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The cost of senior care can be daunting, but if you have help and guidance, you can reduce the overall cost by planning ahead.

Providing asset protection, support and guidance to families, I realize that the cost of care is not usually understood. Our typical client is not aware that planning for care is similar to planning for a child's education; there is a need to plan ahead or you may not end up where you want to be or end up paying too much.

The need for planning is becoming more important as our nation's demographics are evolving to a situation that has never been seen before. The nation's population of senior citizens is about to rise to historic levels. By year's end, the nation's senior population will grow by almost 3 million, to a total of 49 million. By 2025, the senior population, which was 35 million in 2000, will have more than doubled to 72 million.

As older adults continue to age, many will experience various health problems such as impaired mobility, strokes, and Alzheimer's disease. In fact, 80 percent of the nation's current seniors have one chronic health condition, and 50 percent have at least two.

Historically, as families were planning for a loved one's care there were only two options — to move in with a loved one or be placed in a nursing home. However, new options include family care, senior centers, adult day centers, non-medical care at home, medical care at home, retirement and independent living communities, assisted living communities, skilled nursing homes and continued care retirement communities. Choices allow for a care plan to be more dynamic and cost effective as one can receive assistance only as needed, when needed.

Therefore, it’s important to educate yourself on the available care options; the costs associated with each option; and understand when it's appropriate to use. Getting advice from an elder care attorney is critical.

The most successful way to manage the cost of care is to plan. The average cost of an assisted living facility is $6,000 per month, that’s $72,000 per year. The average cost of a nursing home is $10,000 per month, that’s $120,000 per year. How are you going to pay for this? Considering the primary source of pay for senior care is private pay dollars, the potential of funning out of money is a reality. However, there are other resources available to augment care, such as long-term care insurance, VA Benefits, Medicare and Medicaid.

Additionally, it is important to understand the beginning signs of aging which include: losing track of medications; losing interest in meals; declining personal hygiene; declining driving skills; scorched pots and pans; signs of depression; missed doctors' appointments and social engagements; household bills piling up and an unkempt house. Early intervention can also help to lower cost of care in the long run and provide for an overall higher quality of life.

The cost of senior care can be daunting, but if you have help and guidance, you can reduce the overall cost by planning ahead, seeking resources and information, and educating yourself about the care options that are available. That way, you can find what options are best for you to ensure the highest quality, affordable care for you and your family.

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