Start planning now for long-term care, from the May 2015 Harvard Health Letter

Most people in the United States will need at least three years of long-term nursing or other care after age 65. But less than half of people in their 40s and beyond are saving for it or even talking about it, reports the May 2015 Harvard Health Letter.

By not planning, people risk two problems. One is losing control over the care they'll receive. "Many people push it off to their families," says Dr. David Grabowski, a professor of health care policy at Harvard Medical School. "But family members may make decisions that are very different from the ones the individual would make."

The other problem is that people may not have money to pay for long-term care if they don't plan for it. That lack of funding often forces loved ones to provide care. Families are actually the biggest providers of long-term care in the country. But when a person's need for care exceeds what a family can provide, care often falls to an institutional setting. "If the finances aren't in place to pay for that, the risk is ending up in a low-quality setting," says Dr. Grabowski.

Several types of long-term care are available. Some allow people to live at home, being cared for by a family member or by certified aides. There's also adult day care. Options outside the home include assisted living facilities and nursing homes.

Paying for long-term care is limited to a few options, including private pay (full price from one's own pocket), long-term care insurance, Medicaid, and veterans' benefits. Obtaining some of these benefits can be complicated and time-consuming.

Read the full-length article: "The dollars and sense of long-term care"