This May we will be celebrating National Elder Law Month. Our goal, as elder law attorneys, is to ensure that all of our clients and their loved ones can find and gain access to the right long-term care for them. Finding long-term care, however, is just one part of the equation.

The second part, and perhaps more difficult, part of the long-term care equation is ensuring that we can find a way to pay for the care we need. The reality is that as we age our needs may drastically change. The National Institute on Aging shares with us “you can never know for sure if you will need long-term care. Maybe you will never need it. But an unexpected accident, illness, or injury can change your needs, sometimes suddenly. The best time to think about long-term care is before you need it.”

Unfortunately, many of us do not plan for long-term care needs early on. Whether we will self-finance our long-term care needs, purchase long-term care insurance, or need to qualify to access public benefits programs, there is never the wrong time to have this conversation.

Let us share with you this month, five elder care planning tips everyone can benefit from learning.

1. Elder Care Planning Tip 1: Learn the costs of long-term care in our state.

There are different types of long-term care available to seniors based on need. From home health care and independent living facilities to assisted living facilities and skilled nursing facilities, where you live may be largely dependent on your care needs. You can learn more about the costs of care in our state based on region and the care you need using this link to the Genworth Cost of Care Survey.

2. Elder Care Planning Tip 2:  Identify how you will be able to afford long-term care in the future.

This is not a conversation that you want to put off. It is critical that you talk to your attorney and financial planner to determine if you would be able to incorporate an additional three to eight thousand dollars in your monthly budget. Unfortunately, most of us cannot and need to begin to plan for how we would cover this deficit for ourselves or a spouse if it becomes necessary.

3. Elder Care Planning Tip 3: Talk to your loved ones about your concerns.

Sharing your concerns with your loved ones can help you not only ally your concerns but will allow you to recruit them to help you plan for the future. This is the time to discuss with them if they will be involved in your long-term care plans and what role they will play in your plans.

4. Elder Care Planning Tip 4: Make sure your estate planning is current.

It is critical that you have estate planning in place. This type of planning is not just about the legacy you will leave but, especially in the instance, the person you will name to act for you in a crisis. Having a durable power of attorney in place that names the agent who has legal authority to make decisions for you in a crisis, including long-term care decisions, is essential to this process.

5. Elder Care Planning Tip 5: Check in to ensure your estate plan considers future disability.

Further, when it comes to estate planning, many estate plans are silent on the subject of long-term care. You want to ensure that not only do you have a decision maker that can act for you in a crisis but that you have included language that will have him or her find you the long-term care you need in a crisis and may help you obtain eligibility for long-term care programs.

We know this is a topic that can be challenging to consider and plan for. Do not wait to ask us your questions this month or throughout the year. We look forward to helping you obtain the elder care planning you need.