in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or another long-term care situation is expensive. Medicare helps those age 65 and older, but not all expenses are covered. For example, U.S. News reported that people turning 65 in 2015 could expect to pay an average of $138,000 relating to long-term care. With that sort of figure in mind, it’s crucial to ensure you have an appropriate method for covering costs if you or someone you love will need medical care or have ongoing expenses. A third of all seniors enrolled in Medicare find additional help by participating in a Medicare Advantage plan. These policies expand your coverage, and you can compare your options by clicking here.

Supplemental plans are just one way to handle health care costs when you’re older. Here are some other ideas for covering medical expenses and the costs of long-term care:

Long-Term Care Insurance

Long-term care insurance covers the costs associated with long-term care, including expenses not typically covered by other insurances, like custodial care. Custodial care includes assistance with activities like feeding and bathing. Kiplinger explains that since long-term care insurance premiums rise with age and declining health, the best time to purchase a policy is when you’re relatively young and healthy, ideally in your 50's or early 60's.

Short-Term Care Insurance

Short-term care insurance is very similar to long-term care insurance in the sense that policies cover custodial care in skilled health care facilities. However, it’s important to note policies are typically limited to coverage for stays up to one year. 

Hybrid Long-Term Care Insurance

These types of insurance policies combine both life insurance with long-term care insurance.  Essentially, you dip into the death benefit in order to pay for your long-term care costs. The payout to your beneficiaries is then reduced by however much you use, and there are often caps on how much you can apply toward your expenses, as well as qualifications as to how funds are used. A boon under some circumstances, Washington’s Top News recommends exploring the pros and cons of these policies carefully before you jump in.

Health Savings Account

A health savings account, or HSA, is a potential option for those still in the workforce, and it’s loaded with benefits. Money stowed in an HSA can be deducted from your federal income taxes, and it earns interest tax-free while it sits there. Funds can carry over into retirement, and can be withdrawn at any time without paying taxes as long as it’s used for appropriate medical expenses. When it comes to long-term care, this can be the tricky part, and it is in most people’s best interests to work with a tax or financial advisor when deciding what can and cannot be paid for with HSA funds.

Department of Veteran's Affairs

Veterans and their surviving spouses have access to long-term care benefits through the Department of Veterans Affairs. However, like most insurances, there are limitations; for instance, veterans must have no more than $80,000 in assets to qualify. There are also income restrictions for those receiving assistance. 

Evaluating Need

To make an informed decision about long-term care expenses, you should look at more than your financial situation. It’s important to take a close and realistic view of your health or your loved one’s health. Do you or someone you love suffer with a chronic health condition? Issues like diabetes, heart disease, and arthritis can all take a serious toll on one’s independence in later years. Are there any diseases that run in your family, such as Alzheimer’s or cancer? Do you partake in an unhealthy habit, such as cigarette smoking? Look at your current situation and plan for your future accordingly.

You can’t be too prepared when it comes to the expense of long-term care. Thoughtfully consider your situation, and weigh the expenses and your options if you or someone you love requires assistance. Ensuring needs can be met provides quality of life and peace of mind.

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