5 planning strategies for adults who may need care

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If you might need care …

Anticipate long-term care needs. Covering this cost is easier said than done. Long-term care insurance is one option, but it's not a fit for many consumers, said certified financial planner Eleanor Blayney, consumer advocate for the CFP Board of Standards. "Many providers have left the field, and premiums have gone up," she said. Hybrid life insurance policies (also called life-combination products) are another option, she said, and some life insurance policies also come with an accelerated death benefit rider that allows policyholders to use the value for lifetime care.

Collect financial paperwork. "That's the biggest favor you can do your family in the future," said Amy Goyer, AARP's home and family expert. "Declutter the financial paperwork so someone else can find what they need to find." Poor records could mean family members aren't aware of assets or insurance that could fund better care, triggering bigger out-of-pocket bills.

Have 'The Talk.' Aging adults should make sure their families know what their wishes are, including whether they expect to age at home and if they want prolonged medical care, said Blayney. "Unless that's communicated, often the children say that's their only choice," she said. It's not a talk you need to have all at once, said John Schall, chief executive of the Caregiver Action Network—both generations may be less on the defensive if they tackle topics individually, as needed.

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Rethink retirement locale. "Physical resources are where we fail the most," said Massachusetts state Rep. Chris Walsh, who is also an architect. "We have houses that are just not for people who are getting older, and communities without public transportation or safe places to walk." Options aren't limited to just continuing care or retirement communities: A growing number of cities and towns have age-friendly initiatives, while so-called naturally occurring retirement communities (NORCs)—which can be counties, towns or even specific apartment buildings—coordinate extra services for aging residents.

Age-in-place renovations can also make it more feasible to remain at home.

Sign powers of attorney. These documents, which allow someone to make financial and health decisions for you should you become incapacitated, are more easily put in place when you're in good health. Caregivers often regret not having asked their parent about taking this step earlier, said Schall.