Whatever your goals, how do you plan to achieve them? Planning for the future can be a daunting task with so many options to consider but AARP has the information you need today to make sure you remain in charge of tomorrow.
Take care of your health
Good health is one of your most precious assets. Are you as healthy as you want to be? What diseases run in your family? While no on can change their biology, regular checkups and screenings can help detect problems early when they’re more easily managed. In addition, a healthy diet and lifestyle can help you maintain good health, keeping you active and independent for years to come. Read more at www.aarp.org/womenchecklist.
Give yourself a break
Maintaining your health can be especially challenging if you’re one of the millions of women in the “sandwich generation” who care for aging parents while raising their own children. Indeed, an AARP study revealed that more than half of those providing care for aging parents experience stress and strain. If you find yourself in this role, be sure to make time to exercise and eat and sleep properly. Maintain social contacts or join a caregiver support group where you can share and learn from others in similar situations. Get more information at www.aarp.org/caregivers.
Inventory your home
A 2009 survey by AARP Delaware revealed that most Delawareans want to remain in their own homes for as long as possible. If this is your plan, it’s time to take stock of your accommodations. “Look at your house with a hard, cold eye,” advises John Walsh, retired educator and AARP Delaware executive council member. “Can you live in that house for another 30 years?”
Do you have a master bedroom and bath on the first floor? Does your home have a ground-level entrance? Is the layout open, allowing for easy movement throughout? Will necessary modifications be easy and affordable?
Walsh began modifying his Rehoboth Beach home eight years ago after suffering a stroke. “I decided after taking one or two little ‘headers’ after getting out of the bathtub that this is not a good thing,” he says. He replaced the bathtub with a seated walk-in shower. “I don’t need the seat now but it’s there if and when I do need it.”
Get more information to assess your home at www.aarp.org/homedesign.
Tour your community
Take a look at your community as if you’re seeing it for the first time. Does it contain the amenities and services that are important to you? How close are you to family and friends, medical services, recreation, shopping and public transportation? Can you get to where you need to go when you can no longer drive?
Nutter’s experience as caregiver for her mother and uncle and now her aunt provided her with a perspective that has informed her own choices. She has settled into a condo on Wilmington’s Riverfront where she can “foot it” to a variety of retail establishments and transportation is easily accessible.
“My aunt no longer wants to drive and that will happen to all of us,” she says. “There are people who move to the suburbs and can’t walk anywhere. I don’t want to be in an area where I can’t get to things easily and on my own terms.” Take a look at www.aarp.org/caregivers.
Long-term care options
While no one can predict with certainty whether they will require long-term care, the fact is that the majority of women 65 and over will need some type of long-term care during their remaining years. This can range from at-home assistance to facility-based skilled care.
For far too long, nursing homes have been the default setting for long-term care in Delaware but the situation is improving.
“We actually are in a paradigm shift,” says Rita Landgraf, secretary of the state’s department of health and social services. “It’s not that people have to wait till it’s there. We’re creating it as we’re going so we have a better understanding of what individuals need.”
Those initiatives involve offering more options for home-based care. The department now dispatches “diversion teams” to hospitals to evaluate patients being discharged to see if they really require facility-based care or can be supported with community-based services. So far, 65 percent of individuals who would have otherwise been placed in nursing homes have received community-based care, Landgraf says.
Another accomplishment has been the creation of the Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) website where people can go to find information about the various services in their communities. The ADRC also operates a call center that will provide information based on an individual’s needs at (800) 223-9047. For more information go to www.aarp.org/states/de and www.aarp.org/longtermcarecosts.
Get personal with your finances. One of the most important aspects of planning for retirement and the long-term care that might accompany it is figuring out how to pay for it.
Have you estimated your income and expenses in retirement? Most of us will be paying for long-term care through personal savings and costs can add up quickly. Medicare only pays for very limited care when you meet certain requirements. While Medicaid can cover long-term care expenses, it is only after you exhaust your resources and meet program guidelines. The best strategy is to start planning early, stay involved and seek out available resources from reputable sources. “Start now, don’t wait until you’re almost retired,” says Vande Poele. “No matter how young you are, it’s never too early to think about retirement and plan for it.” Go to AARP’s Retirement Calculator to see how much income you will have in retirement at www.aarp.org/money.