People are living longer, well into their 90s or100s, due to medical and technological breakthroughs.

As we speak to seniors, we are amazed that so many think Medicare will pay for all their health needs and even non-medical needs.

Many have put off even thinking about what choices might lie ahead as they age. They have no idea of available community resources to assist them when a crisis occurs.

The scary reality is that if they have planned at all, most only plan for 20 years, from about age 65 to 85.

Facts about healthcare in retirement indicate that the average lifetime cost for a retired couple for medical care is $220,000. This is medical care only and does not include non-medical assistance to remain at home or long-term care in a care community.

At least 70 percent of those over 65 will require long-term care at some point.

Based on current national statistics, in-home care averages 23 hours a week, costing $23,920 annually.

Assisted living on average will cost approximately $36,000 per year, and a semi-private room in a nursing home about $94,000 a year.

Medicare and supplemental costs average 14 percent of a retiree’s budget. There are also co-pays associated with hospitalization and skilled nursing care. Original Medicare does not pay for hearing aids, vision or dental care.

Only 15 percent of seniors have budgeted for medical costs. Only 17 percent understand Medicare. Most have not considered non-medical care, instead depending on their children to care for them.

Non-medical assistance to remain at home is not paid for under Medicare, Medicaid or supplemental health policies. It is paid out of pocket or through a long-term care insurance policy, reverse mortgage or VA Aid and Attendance program.

Living longer might also mean living without your spouse for many years. The assumption is that you will have two Social Security payments; however, if your spouse dies, the amount of income changes dramatically.

What does one do when the income is reduced?

One option is a reverse mortgage. If you’re 62 and have at least 50 percent equity in your home, you might qualify for a reverse mortgage, enabling you to eliminate the mortgage payment and utilize the equity for your care.

Downsizing to a smaller home is another option.

Planning for your future includes writing your will, legally designating financial and health care power of attorney, letting your children or trusted advisors know the location of your important documents, i.e. investments, insurance policies, passports, trusts and cemetery arrangements, banking institutions, pharmacy and military discharge papers.

Also, discussing your end of life wishes is vital and will provide peace of mind for your spouse, children or heirs.

The secret to living more and worrying less is to make – and then implement – a plan.

The sooner you do so, the less you will worry.

Rachel Carson, Certified Senior Advisor, is the owner of Home Instead Senior Care, serving the Lowcountry since 1997.