Access to Quality Long-Term Health Care and Inflation – Lack of Planning Impacts Family and Finances
As America ages, demand for quality long-term health care has increased. However, labor shortages, inflation, and higher labor costs are getting in the way. Those without a plan find themselves lacking the proper care, and their families are forced to step in as caregivers.
Many families are now dealing with a heavy burden due to the rising caregiving problem in the United States and worldwide. While the need for caregiving services has increased, the lack of caregivers has impacted care recipients and their families. Many older adults require long-term health care but cannot get quality care options with spending a tremendous amount of money.
The problem of long-term health care is not new but is growing. Approximately 1.4 million Americans 65 and older reside in nursing facilities. However, most people receive long-term health care at home or in assisted living. Experts say four times as many receive care at home, and a sizable percentage of people entirely go without the necessary assistance.
Many older couples attempt to provide care to each other and, as a result, often worsen their overall quality of life, often prematurely putting them into a nursing home.
For others, adult children become caregivers. These unpaid, untrained family caregivers try to do their best to juggle their careers and lives with being a parent's caregiver.
Aging – A Reality Worldwide
Aging is a reality, and many of us would rather not think about it. In the next 25 years, the senior population in the United States will increase significantly due to causes including the aging of the baby boomer generation and greater life expectancy. Approximately one in five Americans will be over 65 by 2030.
Within the baby boomer generation are the late boomers. This group was born between 1964 and 1975. Generation X is generally considered to be born between 1965 and 1980. According to a 2019 study conducted by the Pew Research Center, approximately 76 million people living in the United States were born between 1964 and 1980.
The supply of caregivers and long-term care services is becoming more precarious even as demand rises. Unprecedented turnover and lack of staff are being reported by long-term care facilities. In-home caregivers are also scarce, and as a result, salaries are increasing to attract employees.
The U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee in a February 2023 hearing regarding the shortage of caregivers. In a statement released before the hearing, the CEO of the American Health Care Association/National Center for Assisted Living, Mark Parkinson, said that nursing homes have experienced the worst job loss of any health care sector, not just long-term care.
The pandemic has taken a physical and emotional toll on our health care workers, especially our nation's long-term caregivers. Even after taking unprecedented steps to support our workforce, nursing homes have experienced the worst job loss of any health care sector. After three years of the pandemic, 84% of providers are still facing moderate or high levels of staffing shortages. At our current pace of moderate job growth, we will not return to pre-pandemic workforce levels until 2027.
The lack of caregivers increases the cost and adversely impacts the quality of care.
Growing Number of Older People
The number of older adults needing long-term health care is increasing quickly due to population aging. Between 2000 and 2050, the number of people aged 80 and older is expected to triple worldwide. This means that more people need long-term care than ever before. However, this demand for long-term care is not met with a corresponding rise in caregivers.
The global shortage of caregivers is particularly concerning as it places additional burdens on family members who are already struggling to cope with their own responsibilities. This can lead to poorer health outcomes for elderly individuals who do not receive adequate care and support.
Increasing Cost of Care
Furthermore, this shortage is driving up the cost of long-term care services, as providers must purchase additional staffing and equipment to meet the increased demand for services. This can make it difficult for families who are already struggling financially and could further limit access to quality care for those who need it most.
The LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator indicates that long-term health care costs are rapidly increasing nationwide. While the costs vary depending on the location and the type of service, these costs are still exploding.
Every care sector is increasing, although most in-home care and assisted living options are less expensive than a nursing home. Most care is delivered outside of a nursing home.
LTC NEWS Cost of Care Calculator - Choose Your Location
Informal Unpaid Family Members Providing Care
According to the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP, 53 million unpaid family caregivers are providing care in the United States. This can significantly affect the caregiver's life, as they often have to dedicate a large amount of their time and energy to providing care. This can lead to physical and mental exhaustion, financial strain due to missed opportunities for employment, and social isolation.
Additionally, many of these caregivers lack the training to help them better provide care without injuring themselves. In addition, family caregivers face anxiety and depression from their job as a caregiver. This lack of training can impact the quality of care they are able to provide and may put them at risk for burnout or injury.
Family caregivers often face detrimental psychological, behavioral, and physiological consequences on their daily lives and health. Sadly, these issues are usually overlooked by the caregiver and their medical provider.
Informal caregivers often perform many tasks, including assisting with basic everyday activities like bathing and toileting, managing medications, and organizing and accompanying the care recipient to medical visits and checkups. Furthermore, they are frequently the care recipients' primary source of comfort and emotional support.
Family caregivers face many burdens as they make countless sacrifices to ensure the well-being of their loved ones. But despite the hard work, family caregivers often cannot provide the quality care that the recipient needs and deserves.
Ang Bee Lian is Singapore’s Director of Social Welfare at the Ministry of Social and Family Development. She says family caregivers face stress, uncertainty, and fear. It also comes with a long list of things to learn and master, such as personal care techniques and clinical skills, as needed.
When caregivers take on the role of caregiving, they face a huge life transition that tends to happen unexpectedly.
Quality long-term care is tailored to the unique needs of aging individuals. This can help them maintain their physical, mental, and emotional health so they can live as independently and comfortably as possible. When a care recipient receives quality care, they will be better able to maintain a better quality of life delay or even avoid the need for a nursing home.
For those who must have more institutional care, quality caregivers inside these facilities will be better able to provide the needed skilled and semi-skilled services they require.
Quality long-term health care also benefits the family by reducing the stress among family members who are often forced to provide care for a family member. This professional quality care gives families peace of mind knowing their loved one is receiving the best care while allowing them to spend more time doing what matters most — enjoying each other's company.
Traditional Insurance Not a Solution
Health insurance, including Medicare (and supplements), pays for a limited number of days of skilled long-term care services. However, most long-term health care involves providing help with routine everyday living activities or supervision due to dementia. This type of care referred to as "custodial care," is not covered by these traditional health insurance programs.
Medicaid will pay for all levels and types of long-term care; however, the quality of this care is questionable, and the care recipient must have little or no income and assets in order to qualify. Medicaid reimbursement rates are often too low to attract enough providers of quality long-term care services.
While the federal government and the states are attempting to fix this problem, for most Americans, the objective is to avoid Medicaid and preserve assets but still access their choice of quality care -- all without placing a burden on their loved ones.
Long-Term Care Insurance Offers Funds for Quality Care
Those with Long-Term Care Insurance have guaranteed tax-free resources to pay for their choice of quality care services. But there are two problems:
You can't buy Long-Term Care Insurance when you need care - policies are medically underwritten, so you must have reasonably good health to get coverage. While insurance company underwriting rules vary, you can't buy an LTC policy when you need it. Most people purchase coverage in their 50s as part of retirement planning.
What is Underwriting?
The rising cost of long-term health care – The increasing costs require you to ensure you have enough benefits available when you need them - The lack of staffing and increased demand for care services means the cost of long-term health care is exploding. Sometimes consumers don't include inflation benefits, or their advisor or insurance agent doesn't recommend them. If you are under the age of 65, you need to address the increasing cost of care.
The increasing cost of care is vital to consider when designing a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, according to Cassandra Watson, CLTC, a highly regarded specialist in long-term health care planning who runs NextGen LTC.
She says that including automatic inflation protection on a Long-Term Care Insurance policy will keep your benefits growing each year to address the increasing cost of care services. However, she notes that some carriers allow you to increase or decrease inflation benefits over time.
Watson says some clients forego inflation protection in favor of starting with higher level benefits. She says the key is that there are several ways to put an effective plan in place; it's a question of finding the right fit for each individual.
I often hear from clients that they want, if possible, to prevent moving to a facility. Consequently, many policies are designed to supplement retirement income to make those goals a reality— and not necessarily designed to fund long-term health care in full.
Watson says they see benefits helping policyholders at claim time.
Long-Term Care Insurance helps you age in place, helps provide resources to your family, and helps stave off facility. In reality, coverage of any kind will help your spouse or family when the care is needed, so it's important not to let the idea of a perfect policy prevent you from getting a good one.
Inflation and the rising cost of care should be part of the consideration, according to Michele Perloe from Perloe Financial.
The current rise in inflation is a reminder that the cost of goods and services today may not reflect the cost in the future…inflation protection helps mitigate those concerns.
Perloe says that having the funds to provide quality caregiving services provides peace of mind for the family and asset protection. She says inflation protection helps ensure that the necessary funds will be there for your choice of quality care services in your desired setting.
Fewer Caregivers Means Higher Costs
Professional care providers are becoming increasingly scarce due to the longer hours, demanding conditions, and insufficient remuneration. As a result, care providers have been forced to charge higher service rates, resulting in rising costs. Family members often step in but have little time or training.
The rise in costs associated with long-term health care has presented several challenges for both families and providers. Access to quality care can be costly, and without an advance plan it places tremendous burdens on loved ones. For many people, Long-Term Care Insurance helps provide quality care services and reduces the stress on those they love.
However, since LTC Insurance is medically underwritten, a policy must be obtained when someone still has generally good health. Every insurance company has its own requirements. Most people get coverage in their 50s as part of their retirement planning.
Some specialists work exclusively with Long-Term Care Insurance solutions. These professionals will match your age, health, and family history with the best options and provide accurate quotes from all the top-rated insurance companies.
When someone has quality long-term care services, it will improve overall health, reduce pain and discomfort, and increase their independence. Having the proper care in place will lessen the burden on family members who may otherwise be responsible for providing these services.
Families can rest assured that their loved one is receiving the proper care and attention, allowing them to have the time to be family. When you get older, isn't that what you want for yourself and your loved ones?
About the Author
Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.
Contributor since October 31st, 2017
In the United States, health insurance and Medicare will not cover the cost of most long-term health care services. Medicaid may provide some assistance, but only if you have limited income and assets. Unfortunately, long-term care services are becoming increasingly expensive across the country and can drain your resources, change your lifestyle and impact your legacy.
It's also important to consider how long-term care affects your family. Often, adult children are put in a position of being caregivers without proper training or preparation. Affordable Long-Term Care Insurance can help pay for quality in-home care so that your loved ones don't have to take on this additional burden.
The need for long-term health care can happen without warning, and it's important to obtain coverage sooner rather than later when you're still in good health, and premiums are still very affordable. Most people get coverage in place in their 50s and even younger as part of their retirement planning.
Discover the Tools and Resources Available on LTC NEWS
At LTC NEWS, we have various resources and tools to assist you in preparing for future costs and potential aging-related issues. All these resources are designed to make your research a little easier - so let's get started:
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Seek Professional Guidance and Save Money
Insurance rates are regulated, so no insurance agent, agency, or financial advisor can give you special deals. However, premiums do vary dramatically between insurance companies for the same coverage.
Experts suggest using a qualified Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you navigate the many options available to you and your family.
A specialist who works with the top companies can match your age, health, family history, and other factors and find you the best coverage at the best value.
A specialist will save you money, provide accurate quotes from all the top companies, and provide expert recommendations. You will have peace of mind knowing they will help you design an appropriate plan which will benefit you and your family in the decades ahead.
Get Expert Help Filing an LTC Insurance Claim
LTC NEWS has teamed up with Amada Senior Care to provide free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with your Long-Term Care Insurance policy.
You can also get support in finding quality caregivers and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy or not. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim.
If your loved one has a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure not to delay using the benefits, so they get the proper care they deserve.
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