Caring for elders is costly and a majority of older Americans will require some help, but few have plans for how to pay for their own long-term care.
According to LeadingAge, an association of nonprofit aging-services providers, 63 percent of people over the age of 65 are likely to need some type of home care, a form of long-term care that allows those with special needs to receive services in their home.
And the need is not going away anytime soon.
More baby boomers are expected to be living alone in their old age compared to their parents, according to a report from the National Academy of Social Insurance.
A United States of Aging survey found half of older Americans have someone they consider to be a caregiver in their lives. Three out of four of those caregivers are women, and the care they provide — for free — would be valued at more than $470 billion.
If you combine that with the fact that most baby boomers want to remain in their communities rather than going to nursing homes, the demand for home care is likely to grow for years to come.
That is why Maine voters will decide next week whether to support a ballot measure that would provide free home care for people 65 and older as well as the disabled, funded by a 3.8 percent tax on income above $128,400.
Hawaii provides some financial assistance to elderly residents so they can continue living at home. Washington state earlier this year considered a payroll tax to help cover long-term care. The proposal did not finally pass the state legislature, but it is expected to be reintroduced next year.
With few government options in place, most Americans will have to pay for traditional long-term care, which includes nursing home services, themselves — completely out of pocket or with expensive insurance — if they don’t qualify for Medicaid.
But many don’t even want to think about it.
About 75 percent of seniors would rather plan their own funeral than plan for long-term care, according to a survey by the home-care company Home Instead.
Others have misconceptions about what public programs pay for long-term care. One in three women falsely believes Medicare will cover the costs, according to an AARP poll of middle-to-older age women.
That translates to most Americans being financially unprepared.
Only 7.2 million Americans, or 5 percent of the U.S. population, have long-term care insurance, which covers many of the costs of a nursing home, assisted living or in-home care, according to AARP.
And long-term care is expensive. Here are some general estimates for what long-term care costs today per year, according to the insurance company Genworth:
- Adult day health care: $18,720
- Assisted living facility: $48,000
- Home health aide: $50,336
- Semi-private room in a nursing home: $89,297
And here’s what they are expected to cost annually 30 years from now:
- Adult day health care: $45,444
- Assisted living facility: $116,508
- Home health aide: $122,184
- Semi-private room in a nursing home: $216,732
GenWorth has a calculator that allows you to determine what the cost of care will be in your area years down the road.
Because the costs for long-term care vary depending on where you live, Robyn Stone, senior vice president for research at LeadingAge, recommends people locate their local area agency on aging, part of a larger network of organizations there to help people understand their options.
Stone said young people also need to start thinking about purchasing long-term care insurance early on because the rates for these premiums go up as people grow older.
“You need to be saving for a risk that you may or may not have. That’s really the challenge,” said Stone.