I don’t know about you, but I’m constantly grinding to improve my current positions… Physically, financially, spiritually, etc… But, in an honest moment, I would admit that I don’t focus too much on my distant future self. In fact, I know that I need to do what I can now to reduce my family’s future healthcare costs – but I haven’t taken direct action toward this pursuit.
Thankfully, I have Kristen here to help us get started!
Kristen Edens’ writing began at age 6. Lovingly advised to pursue something more financially stable, she earned her masters degree in exercise physiology. By 2009, she cycled out of the corporate setting to build her own business as a content developer where she helps businesses boost their brand through effective content marketing strategies and services. Kristen is also the founder of the Managing Midlife, a blog about entrepreneurship, family, and finance for the sandwich generation.
Take it away, Kristen:
How often do you worry about your health and those you love?
How often do you delay visiting the doctor because of the panic-inducing costs of healthcare?
In a recent chat with a fellow blogger, we shared our concerns regarding health, caregiving, and the costs we can expect as we and those we love age.
While I am healthy and do what I can to remain healthy, I still prepare for the unexpected. I’m already the caregiver for my mother and my partner, but my fear is who will care for me, if needed? My children are likely to take care of me, but currently, I help them cover their own finances and emergencies. Will they be able to afford my caregiving?
What about elder orphans—people who have no other family members older or younger to care for them? Or families in which estrangement has touched their lives? My blogging friend is in such a situation.
She is 33 years old and has a disabled partner. She has no children and her parents are not in good health. As she puts it, “My parents live very unhealthy lives and I fear one day one of them will need caregiving. Do I bring them in with me when we already don’t get along and add the burden of caregiving, or do I put my parent in a nursing home and cover the high cost of that?”
Which is the lesser evil in either of these scenarios?
She also questions who will help care for her as she gets older
Try this on for a harsh reality check:
- Medicare currently pays about 60% of retiree healthcare costs. The consumer is still responsible for co-pays, premiums, and deductibles. Also, Medicare doesn’t cover dental, vision, hearing or long-term care costs.
- The average annual cost of nursing home care in 2016 is $89,870.
- Longer life expectancy creates a greater chance of suffering from chronic illnesses, thus nursing home care should be viewed as a realistic necessity.
- According to a Johns Hopkins University study, 92% of people 80 and over have a chronic condition, and 73% have two or more.
- The average healthy couple aged 65 can expect to pay $260,000 in healthcare costs over a 20-year retirement, according to Fidelity’s Retiree Health Care Cost Estimate. Chronic conditions or a health crisis can increase these costs significantly.
- Additionally, we must embrace the reality that healthcare costs will increase and we must be prepared to cover most of that in the future—for ourselves and likely our loved ones.
Covering the future cost of your own healthcare appears bleak, doesn’t it?
Is there anything we can do to ease this rather certain future burden?
Yes, there is. It’s simple and complicated at the same time.
The best thing we can do is to care for ourselves now—regardless of age.
Here are 11 ways to care for yourself today to ensure a healthy tomorrow:
Start by examining your family history
Talk to your family members: parents, siblings, aunts, uncles, and grandparents. Ask what their health issues are. If someone has died, what did he or she die from? Make a list of all. Are their trends? Does one family line carry a heavy trait of a disease? Do you fall in that line? If so, find out what preventive measures you can take to reduce your chances of developing that chronic disease. Start NOW rather than say, “I have a few years to take action.” Make changes now and involve your family so they benefit, learn, and support you.
Explore your lifestyle
How dangerous is your lifestyle? Sex, drugs, and rock & roll may be the dreamy rock star lifestyle, but how often do these overindulgences lead to lingering health issues? As an example, the opioid crisis has resulted in 70,000+ deaths in 2017. Most families know someone who lost a family member to the opioid crisis. Last year, my half-sister died at age 33 from opioid addiction and left behind three teenage children.
You hear it all the time and may be sick of it, but it’s true. We dislike limitations and restrictions and make up for it through our habits. But how badly do we need that pack of smokes? Or extra drink? Or second or third helpings? In the 8 years I worked in Cardiac Rehab, the average age of onset for coronary episodes dropped from the late 50s to mid-40s.
Rather than grandchildren bringing their grandparents in for their therapy, mothers and fathers were bringing in their school-aged children because they couldn’t afford a babysitter during their cardiac therapy. The common denominator: overindulgence. These young patients now are forced to re-examine their lifestyle and habits to recover or they face additional occurrences of health issues.
Some exercise is better than none, and the television isn’t going to care about your health. Your favorite news programs will report the latest opioid and obesity statistics and which disease (cancer, heart disease, or medical error) are the top causes of death. Do you realize family history and lifestyle are the top contributors to these illnesses? And regarding medical error, wouldn’t you rather avoid that issue and stay healthy altogether? Join a fitness center, go mall-walking, walk around the block, but do it. Every day. At a very minimum, 20 minutes each day. You sit through enough commercials to better utilize that time. Moving your body is the smartest option. (See also: 5 Exercise Tips for Entrepreneurs—Plus 1 If You Really Hate Exercise)
Lighten up to live it up later in life. Do you really need gallons of soda? A quart of ice cream (in one sitting)? To supersize…anything? For the foodies out there balking at these suggestions – go, enjoy, but consider the cost both health-wise and financially. Order smaller portions, pass on the sodas and rolls, enjoy appetizers rather than a multi-course meal, and bring home leftovers. Then walk it off.
Identify and eliminate your stressors! If it’s the job that’s stressing you, maybe it’s time to pursue the thing you gave up years ago in order to be happier, and consequently healthier.
Eliminate toxic people
We all have them. How often we interact with them is up to us. If they continue to poison your mindset and emotions, why keep them around? Life is too short to put up with people who drag others down with them.
Keep up with checkups
Visit your primary health provider yearly for a full-body checkup. Visit the dentist twice yearly—at a minimum. Get your vision and hearing checked. As you age, do a decade overhaul: this means mammograms, prostate exams, colonoscopies, EKG stress test, and any other invasive, uncomfortable, annoying exam necessary for early detection. Unpleasant yes, but the long-term effects of not identifying these issues at an early phase are much more unpleasant—and costly.
Why is flu so prevalent in the winter? Because everyone is inside breathing and recycling the same air. Getting outside gets us fresh air, gets our body moving, and strengthens us. It’s refreshing and introduces an element of play into our lives.
As we get older, we forget to play. The next time you’re invited to play with a child or grandchild, do it! Find those opportunities individually and with children to get out and get silly and don’t quit at the first sign of an elevated heart rate. If mobility limits your options, modify your style of play. Board games and positive interaction with others qualifies as play. How can you bring more play to your life—and your family?
The world is full of negativity but that doesn’t mean we must carry it with us. Laughter is a great way to blow negativity out of our body. So is meditation and positive thinking. Give yourself a few minutes each day to clear your mind, especially when you feel troubled by something. If you catch yourself moaning about the weather, a situation at work, or a family squabble, let it go. Like the weather, most issues are forgotten in less than a week. Is it worth carrying that dark cloud with you? (See also: The Failure Files: The Power of a Negative Mindset)
Few of the ideas stated above are anything new, but the challenge is to introduce them into well-established, not-so-healthy lifestyles. However, it’s the lack of these positive habits that are feeding the high cost of healthcare. Help the money to stay in your pocket and keep your health a priority by practicing as many as possible.
It’s worth it—for today and our tomorrows.
Where do you stand with these practices? Have you put any into regular practice and, if so, how are they working for you? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll keep the discussion going!
Thanks for reading!