More than 12 million Americans are expected to need long-term care by 2020 and most of them will be women.1
Why? Because women generally live longer than men. A woman’s average lifespan is about 81 years while a man’s is 76.2 This means women are less likely to have a caregiver at home when they need it, which can increase insurance expenses. In fact, long-term insurance rates for single women can be anywhere between 20% and 40% higher than rates for men.3
Greater life expectancies for women also can mean higher rates of disability and chronic health problems. This, in turn, can result in extended stays in long-term care. Add in the fact that women generally have lower incomes than men and it becomes easier to see why more than 70% of nursing home residents are women.4
These statistics can be startling, but there are ways to prepare and manage. Here are a few things to think about:
While you may feel you already live a healthy lifestyle, it’s never too late to make improvements. Some places to start include:
- A more nutritious diet.
- More exercise.
- Better sleep habits.
Making these changes could help you avoid future health problems that may require long-term care. Be sure to consult your doctor before you make any substantial changes to your exercise and eating habits.
Time to go shopping!
Sounds fun, right? Sure, if you’re looking for new clothes, gadgets, or a car. Long-term insurance may not be flashy, but if you’re a single woman in your early 50s or younger, now is the time to start looking at policies to help fund your future long-term care. Your rates may be lower now than if you wait until your 60s or 70s. Remember, the best time to dig a well is long before you get thirsty.
Apply for joint coverage.
If you’re married, you may get a discount on long-term care insurance. This is because if one of you gets ill, the insurance company is banking on your partner to take care of you, which lowers their expenses. But be aware that some policies will cancel a husband’s discount if he dies. And this can cause the surviving wife’s benefit to go up. Always check the fine print before you buy your policy.
Think about how long you’ll need coverage.
The average nursing home stay for women is less than three years.5 With that in mind, you might be able to lower your premiums with a three- or five-year policy instead of a lifetime arrangement. If you like the sound of that, keep in mind your family medical history and the results from your most recent physical before you make your decision.
Check your current policy.
A life insurance policy with a long-term care rider attached may offer some benefits. One of the biggest advantages is that your beneficiaries can get a payout when you die even if you haven’t used your long-term care option. Check your current policy to see if you already have a long-term care provision. If you don’t, consider buying a separate policy.
If long-term care insurance doesn’t suit your situation, other financial options include Medicare, Medicaid, and the Veteran Administration. It could be worthwhile to look into these plans.
There’s no question that women face a special set of issues when it comes to long-term care. Help overcome these challenges by understanding your options sooner rather than later.