The Reality of Long-Term Care: Why You Should Plan Ahead for Your Parents and Yourself

November 29, 2018

People talk a lot about the high cost of medical care, but fewer people mention the expenses associated with long-term care. In some cases, this may be because they don’t realize there’s an important difference.

Long-term care involves help with daily tasks of living, such as getting dressed and eating. While long-term care can be made necessary by advanced age or health conditions, it is not limited to medical care, and people are sometimes surprised to learn that it is often not covered by health insurance. Then they may be shocked again when they see how expensive long-term care is. 

There is a good chance that you will need long-term care services at some point – for yourself, for your spouse or for your parents – so it is important to plan for the expense. 

Many people need – and struggle to pay for – long-term care.

The majority of people who enjoy a long life will need long-term care at some point. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, today’s 65-year-olds have a 69 percent chance of needing long-term care during their remaining years. People who need care typically need it for an average of three years, although women tend to need more care than men.

Care can be received at home, in an adult health care center or at a residential facility. In 2016, average costs in the United States were as follows:

  • $68 a day for an adult day health care center. At this rate, care for five days a week for three years would cost $53,040.
  • $20.50 an hour for a health aide. At this rate, care for 20 hours a week for three years would cost $63,960.
  • $3,628 a month at an assisted living facility. At this rate, care would cost $130,608 for three years.
  • $6,844 a month for a semi-private room in a nursing home. At this rate, care would cost $246,384 for three years.

Caregivers often suffer from burnout.

People who can’t afford professional long-term care services often turn to unpaid caregivers. These unpaid caregivers are often family members, including spouses or adult children. Although this may seem like a very financially prudent option, it is not without problems.

In some cases, caregivers may need to stop working or work less in order to manage their caregiving duties, and this can lead to long-term financial hardship.

Others may strive to balance their work and caregiving responsibilities. According to the United States Department of Labor, 25 million working people also act as unpaid caregivers, and 77 percent of these individuals work full time. These workers may struggle with absenteeism and lose out on promotions as a result. They also face high levels of stress and may suffer emotional and physical health problems. 

Planning ahead can create better options.

When people suddenly and unexpectedly require long-term care, the family may feel as if there are no good options. However, with a little preparation, this does not have to be true.

Although health insurance does not generally cover long-term care services, long-term care insurance policies and life insurance policies with long-term care riders can help cover the cost of care.  

To get the best rates, it’s important not to wait until you’re already in poor health to shop for long-term care insurance. Younger individuals also enjoy better rates on average, and workers may be able to get a group policy through their employer.  

Don’t wait until you or your parents need long-term care. Develop a plan now. Contact the Heffernan Life Insurance division for more information.