Long-term care in the United States has received heightened attention in recent years, particularly since it became a talking point during the 2020 presidential campaign. Multiple candidates brought up issues such as caregiving, tax benefits, and credits for Long-Term Care Insurance, reflecting the country's aging population and advancements in medical science that prolong life.
Caregiving, even today, is getting attention from public officials on both the federal and state levels. Long-term care is a significant public policy problem, and the COVID-19 pandemic further emphasized the challenges of long-term care, with many facilities caught off-guard by a virus that asymptomatic individuals could spread.
Home care providers, many of whom are unpaid family members, found themselves juggling their personal and professional responsibilities with the demands of caregiving during a pandemic. The problem still exists post-COVID, and the burdens placed on family members present physical, emotional, and financial challenges.
Most American families will confront long-term care issues at some point. Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter put it very clearly:
There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who need caregiving.
The dilemma of long-term care has only grown since the 1970s. As Generation X, Late-Boomers, and Baby Boomers age, understanding caregiving options becomes imperative for quality of life.
Health Insurance Has Limitations
However, health insurance has its limits. Many are unaware that health insurance does not cover custodial care, including Medicare and its supplements. This gap leaves many families resorting to personal income and savings to pay for professional care. Family caregivers face challenges, from time constraints to financial strains, often affecting their health.
The Cleveland Clinic describes caregiving as potentially overwhelming, with caregivers experiencing physical and emotional exhaustion. The American Psychological Association noted that caregivers between 55-75 show elevated stress hormones. The role also brings health risks like high blood pressure, compromised immune systems, and higher infection vulnerability.
Moreover, elderly spouses often assume caregiving roles, which is unsuitable for either party. Such arrangements can compromise the quality of care and the caregiver's well-being, leading to increased depression and anxiety rates.
In 2023, the average cost of in-home long-term care (based on a 44-hour week) in the United States is $57,087 annually. This cost is expected to rise in the coming years as the population ages. Assisted living, memory care, and nursing homes are even more expensive.
Several options are available to people who need long-term care besides nursing homes. In-home care and assisted living facilities make up the majority of care. The best choice for each individual will vary depending on their needs and preferences.
It is important to plan for long-term care in advance, as obtaining care on short notice can be difficult and expensive. There are few options to prepare for the future cost and burdens of long-term health care. Medicaid will pay for your care if you have little or no income and assets. Otherwise, your options are limited to Long-Term Care Insurance, your income and assets, or your family.
Elderly Spouses are Not the Best Caregivers
Older spouses tend to attempt to become caregivers; however, this isn't good for either party. Generally, caregiving is beyond the scope of an older person to deliver. It doesn't provide the quality care a person deserves, adversely impacting the caregiver's health. Plus, there is definitely a higher level of depression and anxiety.
People with savings will start spending their own assets to pay for either at-home or facility care. Self-funding long-term care will drain assets and income and change a spouse's lifestyle. It also impacts a family's legacy. This alone will cause depression and anxiety for both the care recipient and their family.
When there is no advance plan, the family usually steps in. The burn-out on the one family member, often a daughter or daughter-in-law, doesn't take long to feel. In addition to the caregiver's burn-out, the strife within the family creates family conflicts.
Busting Caregiver Burn-Out
Sally Abrahms, an award-winning journalist and nationally recognized expert on baby boomers and seniors, offers several ways to bust the burn-out if you find yourself in a caregiving situation.
Her suggestions, published on the Age-Friendly Advisor, offer seven ways to reduce this burn-out. The first one may seem simple but is often overlooked. Asking for help might seem common sense, but often the caregiver wants to take responsibility to avoid others from being burdened. Sometimes no help is offered, but if you don't ask, you don't know.
One of the saddest things about long-term care is we ignore the issue until we have very few options. Many people will acknowledge that other people will need extended care, but not themselves. Too many people think they are too healthy to ever need care. This is silly since longevity increases our risk. Some people believe they have enough family and finances, so they decide not to worry about the problem. Silly again since they are really saying it won't happen to them.
Mary Ann DeKing, a specialist in Long-Term Care Insurance, always sees the problem with families she deals with on a regular basis.
I know first-hand the consequences of long-term care on families both personally and professionally. Today I see how the benefits of having an advance plan make long-term care easier on everyone.
Thinking Ahead Makes Sense for Family and Finances
Planning for the financial costs and burdens of aging should be part of a comprehensive retirement plan. For many people, affordable Long-Term Care Insurance will offer guaranteed tax-free benefits that give you access to your choice of quality care when needed. You will have a choice of care in any setting, including your own home.
When you have a plan in place, your loved ones will have the time to be family. Long-Term Care Insurance will give you control and independence and help keep the family together as you age. Yet, some people don't know these policies exist or think they are costly.
There are various types of Long-Term Care Insurance policies. Be sure you look at a policy that meets federal guidelines. These guidelines provide consumer protections, regulated benefit triggers, and tax incentives.
One of these policies will fit your needs and budget. Experts suggest obtaining coverage in your 40s or 50s when premiums are very affordable and better health offers more options. Every insurance company has its own underwriting rules, and premiums can vary substantially between insurance companies.
You can ease family caregivers' stress and burden by dealing with the issue before it becomes an issue. Your family and pocketbook will thank you.
About the Author
Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.
Contributor since October 31st, 2017
One of the questions often asked about Long-Term Care Insurance is whether making a claim and receiving benefits is difficult. Most Long-Term Care Insurance claims are paid without issue.
Long-Term Care Insurance pays billions in benefits to policyholders helping them access quality care, including at home, and reducing the stress and burden otherwise placed on family members.
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LTC NEWS has these comprehensive guides to help you in your process of finding care for a loved one now:
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LTC Insurance is custom-designed, but premiums vary dramatically between insurance companies. Every insurance company must file its products and pricing with the state's insurance department before being offered to consumers. What that means is no insurance agent or agency can offer special deals.
Seeking professional help is vital when shopping for Long-Term Care Insurance. There are not many Long-Term Care Insurance specialists who work with the top companies and have a complete understanding of underwriting, policy design, pricing, claims, partnership, and other important aspects of LTC Insurance.
Look for some of these factors in finding an LTC Insurance specialist:
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Most people obtain coverage in their 40s and 50s.
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