Long term care: something often in the news but not totally understood. Long term care: something which impacts all of us, whether it is taking care of loved ones or considering our own personal care.
What is Long Term Care?
Broadly defined, long term care is when an individual is no longer able to care for themselves without some sort of assistance on a daily basis. This care could be provided by a family caregiver, a hired caregiver, a skilled healthcare provider (nursing, physical or occupational therapy), while living at home, in a rehab facility, or in a nursing home. The tasks could include dressing and bathing, meal preparation, medication management and administration, visits to health care professionals, etc. While we often think of caring for the elderly, long term care also applies to those who are disabled at any age.
By the Numbers
By the year 2026 the oldest members of the Baby Boomers will be turning 80.
The number of available family caregivers is declining:
In 2010, there were potentially seven family caregivers for each individual 80 years or older
In 2025, there will be only four potential family caregivers.
Living longer and smaller family size will only increase this decline.
How Much Will Long Term Care Cost?
If you can afford it, long term care insurance is definitely worth considering; the earlier the better so that the premiums are more manageable. Long term care insurance can cover home health care, rehab and nursing home care for a defined period of time. Be aware that if you begin with a long term care insurance policy and then decide it is too expensive and discontinue coverage, you will lose all that you have paid into the program to that date; there will be no long term benefits covered for you.
There are now other insurance policies besides the traditional long term care insurance policy to be considered, covering fewer services but costing much less.
While the cost of long term care may seem daunting, consider the cost of a day in a nursing home or having home health services for an extended period of time. It is more a question of when you are going to pay for your care rather than IF you are going to have to pay for your care.
A recent study by AARP concluded that the cost of long term care was not affordable for most middle-class families. That’s why the family caregiver model becomes the alternative for so many. But, there are some heavy costs associated with the family caregiver model as well: multi-generational families living together who had not planned on this ever happening, family schedules, jobs, and lifestyles drastically changed with the new focus being on caregiving, transportation considerations if the loved one for whom you are caring has mobility difficulties. Some caregivers leave their jobs in order to become a caregiver, giving up their potential earnings and benefits for their retirement years.
Why Does This Matter to Me?
If you have elderly loved ones, chances are that you will be involved or have been involved in their care at some time to some extent. If you have children, you should be considering what care you might need when you are no longer able to care for yourself. Make your long term care plans before you need the care. Share your wishes with your children and other appropriate loved ones. There is a great deal of information currently available on this subject. Become familiar and do some planning before you become part of the long term care system.
“How Your State Rates in Terms of Long-Term Care” by Ina Jaffe, NPR, 6/19/14
AARP: “A State Scorecard on Long-Term Services and Supports for Older adults, People with Physical Disabilities, and Family Caregivers”