Americans Unprepared for Long-Term Care; Impact on Women Greatest

By SHRM Online staff Nov 9, 2011

Some 75 percent of Americans have never had a conversation about long-term care with their loved ones. Moreover, 70 percent would not know what to do if a family member were to require immediate long-term-care assistance—an alarming statistic considering that six out of 10 people will need long-term care sometime during their lifetimes, according to the National Care Planning Council, as reported in the 2011 Financial Reality Check Study conducted by Genworth, a provider of long-term-care insurance.

The data suggests consumers are suffering from overall financial planning inertia, according to Genworth. The firm believes the lack of education about long-term-care planning can have significant consequences on employees’ financial—and emotional—well-being.

Women Face Double Whammy

Women might be impacted twice by long-term care, typically as the primary caregivers during an event and then as recipients themselves, according to the study. When asked which family member would be most likely to provide care if professional care could not be afforded:

  • Almost 40 percent felt it would be a female providing care.
  • Of those who indicated it would be themselves, 60 percent were female.

Interestingly, women don't prioritize this issue for themselves when it comes to their own long-term care and are significantly more likely not to have purchased long-term-care insurance on their own compared to males.

"It's unfortunate, but not surprising that women would think of themselves last when it comes to long-term-care planning," said Wendy Boglioli, national long-term-care spokesperson for Genworth. "Of the people who said they would quit their jobs and reduce their income, 60 percent were women. A noble act, but without ensuring there is an adequate plan in place for their own care, women are putting themselves in serious danger. It's imperative for women to redefine balance in their lives and have a clear plan in place for their long-term care," she advised.

Family Confusion

The lack of a conversation or a plan can create some confusion if a long-term-care event should occur, as many people assume that family members, primarily females, will handle care needs. The study reveals that 58 percent of respondents would not be willing to "quit their job, work less or devote a majority of their time" to become the primary caregiver to someone in need of long-term care. Yet in the next five years, 43 percent anticipate being in a situation where they might need to help care for a family member or friend.

Financial Reality Checklist

Although 89 percent of respondents said they took time to focus on their financial strategy at least once a year, Americans are not taking the steps to implement a plan for their financial futures. Genworth advises consumers to include a discussion about long-term-care planning in their overall financial planning discussions. A "reality checklist" of things to do includes:

  • Have the conversation with loved ones to establish the baseline of your plan for a long-term-care event.
  • Rsearch options and the cost of care in your area.
  • Write down your long-term-care wishes and instructions for loved ones in the event of a long-term-care event (Would you like to stay at home? Who is in charge of making the arrangements? Does your family know where to find important documents if necessary?)

About the Study

The 2011 Financial Reality Check Study is a national study conducted by Genworth and was fielded online Aug. 17-21, 2011. In total, 1,073 interviews were conducted with adults ages 25 years and older, with incomes of $50,000 and above, with all other demographics being a representative sample of the United States.

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