Protecting your independence, your choices and your retirement savings from the potentially high cost of long-term care is important to everyone. But if you’re a woman, that challenge may be even more significant. That’s because women not only provide, but they also receive, the majority of long-term care services.

Consider these statistics. Today, approximately 75 percent of unpaid caregivers are women, according to the Institute on Aging (2018). This can be physically, emotionally and financially draining. According to the 2018 C.A.R.E. study by Northwestern Mutual, 68 percent of caregivers provide financial support as part of care. With 48 percent of caregivers spending 6 to 16 or more hours a day providing care, it’s not surprising that other areas of their lives were affected as well. 54 percent said their jobs were impacted by caregiving and 76 percent had to choose between caregiving and spending time with their spouse, children, friends, or taking personal time for themselves.

In addition, women live longer on average than men. This means they not only are more likely to need long-term care, they also tend to use those services for a longer period of time, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

A common misperception is that Medicare and private health insurance will pay for long-term care needs. But Medicare pays for only a small part of long-term care costs, and only if certain conditions are met. And while Medicaid does cover long-term care, it is available only after you’ve spent down most of your own savings. As a result, you may need to cover the costs of care out of your own savings and retirement assets until you qualify.

In light of this, it is obvious why it’s critical for women to plan for the potential of long-term care. And it’s why funding potential long-term care needs has become an essential part of retirement planning for a growing number of American women today. This is where a qualified financial professional can make a difference.

An experienced financial professional can discuss your needs and concerns, help you understand your options and then design a strategy to help protect your assets so that they aren’t exhausted by possible extended-care costs. By planning ahead, he or she can help you maintain your independence and ensure you have financial security to live your life your way.