Long-Term Care and the Changing Family
Undoubtedly we’ve all heard a great deal lately about the “aging of America”. At present, there are approximately 60 million Americans over the age of 65. This number is expected to grow over the next 25 years to roughly 90 million. As the first baby boomers now enter their 60’s, an entire generation will soon be embarking on new concerns what to do about long-term care.
Today, many baby boomers are already considered to be part of the “sandwich generation” those who are still raising children, while at the same time, caring for an aging parent. Medical technology today is far more advanced than it was even a few years ago. Because of this, more people are living longer, but they are not necessarily living healthier. Therefore, many are faced with the dilemma of having to pay medical and long-term care expenses for a longer period of time. This number is expected to nearly double within the next 30 years.
Over the past several years, societal changes have made it more difficult for people to care for loved one in need of long-term care. The economy has forced many families to move apart. In addition, many couples’ today have both spouses working. If a family member who needs care moves into the home of an adult child or other relative, more than likely one of two things must happen either one spouse quits working to take care of the loved one, which results in lost income; or, someone must be hired to give the needed assistance while both spouses work. This could also result in lost income due to the cost of care that now must be paid.
In a long-term care situation, spouses are the caregivers 35.6 percent of the time, followed by daughters at 32.6 percent, and sons at 17.1 percent. Over one third of elderly who need assistance live with their children. However, taking care of another person exacts a tremendous toll on the caregiver. It is both physically and emotionally draining. Sometimes the caregiver suffers physical problems as the result of giving care, and not everyone can provide care. There have been a number of changes in family structure that suggests a future decline in the ability of family members to provide care. More divorce, more women working outside the home, smaller families, and the disbursement of family members across the country all have an impact on family caregiving.
However, there is help available. Services may vary from community to community, but may include adult day care, chore services, counseling, companionship programs, home-delivered meals, exercise and recreation programs, transportation services, and telephone reassurance services that alert the police if an elderly person doesn’t respond to a phone call at a prearranged time. Home health care agencies often can provide nursing services, physical therapy, homemakers and social work services.
In many cases, family and friends are not prepared physically, financially, or emotionally to handle the burden of care. In addition, most people may not realize that they must finance their long-term care out of savings or assets.
Long-term care insurance, however, provides a way to transfer this cost. Policies can cover care in a facility and at home, as well as in adult day care centers and assisted care facilities. Long-term care insurance can also provide individuals with more than just the physical care received. Other benefits can include asset and estate preservation, independence and integrity, flexibility and choice, and easier access to the care provider of choice.
Many Americans believe they will never have the need to go to a nursing home, an assisted living program, home and community based care, or any other type of care service. But the fact is, 43 percent of people age 65 and over will need long-term care at some point in their lives. And, one in eleven will need care for at least five years. The need is there. Are you ready?