Caregivers more aware of potential LTC needs

Awareness also heightened among younger people.

Those who act as caregivers are much more aware of how to address their own long-term care (LTC) needs. Yet many Americans remain uncertain over how to handle their LTC requirements if the situation ever arose. Those somewhat contradictory findings came to light in a recent online survey conducted by Northwestern Mutual and Harris Interactive.

In early October, roughly 2,000 adults age 18 or older were polled. More than 300 were identified as caregivers. Of those caregivers, 69 percent said they had made arrangements to tackle their own LTC demands, and only 22 percent stated they were unsure of their future LTC plans.

However, the study found that 41 percent of Americans are either unsure of how they would cope with a LTC event or do not envision making plans to manage such a possibility.

More awareness at younger ages

When those between the ages of 18 and 34 were questioned, their responses indicated a growing awareness of the need for long-term care plans. More than one-third in that age group said they are likely to save for future LTC costs and did not expect to be covered by some type of insurance compared to 52 percent of those over age 55.

Further, those in that age group who characterized themselves as caregivers reported there is a financial consequence for providing care; specifically, 47 percent experienced changes to their daily budget and 15 percent said they had dipped into their own retirement plans to help offset the cost of furnishing LTC.

“We’re seeing awareness of long-term care issues at earlier and earlier ages,” noted Steve Sperka, VP of long-term care for Northwestern, in a statement. “Younger people are more aware today of the effects that long-term care issues could have on their lives, especially if they find themselves in a caregiving role. As a result, they’re taking a more proactive approach to addressing and planning for their own future needs.”

Gender differences

Men and women expressed differing views on long-term-care planning and how to pay for those costs. Men are four times more likely than women to cover long-term care expenses from their own income (26 percent versus 6 percent) and more than twice as likely as women to pay expenses with their own credit cards (14 percent versus 6 percent).

In addition, U.S. women are more likely than men to anticipate changes to their lifestyle and finances as a result of a long-term care event, yet they are also more likely to be unsure of how they will address their own long-term-care needs (30 percent versus 25 percent, respectively).

The toll on caregivers

Nearly one in five respondents (18 percent) said they are either currently providing LTC for a family member or friend. Their responses offer a revealing window into the challenges they face.

  • 59 percent report increased stress.
  • 42 percent say providing care is “physically demanding/draining.”
  • 42 percent assert that giving care allows the person to stay in their own home.
  • 34 percent report that caregiving responsibilities meant spending less time with family/friends.

Misunderstandings persist

As the study highlights, Americans tend to underestimate the risk of a LTC event and mistake how those costs would be covered. For instance, 43 percent of U.S. adults believe that their long-term care expenses will be covered by Medicaid/Medicare, health insurance or disability insurance, which is most often not the case.

Among those with no caregiving experience, 23 percent report being unsure what the possible implications of a long-term care event would be on their finances, lifestyle or career.

In contrast to caregivers, less than one-third (31 percent) of non-caregivers expect that they would need to provide support for a care recipient to stay in their own home, while 25 percent anticipate a LTC event would affect the time they have with family and friends.

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