5 questions to ask when planning for long-term care

Financial planning is really about life planning. Throughout my career as a financial planner and advisor, I’ve had many conversations about long-term care options and discuss the importance of addressing the near- and far-term events of the future. I’m also someone who has gone through the process of long-term care planning in my own life, and I understand the process to be part of what I call the tapestry of life—the rich variety of experiences that define us.

In a previous post, “What to consider for long-term care planning,” I wrote about the importance of long-term care planning with my clients as they contemplate retirement while, in some cases, also caring for their aging parents. Building on that foundation, consider these two sets of questions when evaluating two popular care options: retirement communities and aging in place.

When planning for long-term care, we begin with conversations most of us expect: health and long-term care insurance, Medicare, and other numbers-centric elements of the plan. I also like to facilitate a broader conversation about considerations that might at first glance seem less essential but, when we really sit down to think about them, become critical points to consider. Let’s walk through a few of those points and questions to consider.

Retirement communities provide different levels of service, amenities, and care. The community becomes your home, and might also provide meals, medical care, transportation, and activities such as concerts and lectures.

Here are five financial questions to evaluate whether a retirement community is the right financial fit for you:

  1. Does this community support various levels of care that may be required—from independent living to skilled nursing?
  2. How should you time your entry into the community to strike the proper balance between independence and affordability?
  3. Which current expenses (mortgage, utilities, meals) will be covered by the rental fee in a community and which ones (travel, gifts, co-pays) will need to continue out of pocket?
  4. If you are moving into a community with your spouse or partner, do you both agree it supports your priorities?
  5. If you must downsize before moving into the community, what are some of the potential expenses associated with it?

Many of us wish to remain in our own homes as long as possible, also referred to as aging in place. This is an understandable impulse and might seem to require fewer financial planning considerations than buying into and moving to a retirement community. However, what may seem simple in the near-term carries complexities in the long-term.

Here are five key questions to answer before committing to age in place:

  1. Is your home properly configured and equipped to handle issues that may arise with age?
  2. Will you need to adapt it with renovations such as grab bars in the shower, railings for steps, wider doorways, and other aging-in-place features?
  3. If at some point you and/or your spouse or partner requires skilled nursing care, will your home accommodate a caregiver?
  4. If you can no longer drive, are there affordable, public, or other transportation options available nearby?
  5. Who will assist you with things like yard maintenance, reaching high shelves, or changing light bulbs?

I’m providing these questions as a starting point, not as a comprehensive list. Long-term care planning is a major life decision and one that some might prefer to delay. As with other big decisions, I believe that making a proactive plan for the last decades of our lives can be empowering as we age. The work of long-term care planning is part of the tapestry of our lives, and a solid decision tailored to individual preference can become a beautiful thread woven into that rich tapestry.

TAGS: Outside expert retirement planning long-term care planning

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Gift Planning


Duke University’s Office of Gift Planning specializes in charitable gift planning for estates, charitable trusts and annuities, and other complex current and future gift plans.

For more information, please contact the Duke University Office of Gift Planning at 919-681-0464 or giftplanning@duke.edu.