Families Face Steep Long-Term Health Care Costs Even When It's Free

Some people think their adult children can provide "free" care when they need long-term health care in the future. Nothing is 'free,' and the consequences on untrained and unprepared family caregivers can be life-changing for them.

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Families Face Steep Long-Term Health Care Costs Even When It's Free
6 Min Read July 26th, 2015 Updated:May 11th, 2022

Many financial advisors attempt to discuss how their clients will address the growing long-term health care costs. One of the most significant financial demands people face in retirement will be long-term health care.

When you look at today's costs, they are expensive. Skilled nursing homes are the costliest, but most people receive long-term care services at home or in assisted living facilities. 

Houston financial advisor Joseph Birkofer, quoted in Financial Planning says the average person is unaware of the economic impact of long-term health care.

The average person has a vague idea of long-term care expenses and a lot of hope that their assets will cover them

They never sit down and actually identify the specific financial demands of their retirement days.

Joseph Birkofer, Legacy Asset Management in Houston

Free is Not Really Free

Since so many families are unprepared for the financial impact of long-term care on their retirements, nobody is ready for the reality when it does happen. 

Families either pay the freight and use their income and assets to pay for this expensive care, or their families attempt to be caregivers. While they might think 'free' care is free, the consequences on their adult children, the default caregivers, is disastrous for their careers and families. 

Jesse Slome, executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, talks about these unforeseen consequences. 

A significant number of people wait too long, and the cost gets too high 

Jesse Slome

An AARP study discovered that family caregivers spend an average of $7,000 of their own money per year on caregiving. There are about 53 million unpaid family caregivers in the United States alone, and the financial impact is more than lost wages.

According to the AARP Public Policy Institute, the total value of this caregiving is worth $470 billion.

What many people ignore until it happens are the physical and emotional consequences of being a caregiver. The job is difficult, and most informal unpaid family caregivers are untrained and undoubtedly unprepared. 

According to Blue Cross Blue Shield research, the estimated direct economic effect of unpaid family caregivers is approximately $44 billion, including the costs associated with more than 650,000 lost jobs and almost 800,000 caregivers missing work.

Blue Cross research said nearly 51 million Americans over age 65 require some type of caregiving. This number does not include those under age 65 who need long-term care services. 

A MetLife study estimated that the amount of lost wages and reductions in Social Security and pension benefits totaled $303,880 for the typical caregiver. These numbers would be higher today than the 2015 numbers cited in the study. 

Thinking that family members can easily become a caregiver for you in your older years is a fallacy. 

Problems at Work

Multiple studies have shown that most family caregivers are employed and must juggle their work and caregiving responsibilities. Because of their jobs, about half of these caregivers had to adjust working hours (including reducing hours). Others had to take a leave of absence, leave their job completely, and even turn down promotions.

Workplace challenges often arise when children become primary caregivers of their parents

 These challenges can include having to take time off in the middle of the day, using personal time to take the parent to doctors' appointments, and using vacation time to visit their parents in other cities or locations.

Joseph Birkofer

Early Retirement

Since family caregivers are human, you can only take so much pressure. In an AARP study, about 22% left the workforce earlier than planned so they could provide care for their loved one. 

The study also revealed that about 83% of people in their prime working years (ages 51 to 54) may need to care for their own parents or their parents-in-law. For those nearing retirement (60 to 69 years), more than 45% face the risk of needing to care for a parent.

Relying on Family - Majority Surveyed Expected Families to Provide Long-Term Care

The majority of adults surveyed by AARP, ages 40 to 65, say they expected their families to provide long-term health care services. Yet other research indicated that most people don't want to burden their loved ones when they get older. 

One conclusion might be that most people think that the need for long-term health care will never happen to them.

Most people don't think of long-term care.

 We all think that we will live and be very healthy; the wife knows that she is going to take care of her husband. It's not something they plan on.

Susan Reinhard, senior vice president, and director of the AARP Public Policy Institute and lead author of the "Valuing the Invaluable" report

Family Caregivers Use Their Money to Support Caregiving

Family caregivers must deal with many challenges, including financial strain. AARP research found that about 68% of family caregivers had to use their own money to help provide care for a relative. These caregivers put their own financial needs on hold, including savings, retirement, or a child's education.

Long-term care is more than just a money problem; it is also an emotional issue affecting multiple generations. AARP research showed that 88% of middle-income individuals, ages 49 to 67, said family caregiving was more challenging than expected.

Many people have the notion that a family member will take care of them, but that notion becomes very uncomfortable when you are talking about personal care like bathing or helping one go to the bathroom.

 That poses a physical and psychological burden.

Joseph Birkofer

Being Prepared is Vital 

Experts say that being prepared for the costs and burdens of aging is a critical part of an overall retirement plan. For many families, this means adding a Long-Term Care Insurance policy to their planning.

Long-Term Care Insurance is like insurance for your 401(k) and other assets. You probably understand the financial impact the cost of long-term health care services can have, but how about the impact on your family?

When you have a policy in place, you have a solution to choose quality care options, including in-home care. Your assets will be protected. Your loved ones can concentrate on being family instead of being burdened by being your future caregiver.

Most people start their research and obtain coverage in their 50s.

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About the Author

An LTC News author focusing on long-term care and aging.

LTC News Contributor James Kelly

James Kelly

Contributor since August 21st, 2017

Editor's Note

Do you think you are exempt from aging and declining health in the future? Probably not, and even if you are in excellent health today, all that means is you will live longer, and longevity is a risk for needing long-term health care.

Almost every survey completed shows most Americans do not want to be a burden on their families as they get older. Yet, few people have taken any steps to address the costs and burdens of aging.

One of the reasons many people give for failing to plan for long-term health care is they think they will never need care or that Long-Term Care Insurance is too expensive. Of course, both are not true.

For most people, depending on their age and health, Long-Term Care Insurance can be a very affordable way to prepare. Plus, nobody is immune to the consequences of aging and declining health. Aging happens.

The time to plan is before you retire, and most people who do are in their 50s.

Seek Professional Planning Help

Experts recommend seeking the help of a qualified and experienced Long-Term Care Insurance specialist to help you find the right coverage. A specialist will match your age, health, and family history with the right coverage at the right price. 

Long-term care is a very specialized area, and few insurance agents and financial advisors have the expertise. Find a specialist who represents the top companies as premiums can vary over 100% between insurance companies. Leading specialists will often have over 500 clients with Long-Term Care Insurance.

A specialist will save you money, and you will have peace of mind knowing they are making the appropriate recommendations - Work With a Specialist | LTC News.

Planning Tools and Resources Available on LTC NEWS

Planning for the future is never easy, but long-term health care planning can be very complicated and comes with many emotions. Getting the right tools and resources will make the process much easier.

One of the goals is to reduce the stress and anxiety usually placed on your family at the time of crisis. LTC NEWS can be beneficial in providing you with important information for you to consider.

LTC NEWS has put in place several resources, including:

Find all the resources on LTC NEWS - Resources for Long-Term Care Planning | LTC News.

Finding Quality Care for Mom or Dad

If your family is already in crisis and you need to find help for mom or dad, LTC NEWS can help. We have put together several comprehensive guides to help you in your process.

Start by reading our guides -  

If your loved one is lucky enough to own a Long-Term Care Insurance policy, be sure they use it. Sometimes families wait, thinking they can save the benefits for a rainy day. Waiting on using available Long-Term Care Insurance benefits is not a wise idea. 

Get Help in Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim

Many insurance companies have issued Long-Term Care Insurance policies over the years. Filing a claim can sometimes be complicated unless you know what to do or get expert help and assistance. 

Don't allow the claim process to stop you from using the benefits available in an LTC policy. Quality care obtained early will help provide a better quality of life and reduce the risk of a deep decline and facility care. 

If you need help in starting the process of a Long-Term Care Insurance claim, LTC NEWS can help. LTC NEWS provides free assistance with no obligation to help you or a loved one complete the claims process with a Long-Term Care Insurance policy. We have teamed up with Amada Senior Care, who will do all the work - free with no obligation. 

Get help finding quality caregivers or long-term care facilities and get recommendations for a proper care plan, whether a person has a policy. - Filing a Long-Term Care Insurance Claim | LTC News

Benefits of Reverse Mortgages 

Today's reverse mortgages for those aged 62 and older could be an ideal resource to fund a Long-Term Care Insurance policy OR even provide money to pay for care if you, or a loved one, already needs help and assistance. You might be eligible at younger ages as well. 

Some people have much of their savings invested in their homes. With today's reverse mortgages, you can find ways to fund care solutions, care itself, and even help with cash flow during your retirement. 

Learn more by asking questions to an expert. Mike Banner, LTC NEWS columnist and host of the TV Show "62 Who Knew" will answer your questions regarding caregiving, aging, health, retirement planning, long-term care, and reverse mortgages. 

- Just "Ask Mike." - Reverse Mortgages | LTC News.

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You can write a story or ongoing column for LTC NEWS. You can write about many topics, including aging, caregiving, health, lifestyle, retirement planning, and long-term care, to name a few.

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Email your story idea or article: newsroom@ltcnews.com - LTC News Contributors | LTC News

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