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Thursday, Mar 26, 2015

The changing face of aging

Tribune staff


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Growing old is inevitable. But how we approach aging and the complexities of planning for aging can make a huge difference in the quality of our lives in years to come, and in the emotional burden we place on our family.

Having candid conversations with the people we love about health, finances and care that might be needed in the future is probably one of the most important conversations we ever will have. And yet so many of us avoid it. Keeping our head in the sand does not mean it never will happen to us. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in three seniors die with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, and in Hernando County alone we have 5,676 estimated cases of Alzheimer's.Today one in every 31 people of all ages in Hernando County has Alzheimer's disease.

Those statistics are going to rise each year in correlation to the rising number of baby boomers through year 2030.

So what is holding you back from having "the conversation"? The longer you wait, the harder it is to have these discussions and the fewer options you will have for planning. If you find this daunting, write down your thoughts about what's important and the points you want to cover, along with your concerns. Share these concerns with your spouse and your children. Start on a small scale. Be persistent and consistent. Your loved ones might not be open to having this type of discussion just yet. Have patience; this is important. Talk about what your plan will be if there is a crisis. Who should be called? Make sure you and your spouse or partner have an up-to-date will, a living will, and a power of attorney for health care. Let your children or guardian know where these are kept. Most people prefer to stay in their own home as they age, but that might not be an option. If you can't stay home while receiving care, what other options are available?

Long-term care is expensive, whether it's at home, in an assisted living center or at a skilled nursing facility. According to, 40 hours of home care can average $41,000 a year, an assisted living facility starts at about $33,000 - or higher, depending on the level of care needed - and a semi-private room at a skilled nursing facility is $87,600. These estimates are in 2014 dollars; imagine the cost of care 10, 20 or 30 years from now! In planning, consider how you might pay for this kind of care through self funding, relying on family or friends, retirement income preparation or insurance. How do you save enough money to pay for this kind of care? Set a goal to work with your financial and legal professional to create a strategy for living a long life, and do a financial checkup regularly including making sure your beneficiaries are up to date, and your legal documents are in order.

This might be the most important conversation you ever have. Don't procrastinate; just do it! You'll be glad you did.

Marsha Reiniers, CLTC, is an independent insurance agent, certified in long term care planning. Call her at (352) 684-1952, email her at or visit her website at

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