Nurses: The Unsung Heroes Often Overlooking Their Own Long-Term Care

Nurses, celebrated as the unsung heroes of health care, often prioritize the well-being of patients over their own health. Ironically, while they're tirelessly caring for others, many neglect to plan for their own long-term care needs. Nurses should consider long-term care in their retirement planning.

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Nurses: The Unsung Heroes Often Overlooking Their Own Long-Term Care
4 Min Read August 23rd, 2023 Updated:February 9th, 2024

Within the complex world of medical care, nurses stand out as the quiet champions, relentlessly serving with dedication, even at the cost of their own health. Their commitment is truly remarkable; however, an underlying issue persists. Many nurses inadvertently overlook planning for their own future long-term care needs, either under the assumption that they are exempt from the challenges of getting older or with the belief that they can tend to their partners as they age.

The number of active working nurses in the U.S. who are over 40 is expected to reach 3.8 million by 2024. According to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN), there were approximately 2.3 million R.N.s over the age of 50 in the U.S. in 2022, representing about 59% of the total number of working nurses in the U.S. 

The Physical Rigors of Nursing

At the forefront of health, nursing demands long hours, physical exertion, and the shouldering of immense responsibilities. Nurses face work shifts that stretch beyond the typical eight-hour mark, frequent lifting or repositioning of patients, and the hustle of tending to multiple patients all culminate in physical strain. 

During the COVID-19 virus crisis, they faced head-on the dangers to their health as they tended to those with often significant health challenges. One should not dismiss the mental health challenges nurses and other health professionals faced during this time. 

At the forefront of health, nursing demands long hours, physical exertion, and the shouldering of immense responsibilities. Nurses face work shifts that stretch beyond the typical eight-hour mark, frequently lifting or repositioning patients and the hustle of tending to multiple patients, all culminating in physical strain. Some may also be pursuing additional qualifications, such as online MSN PMHNP programs, in their spare time, adding to their mental load outside of the workplace.

Over time, these continuous stresses nurses face can escalate into chronic health issues, such as musculoskeletal disorders, cardiovascular problems, and mental health challenges like depression, anxiety, and burnout.

Nurses often have to be strong and tireless, lifting patients and pulling long hours. Plus, they're around sick people all the time. This can wear on their bodies, leaving them tired and even at risk for getting sick themselves.

Nurses Have Direct Contact with Illness

Furthermore, the demands of their profession put nurses in direct contact with various infections and illnesses, amplifying their own health vulnerabilities. Yet, in the face of these risks, many nurses prioritize their patients' well-being, often sidelining their health concerns. This admirable dedication has drawbacks, particularly when one contemplates future repercussions.

Kelly Hancock, DNP, R.N., NE-BC, FAAN, Executive Chief Nursing Officer for Cleveland Clinic, says it is important to support nurses. 

As health care continues to evolve, more than ever, today's nurses are faced with added stress and pressure. Their roles are expanding, they are continuously learning new processes and technologies, and the pace of all this change is incredibly fast.

Hancock says that when a nurse's personal wellness suffers, they are unable to be at their best, either for themselves, their patients, or their families.

Misconception of Immunity to Aging Issues

Despite being experts in medical care, many nurses often overlook their health and aging needs. It's easy to think that their medical know-how keeps them safe from common health issues. Some even believe working closely with patients makes them more resistant to illnesses. But knowing about health doesn't mean they're immune to it.

Knowledge of health doesn't equate to having immunity from it.

The irony isn't lost: the very professionals we rely on for health care guidance sometimes fail to heed their own advice. This oversight becomes particularly glaring in the context of long-term care planning.

Long-Term Care: The Overlooked Aspect

Unless they work in the long-term care sector, nurses are not unlike many people who share the widespread belief that health insurance or Medicare will take care of long-term care expenses. This misunderstanding can lead to devastating financial and emotional consequences down the road. Traditional health insurance and Medicare generally don't cover long-term care costs, which can quickly drain savings and place undue stress on family members.

Planning for future long-term health care is essential for everyone, including health care professionals. As individuals age, the likelihood of requiring assistance with daily activities, such as bathing, dressing, toileting, and eating, among others, increases. 

Given their profession's physical demands, nurses may find themselves needing such care even sooner than the general population. Nurses are especially vulnerable to joint problems. A study by the American Nurses Association found that about 40% of nurses have experienced joint pain in the past year.

The physical demands of nursing can strain joints, especially the knees, hips, and shoulders. Nurses are often required to lift and move patients, which can stress these joints. They may also spend long periods of time standing or sitting, which can further contribute to joint pain.

In fact, a significant amount of Long-Term Care Insurance claims are related to arthritis and joint-related conditions.

Challenges of Being a Caregiver

Many nurses believe they can naturally step into the role of caregivers for their spouses in their later years. This notion, born from a genuine sense of duty and love, might be missing a critical point. As nurses get older, they, too, will face health issues that could prevent them from effectively caring for someone else. 

The physical and emotional toll of caregiving is significant. Even with their medical background, nurses need to understand that their training might not fully prepare them for the intense challenges of personal caregiving in their later years. An 82-year-old nurse is still age 82!

Prioritizing Self-Care and Planning Before Retirement

Nurses need to take a moment and think about their future health and care needs. By planning ahead, they're looking out for themselves and their loved ones and setting a good example for their patients and the community. It's about changing the story from putting oneself last to recognizing one's own needs.

Given their deep knowledge of health, nurses have a unique chance to lead the way. Taking steps like considering Long-Term Care Insurance can protect their future and highlight the need for everyone to plan ahead. After all, while caring for others, it's essential to remember to care for oneself too.

With long-term care costs increasing rapidly, the consequences of aging affect your family and finances. Retirement plans often fail to consider the effects of long-term care.

Most people start thinking about adding Long-Term Care Insurance to their retirement plan in their 40 or 50s as part of overall retirement planning. 

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About the Author

Linda is a freelance writer interested in retirement planning, health and aging.

LTC News Contributor Linda Kople

Linda Kople

Contributor since October 31st, 2017

Editor's Note

In the busy world of hospitals and clinics, our doctors and nurses are always there for us, tirelessly caring for others and often putting their patients before themselves. But here's something many people don't think about: who looks out for the well-being of these medical heroes when they age?

Contrary to what many might think, just because someone knows the ins and outs of the medical field doesn't mean they're shielded from the natural aging process. Everyone gets older, including our favorite nurse or family doctor. And as we all grow older, the chances of needing some extra care go up – no exceptions.

If you are a medical professional, like a doctor or a nurse, you might think you are immune to needing long-term care in the future, and even if you do, perhaps you can deal with it on your own.

You might think, "Well, if my spouse is a nurse or doctor, we're set for any future care needs, right?" Think again. Caring for someone is no walk in the park, especially as you age. It's tough and can be exhausting. Even with years of experience, an older nurse might find it tough to look after a loved one while also dealing with her own age-related issues. And honestly, while they might know a lot about medical care, that doesn't always translate to being the best caregiver at home.

And there's another angle to this. Imagine the stress and worry that comes with caring for an aging loved one. Why place that weight on your family, especially if they're juggling their own lives, careers, or kids? It's a lot to ask, and it's not really fair to them.

Now, let's talk money. Long-term health care isn't cheap, and the costs can add up super fast. Without planning ahead, years of hard-earned savings could vanish in a blink, leaving little behind for a cozy retirement or gifts for the grandkids. That's why it's a smart move for those in the medical field (and honestly, everyone else, too) to plan ahead with something like Long-Term Care Insurance. It's a safety net that can save a lot of heartaches and headaches down the road.

To sum it up, if you're a medical pro, you are amazing, but you're human too. You will age, face challenges, and need support just like the rest of us. So, if you're in the medical field or have someone in your family who is, it's time to chat about the future. It's not just about money; it's about access to quality care, assets protection, ease of family burden and peace of mind for everyone.

Navigating Long-Term Care Insurance? Let the Pros Guide You!

If you're diving into the world of Long-Term Care Insurance, it's a lot like shopping for the perfect pair of shoes: one size doesn't fit all. Even though policies are tailored to individual needs, the costs can differ widely among insurance providers. That's because each company needs to get its prices and products approved by the state before offering them to consumers.

That's why leaning on a pro can be a game-changer. Think about it: you wouldn't fix your car without a mechanic, right? Similarly, while there are plenty of insurance agents out there, only a select few truly specialize in Long-Term Care Insurance. These experts know the ins and outs—from policy pricing and design to understanding claims and ensuring you get a plan that's right for you. A Long-Term Care Insurance specialist will match your age, health, and other factors to find the most affordable options from the top-rated insurance companies. Then, they will show you accurate quotes from these top-rated insurance companies. So, as you embark on this journey, remember it's okay to ask for a little help along the way.

How to Spot a True LTC Insurance Specialist

When you're on the hunt for the perfect Long-Term Care (LTC) Insurance specialist, you want someone seasoned, informed, and committed. Here are some insider tips to help you identify the real deal:

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Remember, while diving into LTC Insurance might seem daunting, most folks start their journey in their 40s and 50s. With the right guide by your side, you'll navigate the path with confidence.

Demystifying Long-Term Care Insurance Claims

A common question surrounding Long-Term Care Insurance revolves around the claims process: Is it challenging to make a claim and get the benefits? The good news? The majority of Long-Term Care Insurance claims get paid without a hitch.

Will Your Future Long-Term Care Claim Be Paid?

Rest easy. Long-Term Care Insurance has disbursed billions in benefits to policyholders every year. This insurance is a lifeline, ensuring access to top-notch care—even at home. Not to mention, it significantly eases the stress on families.

LTC NEWS is excited to join forces with Amada Senior Care. Together, we're dedicated to providing top-tier in-home care choices. And here's the cherry on top: we're rolling out free Long-Term Care Insurance claims processing and case management. Navigating a claim has never been smoother.

If a family member is looking for in-home care—LTC Insurance or not—Amada could be the golden ticket to quality care solutions.

Finding Quality Care Provider Made Easy

Don't let the stress of finding high-quality long-term care services for a loved one make life difficult for you.


The LTC NEWS Caregiver Directory provides essential help by enabling you to browse through more than 80,000 care providers. This free, extensive national database covers a broad spectrum of long-term care services, making locating qualified caregivers or suitable care facilities easier. You have the convenience of searching for providers in your or your loved one's area while learning about their qualifications and available services.

LTC NEWS has these comprehensive guides to help you in your process of finding care for a loved one now:

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