LONG-TERM CARE AWARENESS MONTH
Learn and prepare for future possibilities
Long-term care is a topic that may be uncomfortable to think about—until it becomes a necessity. And for most of us, that will happen. That’s why it’s important to raise awareness about long-term care— what it means, how much it costs, and why it’s important to start considering options for yourself and/or your loved ones. Though the topic may be too uncomfortable to discuss around the table at Thanksgiving, the annual gathering of family members may be just what you need to get started on your own plan.
How Long-Term Care Awareness Month got its start—and why it’s important
National Long-Term Care Awareness Month was started in November 2001 by the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, and has since been recognized by Congress and multiple states. The nudges it provides to those who want to explore options for themselves and/ or family members often sends them to LongTermCare.gov, a helpful resource for raising awareness about long-term care—and what it means. It explains that most long-term care is not medical care, but help with the basic, personal tasks of everyday life—such as bathing, dressing, using the toilet, eating, transferring from a chair to a bed, and other activities of daily living. Long-term care also includes help with housework, shopping, transportation, managing money, taking medications, caring for pets, and more. The site includes a Long- Term-Care Pathfinder link that helps answer questions for those who want to start exploring different options.
Many of us will need it, but not all of us will be prepared
LongTermCare.gov reports that anyone in the U.S. who turns 65 today has about a 70% chance of needing long-term care support and services during their remaining years. One-third of today’s 65-year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20% will
end up needing it for longer than five years, LongTermCare.gov reports. Also, women typically need care for a longer period (3.7
years) than men (2.2 years).
In its 2021 Cost of Care Survey, Genworth Financial revealed the following national, median annual costs for long-term care:
• Homemaker services – $59,488
• Home health aide – $61,776
Community and assisted living:
• Adult day health care – $20,280
• Assisted living facility – $54,000
Nursing home facility:
• Semi-private room – $94,900
• Private room – $108,405
These are median costs, and the difference can be significant depending on where you live. For example, in 2021 the hourly rate for a home health aide ranged from $19 in West Virginia to $36 in Minnesota.
Don’t count on Medicare to cover your needs
Consumer surveys show that there are common misconceptions about what Medicare pays for when it comes to longterm care. For example, it doesn’t pay for non-skilled assistance with activities of daily living (ADL), which make up the majority of long-term care services. Medicare only pays for long-term care if you require rehabilitative services or skilled care—and there’s a time limit. For example, the maximum payment for nursing home care is 100 days, though the average amount of time in a nursing home covered by Medicare is 22 days. There are also restrictions for how long it covers skilled home-health services.
Medicaid does provide more coverage for long-term care, but is designed only for low-income individuals whose income and assets do not exceed levels defined by their state.
Family and friends are usually the first line of caregivers
Most caregivers are family members who don’t receive payment for the support they provide—even though it may take a toll on
their schedules, bank accounts, and mental health. Caregiving.org reported in 2020 that 41.8 million Americans—about 16.8%—were caregivers for family members or friends aged 50 and older, compared to 34.2 million—or 14.3%—in 2015. The numbers will increase as the youngest baby boomers (born in 1964) hit retirement age and the oldest baby boomers (born in 1946) turn 80.
AARP reports that 80% of those who provide unpaid care to an adult family member pay routine out-of-pocket expenses related to their loved one’s care out of their own pockets. On average, these expenses total $7,242 a year.
Ideas for recognizing National Long-Term Care Awareness Month
The best thing you can do for yourself and your family members during National Long-Term Awareness Month is learn more
about the challenges and supports that could be in your (or their) future—and start preparing. Every situation is unique, but here are a few things that may prove helpful:
Visit friends or family members who are in a nursing home or receiving in-home care. Raise your own awareness about the help
and support they need.
Start developing your own plan for long-term care. Even if you’re a long way from retirement, it’s helpful to have plans in place in case you’re involved in an accident or develop a serious illness. Learn more about advance directives— such as living wills, medical power of attorney, and advance healthcare directives. Consider what you want yours to say—and complete them. Also, talk to your family members about your choices, and suggest to older family members that they should consider completing their own directives (if they haven’t already).
Consider whether you should buy a long-term care insurance policy, or whether you have the time (and the assets) to cover any costs when needed.
Discover how much long-term care costs in your area with AARP’s long-term care calculator.
Why personal involvement is important
We can’t predict the future—but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan for it. Learning about your loved one’s plans and preferences for the future—and planning your own—can bring peace of mind for everyone involved. A good place to start is Longtermcare.gov.
Thanks for checking out the blog.
Joe Breslin , CFP®