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Aging and staging your life

Aging and Staging Your Life for a Better Future

By: June Duncan, Guest Contributor

At a certain age, we all must accept that our bodies will weaken, our minds will wander, and someone will likely have to provide us care each day. But it’s what we do before that time that makes a difference in our end-of-life happiness.

Planning for the long road

Age brings with it the possibility for many health conditions that can’t be handled alone. According to Texas A&M, seniors experience a host of issues that affect physical and mental well-being. Sensory impairments, accidents, cognitive decline and even low self-esteem can negatively impact an individual’s ability to remain independent. Living alone, making unhealthy choices and family history all play a role in senior health. Education and income may also impact a person’s health — lower-income individuals are less likely to seek early treatment for developing health problems.

Some seniors find that enrolling in a Medicare Advantage plan can help. Some providers offer plans that give seniors access to wellness programs and dental and vision care. Also, many cognitive, mobility and visual impairments respond positively to minor home improvements. Added lighting throughout the house, a gradual incline ramp instead of stairs (installing an entrance ramp will likely run you $1,200 – $2,500), and senior monitoring may extend the ability to live alone safely. But these changes, along with wellness checks and support from family and friends, may not work as a long-term solution.

Paying for tomorrow

There are options to help cover the cost of long-term care. If you haven’t been able to save money, your assets are the first place you should look. For example, consider selling your home. Or if you’re not quite ready to sell and your home is paid for, renting it is an option that may help you cover the monthly cost of assisted living while keeping your heirs’ inheritance intact.

If you have a health savings account (HSA), this money will also come in handy when it’s time to receive in- or out-patient medical services. It is important to note, however, that upon Medicare eligibility, contributions to your HSA must cease. However, as explains, the funds are still useable and may cover the cost of prescription medication and other medical expenses.

Beyond assets and savings, Medicare, Medicaid (or your state’s version of the latter), private health insurance and specialty insurance are also viable payment options. It’s important to note that while Medicare covers long-term hospital stays, it doesn’t provide extended coverage for a nursing home. If you are middle or high income, you will not qualify for subsidized coverage under most state or federal programs. Medicaid and most similar state insurance programs require an income of less than the current poverty level.

Ways to lower costs

Your health is something you can change. Short of dementia, cancer or severe trauma, lifestyle choices can enhance or damage your health and affect the cost of expected care. Here are a few ways to remain healthy longer:

  • Stop smoking
  • See your doctor for regular well visits
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Avoid dangerous activities
  • Remain socially active

Aging is expensive. But with planning and changes to your lifestyle, you may be able to save some of your hard-earned money — and preserve your health long enough — to enjoy the freedom that comes with reaching your golden years.

June Duncan has helped many family members and friends who have found themselves in a caregiving role. She enjoys writing articles on the subject, and hopes her experience caring for her aging mother will help others who are new to caregiving.

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