Long-term Care Needs in the 21st Century

Due to medical advances, people are living longer than they did in the last century. In the United States, the current average life expectancy is 77.8 years. Of course, that is encouraging news. On the downside, if an elderly relative needs expensive long-term care, it could cause financial and emotional problems for the rest of the family.

Because the risk of needing long-term care increases with age, it is important to plan ahead, both for yourself and other family members. The optimal time to take steps is when you are relatively young and in good health.

Background: Long-term care is the type of help people need when they are unable to perform activities of daily living such as eating, bathing and dressing. Typically, it is not provided by doctors or by skilled nursing professionals. Long-term care does not try to cure an illness.

Frequently, it is assumed that long-term care means care in a nursing home. While some people do require such specialized care, most long-term care takes place in the home and community. Family members, adult day-care centers and assisted-living facilities are among the most common care providers. Long-term care is not defined by the setting in which it takes place, but by the type of care that is needed.

The family dynamic today little resembles that of even a generation ago. Children live half a world away, single-parent homes are more common, and more women are achieving success and financial rewards in their careers. The safety nets that many relied upon in the past—such as family caregivers—may no longer be realistic options for those requiring care.

Long-term care has an impact on the entire family, not just the person who needs care. A family member—usually, a middle-aged adult with children of his or her own—often takes on the role as unpaid caregiver for an aging parent or spouse. These caregivers typically must make adjustments at work and in their careers, such as taking leaves of absence or turning down promotions, in order to provide the needed care for an ailing relative. If you are a caregiver, this may also have an impact on your own family life and overall personal health.

One of the options available to the family is long-term care insurance. Be advised that coverage becomes more expensive for older insureds and those in poor health. The premiums may be treated as deductible medical expenses within specified annual limits.

Final words: By planning ahead now, you may be able to preserve your savings, assets, lifestyle, independence and family life in the event you or someone you love needs long-term care. Don’t ignore the risks.

For more information on this issue, please call Anita Abrol or Tom Shade at 810-238-4617.