Survey Reveals Americans Misunderstand Long-Term Care

September 14, 2015
Family home care is part of many Americans' future - but many prefer not to think about it.

Many prefer not to think about aging.

Most Americans don’t like to think about aging, and even fewer are planning for their future long term care needs, according to a new report released by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.  This reluctance could have an impact on future family home care and assisted living care.

What’s in the report?

For this report, the AP –NORC Center conducted interviews with 1,019 Americans ages 40 and older.  Among the results they found are:

  • 30% of Americans over the age of 40 prefer not to think about getting older.
  • Although 48% of those surveyed “acknowledge that just about everyone will require long-term care at some point as they grow older,” only 24% of those surveyed believe that they personally will need long-term care.
  • Adult daughter helping senior mom with paperwork

    Planning for long-term care needs is important.

    Further, only 16% of those surveyed reported doing “a great deal or quite a bit of planning” for their own long-term care needs; 19% reported doing a moderate amount; and an overwhelming 65% report doing little or no planning.

  • Those looking for family home care do seem more likely to have done a little planning than those who do not think that they can depend upon family for help: 46% of those counting on family help have already discussed long-term preferences with their families (versus 27% of those who do not count on family assistance), and 40% have set aside some money to help pay for long-term care expenses (versus 24% of those who are not counting on family-centered help).
  • Although only 46% reported that they are counting on help from family members, 68% reported that they feel they can rely on their family in time of need; this could indicate that significantly more than 46% may in the future actually turn to family members for long term assistance.
  • Most Americans also do not have an accurate idea of how much long term care costs.  For example, only 24% correctly guessed that average nursing home costs run between $6,000 and $8,000 per month.  Instead, 58% believed that it cost less and 14% believed that it cost more.
  • Tellingly, misconceptions persist despite the fact that that 53% of those surveyed reported that they have provided long-term family home care on a regular basis.
  • There is majority support for some form of government policy to help pay for long-term care costs. 77% support tax breaks to encourage saving for long-term care expenses, and 51% support  a government-administered long-term care insurance program.

Report insight

The AP-NORC Center study provides valuable insight into the American public’s attitudes toward aging and long-term care.  Clearly, Americans need to start paying more attention to the realities associated with long-term care and the likelihood that they will personally be impacted by it in some way.  For those considering future family home care, it is crucial to open up communication with potential caregivers and make plans now to cover future costs.

This is necessary even when the potential caregivers have a “don’t worry, we’ll take care of everything” attitude.  Most people do not truly understand the costs and time commitment that come with providing long-term care, so having detailed, informed, and frank conversations on this topic can help prevent problems down the road.

The report can be accessed here.

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