I’m a “multi-tasker.” Most women are, either by nature or necessity.
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. Planning for long-term care is one of the smartest decisions we can make to stay in control of our future, but for many women, there is still a lot we don’t know about it.
Too many women think long-term care means a nursing home or an insurance policy. The truth is, it is so much more, including ensuring your home, community, health, finance and legal needs are met. That means help with transportation, shopping or personal needs or skilled medical care. It can also mean renovations to your home to make it safe and comfortable for you and even using new technologies to help you live your best possible life.
We’re living in a wonderful world where many women are enjoying longer lives. Women now outlive men by five years, and two-thirds of Americans over 85 are women. However, a women’s income is nearly 25 percent lower than that of their single male counterparts and one-fourth that of their married counterparts, making them less able to afford long-term care costs. And even if a woman never requires long-term care, a family member or friend probably will. Taking control of your future is the first step in planning for your long-term care needs.
Here are some easy steps you can take now to get started: First, make healthy choices to support an active lifestyle later, such as eating nutritiously and exercising regularly. Also, share your medical and financial wishes with your family and friends today. This puts you in control of important future life decisions and may help ease your loved ones’ uncertainty. 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 can help you get a head start on meeting your future needs with free planning resources available through www.aarp.org/decide . These materials are available as part of its AARP’s Decide. Create. Share.sm campaign, an effort launched with the support of three major nonprofit organizations focused on women: AAUW, MANA- a National Latina Organization, and the National Council of Negro Women (NCNW). Focused mainly on the nearly 40 million boomer women, 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 are working to raise awareness of long-term care planning among women across the nation.
This is an important message to take to heart. Think about your future. There are many simple things you can do now that cost little or no money, so I encourage you to get started on thinking about the future you want by visiting www.aarp.org/decide .
Elinor Ginzler is a national expert on independent living and aging issues. She currently serves as AARP's lead spokesperson on caregiving, housing, and mobility issues, including older drivers' safety.