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Don't put off planning for your long-term future

See how quickly you can answer the following questions: Who will take care of you when you reach an age where you can't care for yourself? Where will you live? And how will you pay for it? 

Unless you've already taken steps to resolve these matters, you might have just sent yourself into a panic. Most of us don't like to imagine being too old or sick to live independently, and instead we simply hope that everything will magically work out, free of complications. This is a nice idea, but it's too vague to be realistic. 

There are two common goals people have when it comes to care planning. One is the desire to continue living at home. The other is to not be a burden on family members. These goals are much more attainable for people who stop procrastinating and start planning. If you tend to get overwhelmed just thinking about the details, focus instead on a range of scenarios.

Consider dementia, for example. You may dread the idea of falling victim to it, but the fact is that 1 in 3 senior citizens dies with Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia. Include this possibility in your planning, and it will be much easier for you and your family members to handle if the time comes. This might mean researching reputable memory care facilities or resources.   

You should also build up to a frank discussion with your family members about your hopes and expectations -- and theirs. Caregiving is extremely taxing; in some cases it can actually shorten a person's life expectancy. If your children are willing to provide this for you, you'll have some peace of mind. But not all families are up to the task, and the last thing you should do is assume your children will be able to care for you full time. 

If your family doesn't have the wherewithal to handle your long-term care themselves, then you'll need to research other options. Long-term care insurance is expensive, but it will be even more costly if you ignore the possibility that you'll need it. 

Once you've laid out the different scenarios for your future, you may want to consult an attorney and other professionals who focus on elder care. Remember, the best way to take the fear out of the unknown is to tackle it head-on. 

Source: Enterprising Investor, "Long-Term Care Planning: Five Common Mistakes," Lauren Foster, Feb. 12, 2014

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