Planning for Your Care
Long-term care is expensive and 70% of Washingtonians will need it at some point in their lives. Check out the resources below to learn about long-term care and healthy aging so you can begin planning for your future care needs. Beginning in July 2026, Washington workers will be able to access WA Cares Fund benefits to help with some of these expenses. Read more about that on our Earning Your Benefits page.
Need financial help today?
Contact your local Home and Community Services office for information on how to apply for Medicaid.
Visit the Social Security Administration’s website to learn about applying for Social Security Disability Benefits.
On this page:
- What is Long-Term Care?
- Paying for Long-Term Care
- Receiving Long-Term Care
- Caring for Loved Ones
- Staying Healthy, Keeping Active
- Other Resources
What is Long-Term Care?
Long-term care, also known as long-term services and supports, are a range of services for individuals who need assistance with daily living or other health-related tasks. It can be provided in your home or a residential care setting, like an adult family home, enhanced services facility or assisted living facility. These services and supports typically help with a wide range of activities, of daily living, including but not limited to:
- Medication management
- Personal hygiene
- Cognitive functioning
- Transfer assistance
- Getting in or out of bed
- Body care
Not everyone will need help with all of these things, and some may need help with other activities.
Paying for Long-Term Care
Long-term care can be expensive, and most Washingtonians are not prepared. Typically, people accessing in-home care need help about 20 hours per week. On average, that costs around $33,000 per year. The median household income for seniors in Washington state is only $56,000 and half of Washingtonians nearing retirement do not have a 401(k), pension, or significant personal savings set aside to pay for care.
Further, most Washingtonians do not realize that Medicare and Medigap do not cover long-term care services (except in rare circumstances), and you can only qualify for Medicaid if you have depleted all of your savings and most of your assets.
For Washingtonians who contribute, WA Cares Fund will be there to help. Some people will find the WA Cares benefit is enough to cover all the care they need, and others will be able to use it while they plan for longer-term needs. For everyone, financially preparing today for your long-term care needs can go a long way toward your peace of mind in the future.
Steps you can take today:
Do your research: There are lots of pieces to long-term care planning, and you might even want to think about setting up an advance care directive to cover all the things you may need or want. AARP offers many resources about retirement and long-term care planning. Read advice from experts and advocates.
Talk to a financial planner: Experts know best! Contact the National Association of Personal Financial Planners (800-366-2732), the Financial Planning Association (800-322-4237), or the American Institute of CPAs (888-999-9256) to find a licensed financial planner near you. Some costs may apply.
Talk to your family and personal support networks: Being open with your family or keeping careful documentation about your finances and expectations before you need care can help prevent surprises later on.
Think about setting up a Power of Attorney. Power of Attorney (POA) is a powerful legal document that gives someone the ability to make decisions, including financial and medical, on your behalf. A well drafted power of attorney can help your potential future caregiver ensure that your needs are met and wants respected. There are different kinds and what POAs can do varies depending on the State you live in, so it’s important to do your research and get appropriate legal advice. You could also set up a POA as part of a larger Advanced Directive.
Get familiar with existing retirement and support programs: The U.S. Senate Committee on Aging has put together this explainer booklet on financial literacy for older Americans and persons with disabilities. This can be a great place to start learning about Social Security, Social Security Disability, Medicare and 401(K) retirement plans.
Get information from SHIBA: The Statewide Health Insurance Benefits Advisors (SHIBA) HelpLine provides free help to people of all ages with questions about health insurance, health care access, and prescription access.
Visit BenefitsCheckUp: BenefitsCheckUp is a comprehensive online service to screen for federal, state, and some local public and private benefits for adults ages 55 and over. BCU can help you connect to programs that help pay for prescription drugs, health care, utilities, and other needs.
Receiving Long-Term Care
Knowing ahead of time where you would prefer to receive your care and who you would prefer to receive it from can help you and your loved ones make good decisions when you need it. People may receive long-term care at home or at a residential care facility. Beginning in July 2026, WA Cares Fund will be able to help you access these services.
Finding services and supports can be overwhelming when you first start looking. If you need help today, you can reach out to the Washington State Community Living Connections through their website or by calling 1-855-567-0252.
Residential Care Facilities
There are many types of homes or facilities where a person can live and get care services in a residential setting. There are differences between them:
- Some are licensed by Washington State, and some are not.
- Some provide nursing and medical care, and some do not.
- Some can be paid for using Medicaid, and others cannot. Medicare and Medigap do not cover long-term care services, except in rare circumstances.
There are three main types of state-licensed residential care.
Nursing homes provide 24-hour supervised nursing care, personal care, therapy, nutrition management, organized activities, social services, room, board, and laundry.
Entering a nursing home does not mean you have to stay there forever. Nursing homes can also be used for short-term stays. People go to nursing homes for rehabilitation or short-term intensive nursing care, like they may need after a hospital stay.
Adult Family Homes
Adult family homes are regular neighborhood homes where staff assumes responsibility for the safety and well-being of residents. A room, meals, laundry, supervision, and varying levels of assistance with care are provided. Some provide occasional nursing care. Some offer specialized care for people with mental health issues, developmental disabilities, or dementia. The home can have two to eight residents and is licensed by the state.
Assisted Living Facilities
Assisted living facilities are facilities in a community setting where staff assumes responsibility for the safety and well-being of the residents. Housing, meals, laundry, supervision, and varying levels of assistance with care are provided. Some provide nursing care. Some offer specialized care for people with mental health issues, developmental disabilities, or dementia. The home can have seven or more residents and is licensed by the state.
There are two main types of non-licensed long-term care facilities:
Retirement Communities/ Independent Living Facilities
Retirement communities and independent living facilities are housing exclusively for adults (typically 55 or older). This kind of facility is best for adults who don’t have complex medical needs. Medical or personal care can be provided by visiting nurses or a home health aide, usually for an additional cost. Staff at the retirement community does not take on the general responsibility for the safety and well-being of the adult.
To find a retirement community near you, contact your local Senior Information and Assistance office.
Continuing Care Retirement Communities
A CCRC is a residential community for adults that offers a range of housing options (usually independent living through nursing home care) and varying levels of medical and personal care services. CCRCs are designed to meet a resident’s needs in a familiar setting as they grow older. People most often move into such a community when they are healthy and before they need regular nursing care.
CCRC residents have to sign a long-term contract that provides for housing, personal care, housekeeping, yard care, and nursing care. This contract typically involves either an entry fee or buy-in fee in addition to monthly service charges, which may change according to the medical or personal care services required. Fees can vary widely, and because the contracts are lifelong and costs fluctuate, it is important to get financial and legal advice before signing.
To find a CCRC near you, contact your local Senior Information and Assistance office.
Home Based Care
Facility-based care is not for everyone. The majority of us want to stay at home and age in place, even if we need some extra care and support. In fact, a 2021 AARP study found that 77 percent of adults 50 years of age or older want to remain in their homes for the long-term. Great news – beginning in July 2026, WA Cares Fund can help pay for services to help you stay in your home!
Depending on your needs, there are many services you can consider.
|Type of Service||About||Things to Know|
|Hiring an Individual Provider||Individual providers are hired caregivers that are not affiliated with a home care agency. They are available to help with many activities of daily living including preparing meals, personal care, housekeeping, and medication management.||Make sure that you are hiring the right kind of caregiver for your needs. Check out this article from AARP to help learn the difference and decide what kinds of care could be right for you.|
If you are privately hiring (not using Medicaid or other publicly funded programs*), you will be responsible for adhering to relevant employee/workplace laws, and that appropriate taxes on wages are paid. Check out the Family Caregiver Alliance’s fact sheet on hiring in-home help for more information.
|Hiring a Home Care Agency||Home care agencies recruit, train, pay, supervise, and are responsible for the care provided by the aide they send to your home. These agencies are licensed by Washington state.||These agencies are licensed by the state and help with scheduling and bookkeeping. They are also responsible for hiring, firing and ensuring that relevant labor laws are met and industry standards upheld.|
|Volunteer Chore Services||Many communities have non-profits who can help match low-income seniors with volunteers to assist them with chores like shopping, moving, minor home repair, yard care, transportation, and personal care. Find your local Community Action Agency or Senior Information and Assistance office to be connected with a volunteer program near you.||These programs are typically reserved for adults who cannot afford private in-home care, but do not qualify for other support services, such as Medicaid.|
|Community Resources||Many communities host excellent resources like adult day centers, companion services and senior centers that can help an aging adult stay connected with their community and access services as they need them. Your local Area Agency on Aging can help you find community resources near you.|
|Home delivered meals/ Meals on Wheels||Home-delivered meals are available in almost every community in Washington and can be a great resource to help you age in place. Programs that provide home delivered meals vary by region and county. Contact your Area Agency on Aging or Senior Information and Assistance program to get connected to services near you.||Some public home-delivered meal programs are means-tested, meaning adults must be below a certain income threshold to qualify.|
|Hospice Care||At the end of life, hospice care can help provide medical, psychological, and spiritual care to a dying person and their family. Hospice staff are available 24 hours a day to help care for the dying person, ensure the patient is comfortable and free from pain, and provide counseling and support for the person and their loved ones. Find hospice care near you here.||Hospice care is typically only for individuals who have a terminal illness and a life expectancy of six months or less.|
Caring for Loved Ones
Caring for a parent, guardian, other family member or friend can be incredibly rewarding and a way to help them age in place. However, family or other unpaid caregiving can also be stressful and difficult. Having a plan in place before the individual needs care and knowing where caregivers can receive help and support can help ensure caregiving is a wonderful family experience.
Safety in the home
Safety should be a top priority if you are preparing to take on a caregiving role, either helping your loved one stay in their own home or moving them in with you. Every year, 1 in 4 Americans over the age of 65 suffer serious falls, so fall prevention is very important. Making some basic home modifications can help make their living space safer for the long term. Some things you may want to consider, courtesy of AARP:
- No-step entry. This eases entrance to the home for those who use wheelchairs and walkers and makes it easier to carry medical equipment, groceries, and suitcases inside. If this is not possible, consider a threshold, full ramp, or a lift.
- First-floor bedroom and bathroom, or a lift system. Stairs may become difficult and unsafe. If you are unable to create a first-floor bedroom/bathroom, you might consider an in-home stairlift.
- Bathroom grab bars and a raised toilet seat. Making the bathroom safe and accessible is a top priority. A shower chair can also be helpful. If possible, a curbless shower is best.
- Wide doorways and halls. Mobility aids like wheelchairs sometimes need wider space to fit through than standard doorframes, particularly if you live in an older home. If your doors are too small, there may be key entrances you can widen to help your loved one maintain access to the most important parts of the home (bathroom, kitchen, bedroom, etc.).
- Easy-to-use handles and doorknobs. Lever handles are easiest for arthritic hands.
- Make clear walking pathways. Obstacles can increase fall risk. Removing throw rugs and making sure that there are clear paths in the home can go a long way for keeping your loved one safe.
- Increase lighting. Dim areas can cause falls.
Beginning in July 2026, WA Cares Fund benefits will be available to help pay for this kind of home modification.
Support for Caregivers
If you are helping care for a loved one, you are not alone! More than 800,000 Washington state residents provide care to an adult who needs help with daily living.
Taking care of yourself is as important as caring for your loved one. You have to provide respite and care for yourself to be your best self for them. Here are some resources to help with some feelings you may be dealing with or things you may need:
Additionally, the Family Caregiving Support Program is a service available to unpaid caregivers of adults who need care. Staff at local offices throughout Washington can give you practical information and advice and connect you to local resources/services that meet your needs. Services are free or low cost.
- Two programs, Medicaid Alternative Care (MAC) and Tailored Supports for Older Adults (TSOA), offer free services for unpaid caregivers of adults (age 55 and older) who need care, or to individuals without unpaid caregivers. Contact your local Community Living Connections/Area Agency on Aging or Home and Community Services offices.
Staying Healthy, Keeping Active
It is important for people of all ages to take care of themselves! Eating well, exercising regularly, and participating in mentally stimulating activities can help us all age well, and potentially lessen our need for care and services later on. Remember, doing your best is all that matters! Even small changes can make a big difference.
Physical activity is a key part of healthy aging and preventing falls, but do not worry – no one needs to be running marathons or climbing Mount Everest (unless you want to)! The most important thing is to keep your body moving, which helps reduce pains related to tight, underutilized muscles and keeps your bones dense and healthy.
According to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, everyone should do at least 150 minutes (2 ½ hours) a week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise, like brisk walking or fast dancing. Spreading this over at least three days per week is best. If you prefer vigorous aerobic activities (like running), you should aim for 75 minutes per week.
Just getting started on your activity journey? Some things to start with:
Walking: A National Institutes of Health study of adults 40 years of age and older who took 8,000 steps or more per day showed they had a 51% lower risk of death from all causes (compared to those taking 4,000 or fewer steps per day). Working to increase the number of steps you take each day can have significant benefits on your long-term health!
Stretching: Falls are one of the leading causes of fatal and non-fatal injuries in older adults. Stretching, particularly of the lower extremities, has been found to significantly reduce fall risk amongst older adults. It doesn’t take much, just ten minutes a day – maybe before your morning coffee or when you finish a work task or chore– can help a lot.
Multicomponent physical activity: That sounds complicated, but basically it just means to do exercise that includes balance training, as well as aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities. This is particularly recommended for older adults to help with muscle function and balance. Possible activities include body-weight exercises like pushups, pullups, squats, and planks; digging, lifting, and carrying as part of gardening; yoga poses; and strengthening exercises like lifting weights.
People of all sizes and abilities, including those with disabilities and chronic health conditions, can benefit from regular physical activity. Any amount of physical activity that gets your heart rate up can provide health benefits.
Need help getting started? Check out the National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability’s YouTube channel, Inclusive Fitness or the Sit and Be Fit Program for workouts you can do in your home today!
As much as you are financially able, being mindful about what you eat can be very helpful to your long-term health. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has advice for people at every stage of life. Generally, Americans are encouraged to adopt an eating pattern that has lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean proteins.
Research has shown that making even small changes to diet can have big impacts. One study of 182 adults with frequent migraines found that a diet lower in vegetable oil and higher in fatty fish could reduce migraine headaches. Another study that followed almost 1,000 older adults over five years found that consumption of green leafy vegetables was significantly associated with slower cognitive decline.
Protecting your mental and cognitive health
Mental health and cognitive function are important to your ability to live independently and to your overall quality of life. Like physical health, some things are out of our control, but managing social isolation, loneliness, stress, depression, and mood (through medication and self-care) can help keep our minds healthy.
Above all else, do not be afraid to ask for help. Resources are available to help if you are needing any emotional support, especially if you are having thoughts of self-harm or suicide. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255) is available 24 hours per day, 7 days per week.
Like physical health, healthy habits help make for healthy minds. Here are some things you can do to practice self-care.
Stay connected: Research has shown that being socially active can benefit older adults. Feeling lonely and being socially isolated have been found to put people at risk for heart disease, chronic lung conditions, depression, and cognitive and memory decline. Practice good self-care by intentionally staying connected with friends, family members, religious organizations, and other communities and by continuing to participate in hobbies or find new ones.
Learn a new skill: Always wished you had learned to play the guitar? Knit? Sew? Now you have a great reason. In addition to being fun, studies have shown that older adults that engaged in cognitively demanding, new activities had better memory function.
De-stress: Prolonged stress can have serious health impacts. It can change the brain, impact memory, increase the risk of Alzheimer’s or other dementia conditions, and shorten overall life expectancy. De-stressing will look different for everyone (physical activity helps a lot!), so work on finding the things that help you relax the most.
Get medical help: Depression and other mood disorders can be treated, even when severe. If you or a loved one are experiencing symptoms of memory loss or a mood disorder (which can include deep sadness or numbness, insomnia, loss of appetite, or forgetfulness) make an appointment to see a health care provider. There is nothing wrong with asking for help!
More information & Resources
Looking for something else? Here’s our catalog of useful links that may be what you need!
WA 211 Online Database (211)
Institute on Aging Friendship Line (800-971-0016)
Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255)