Understanding Long-Term Care

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Addressing the potential threat of long-term care expenses may be one of the biggest financial challenges for individuals who are developing a retirement strategy.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that 70% of people over age 65 can expect to need long-term care services at some point in their lives.¹ So understanding the various types of long-term care services – and what those services cost – is critical as you consider your retirement approach.

What is Long-Term Care?

Long-term care is not a single activity. It refers to a variety of medical and non-medical services needed by those who have a chronic illness or disability – most commonly associated with aging.

Long-term care can include everything from assistance with activities of daily living – help dressing, bathing, using the bathroom, or even driving to the store – to more intensive therapeutic and medical care requiring the services of skilled medical personnel.

Long-term care may be provided at home, at a community center, in an assisted living facility, or in a skilled nursing home. And long-term care is not exclusively for the elderly; it is possible to need long-term care at any age.

How Much Does Long-Term Care Cost?

Long-term care costs vary state-by-state, and region-by-region. The national average for care in a skilled care facility (single occupancy in a nursing home) is $91,250 a year. The national average for care in an assisted living center (single occupancy) is $43,200 a year. Home health aides cost a median $20 per hour, but that rate may increase when a licensed nurse is required.²

What are payment options?

Often, long-term care us provided by family and friends. Providing care can be a burden, however, and that need for assistance tends to increase with age.

Individuals who would rather not burden their family and friends have two main options for covering the cost of long-term care: they can choose to self-insure or they can purchase long-term care insurance.

Many self-insure by default – simply because they haven’t made other arrangements. Those who self-insure may depend on personal savings and investments to fund any long-term care needs. The other approach is to consider purchasing long-term care insurance, which can cover all levels of care, from skilled care to custodial care to in-home assistance.

When it comes to addressing your long-term care needs, many look to select a strategy that may help them protect assets, preserve dignity, and maintain independence. If those concept are important to you, consider your approach for long-term care.

Default Choice or Best Approach?

Less than 8% of Americans have insurance for long-term care. The rest have chosen – either actively or by default – to self-insure. Individuals who elect to self-insure may rely on personal savings and investments to fun any long-term care needs.

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Source: Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, February 2014


¹ U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2015

² Genworth 2015 Cost of Care Survey