Long-Term Care Myths and Facts (Part 1)

When families are confronted with having to make decisions about the care of a parent or other loved one, their understanding about long-term care is quite often very different from the facts. This process can be very stressful both financially and emotionally, so I hope by sharing this series of myths and facts in long-term care will help by reducing the stress associated with this process and better prepare for costs associated in long-term care.

Myth: If someone cannot live at home safely anymore, they will ultimately have to go to a Nursing Home.

FACT: Though this was a reality several years ago, there are many more options in today’s world. The reality of long-term care can be quite different than the nursing home setting many envision. Long-term care may involve assistance with “activities of daily living (ADL’s),” such as eating, bathing, dressing, walking, toileting, or taking medications. Some may have multiple chronic health problems such as cancer, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes) and cognitive impairments such as Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementias. Long-term care may include a variety of settings including in-home care (medical and non-medical) and Assisted Living options from small, residential care homes to larger multi-level communities. Those who have not yet been confronted with long-term care of a parent or other loved one will be pleasantly surprised by the many choices and options they have compared to what their grandparents experienced.

Myth: There is less risk associated with long-term care than with other life events that can impact an individual’s financial security.

FACT: There is a greater risk of needing long-term care than many other life events. According to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, “about 70 percent of people over age 65 will require some type of long-term care services during their lifetime.” In comparison, insurance professionals cite that the probability of losing your home to a fire is 1 in 1,200 and that the chance of having a car accident is 1 in 240. Although most people have a car, homeowners, and health insurance, few have planned to protect themselves against the much more likely risk of needing long-term care.

Myth: The risk of needing long-term care is greatest when a person turns 65 years of age.

FACT: The oldest old (individuals who reach 85 years and older) are the ones most likely to need help with activities of daily living. The average age of an assisted living resident is 86.9 years old. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, between 2010 and 2030, the age 75-84 group will increase by more than 86 percent, the age 85+ group by 57 percent, and the overall age 75+ group by 77 percent.

Myth: Both Men and women are equally at risk for needing long-term care.

FACT: Women face a greater likelihood than men of needing long-term care. Longer life expectancies for women increase the chances of them reaching the 85-plus age group. This means that women are more likely not only to need long-term care but also to outlive husbands and caregivers. Approximately two-thirds of assisted living residents and nursing home patients are female.

Myth: Home care is less expensive than assisted living or nursing home care.

FACT: Long-term care costs are dependent on the type of care and duration needed. Depending on the type and amount of services used, receiving home care may or may not be less expensive than being in an assisted living location or nursing home. In many cases, home care is a cost-effective alternative greatly preferred by individuals who want to stay in their own home. According to the 2011 MetLife Market Survey of Long-Term Care Costs, below are the average costs in the United States:
• In-home, non-medical care: $21 per hour or approximately $15,000/month if 24/7 care were needed.
• Assisted Living - $3,477/month
• Skilled Nursing - $6,420/month