Elder Americans Kidding Themselves on Long-Term Care

September 25, 2002 (PLANSPONSOR.com) - Many older Americans who don't think they'll need special provisions for their long-term care needs just don't know what's coming, a survey finds.

The survey, for the GE Center for Financial Learning, found that 85% of adults currently living independently say they’ll never need special long-term care such as moving in with relatives, going to a retirement home or hiring a nurse.

Actually, according to researchers, more than 70% of Americans over age 65 will need some sort of home health care.

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The study findings include that:

  • Even among people who anticipate a need for professional care, nearly half the respondents (44%) believe their insurance, Medicare or Medicaid will foot the bill.
  • In reality, Medicaid will only pay for long-term care costs a person’s income does not cover. Additionally, each state is required to try to recover money from your estate to cover what it spent on your nursing home care.
  • Some 42% of adults living independently believe that should it become necessary, long-term care assistance would be provided by a family member. At the same time, a quarter of respondents admit their family doesn’t have the time or money to give them care.

Family Discussions on Care Plan of Action

Less than half (48%) of this same group have actually discussed this eventuality with their children and nearly one in five fear that their children would react negatively if they brought up the subject.

However, 58% of adult children feel that it would be appropriate for their parents to talk to them about long-term care and would welcome it if it happened.

The majority of respondents (70%) agree that it is important for people to talk to their family members or friends about a plan of action, should they need some sort of long term care, yet fewer than 11% of adult children who have not already had this conversation with their parent plan to do so before the end of the year.

The biggest barrier to having this conversation for adult children is the belief that their parents’ view on long-term care is their personal business (26%). Yet only 9% of elderly parents in this survey say they actually feel this way.

The survey covered 512 Americans age 45 and over.