As the senior population in the United States grows, more and more people will need long-term support and services. Long-term care includes assistance through institutions such as nursing homes, assisted residential care, adult day services and in-home care. The need for long-term support and services depends on the senior’s ability to manage the tasks and responsibilities of daily living safely.
According to AARP:
- Seniors are the primary demographic needing long-term care because functional disability increases with advancing age.
- 13 million Americans ages 18 or older needed long-term support and services in 2014; 60 percent of these adults were age 65 or older.
- An estimated 52 percent of present-day seniors will develop a severe disability that will require long-term care at some point.
- Women are more likely than men (58 percent vs. 47 percent) to need long-term support and services. Furthermore, women on average need assistance for longer — 2.5 years vs. 1.5 years.
- More than half of seniors with disabilities rely exclusively on unpaid help. About 75 percent of people who used paid help also relied on family and friends for unpaid care.
Two thirds of seniors today will need long-term care at some point in the future with 20 percent of them needing it for longer than five years. Without an established plan and funding for long-term support and services, the responsibility for cost and care falls on your loved ones. To protect your family and ensure you get the care you want, it’s important to plan for the possibility of needing long-term support and services while securing a way to pay for them.
How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost?
It may not surprise you to find out that people wildly underestimate how much long-term services cost on average. One-third of Americans think home health care expenses are under $417 a month. The actual national median rate for long-term care costs is about nine times that estimate.
Median annual cost of long-term care:
- Adult day care – $17,680 annually ($1,474/month)
- Assisted living facility – $43,539 ($3,628/month)
- Homemaker services – $45,760 ($3,813/month)
- In-home health aide – $46,332 ($3,861/month)
- Semi-private room in nursing home – $82,125 ($6,844/month)
- Private room in nursing home – $92,378 ($7,698/month)
Paying for Long-Term Care
Older adults receive federally funded health insurance through Medicare. While Medicare pays for many health services, it does not pay for long-term care costs. Seniors can look into alternative policies like Humana Medicare Advantage plans, which offer the same coverage as Medicare Parts A and B. Some plans may include additional benefits for prescriptions, dental, vision, fitness services, caregiver support and a 24/7 nursing advice line. Having comprehensive health care prevents serious illness and injury that requires long-term support and services.
Long-term care insurance can cover all costs that Medicare plans do not. These policies protect your family’s savings while giving you more choices when it comes to the services and support you need. The average premiums for a 60-year-old couple are $2,010 a year when combined, but that small investment can end up saving your family hundreds of thousands on your long-term care in the future.
Avoiding Long-Term Care
One-third of Americans never need long-term care in their senior years. These people tend to be proactive when it comes to maintaining their health and avoiding injury. Make positive lifestyle choices such as exercising regularly, eating a well-balanced diet and being social. Research also suggests that habits such as learning new skills, pursuing passions and practicing mindfulness also contribute to longevity, however, genetics have a lot to do with how long you live. Researching family history and possibly undergoing predictive and presymptomatic genetic tests are the best ways to predict how your genes will affect your aging process.
The majority of seniors in the United States will need long-term care at some point. Healthy lifestyle choices can mitigate your risks, but it’s still important to plan for the extreme costs. Look into long-term insurance plans that cover the out-of-pocket expenses of long-term support and services.
Author: June is the co-creator of Rise Up for Caregivers, which offers support for family members and friends who have taken on the responsibility of caring for their loved ones. She is author of the upcoming book, The Complete Guide to Caregiving: A Daily Companion for New Senior Caregivers. June Duncan <firstname.lastname@example.org>