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Wealth Column: Long-term care awareness month

Bruce Helmer and Peg Webb, financial advisers at Wealth Enhancement Group and co-hosts of “Your Money” on KLKS 100.1 FM on Sunday mornings.

What do you imagine your life will look like when you're 70? Or 80?

For many people, those years are reserved for relaxation and spending time with family in their own homes. Unfortunately, that picture will be different for many of us.

Whether it's from a physical or mental incapacity, new data suggest that over half of people turning 65 will need extended medical care in their lifetime. Currently, there are 12 million people in the United States who are dependent on long-term care.

That number is set to double by 2050.

With November being long-term care awareness month, we thought now would be a good time to give you a list of items to consider when making your long-term care preparations.

What Long-Term Care Is

Long-term care covers a wide variety of facilities and services. Despite what some might think, it isn't limited to long hospital stays or time spent in nursing homes. For example, stays in memory-care facilities, hospice care, home health care and adult day care, are all covered as well.

For the more than 50 percent of people who are likely to need long-term care, costs can add up quickly. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that a month's stay in a nursing home facility can cost around $7,698 a month, while home health aides could run you up to $20 per hour, with higher rates on weekends, holidays and in the evening.

While a short period of your care may be covered by Medicare, once that time period is up, you're on your own. One way to make sure a potential need for care is covered is through long-term care insurance.

How Long-Term Care Insurance Works

Having insurance can be the difference between compromising between your physical health and knowing you can afford the quality of care you deserve. To help prepare you for the long term, most policies also come with inflation riders that will help offset the costs of your coverage later in life, when you're more likely to need it.

The healthier you are when you apply for coverage, the more likely you are to be approved. We suggest applying in your mid-50s to lock in low rates and ensure you get approved, as your health is less likely to improve in your 60s.

Other Important Steps

An estimated 5.5 million Americans are living with Alzheimer's in 2017, and that number is rising as average life spans increase. For many without proper protections, their care falls to family or friends, creating a strain on their loved ones both emotionally and financially.

To protect yourself, your family and your money from the possibility of mental or physical incapacity, it's also important to appoint a medical power of attorney and have a health care directive. These documents and appointments can help ensure that someone you trust is dealing with your finances and that you get the care you desire.

If you're ready to get your health care preparations in line, it's important to talk to your financial planner and attorney about what will work best for your needs and lifestyle in the future.

Riders are additional guarantee options that are available to an annuity or life insurance contract holder. While some riders are part of an existing contract, many others may carry additional fees, charges and restrictions, and the policyholder should review their contract carefully before purchasing.

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