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Economy Impacts Decisions About Long-Term Care

The downturn may cause this group of adults to think more about the care they will receive.

Despite the increased population of those who may need long-term care, a recent AARP poll found that many Americans still have given no thought to where they would receive such care or how they would pay for it. But the current economic climate may be affecting people’s awareness.

AARP asked 1,051 individuals age 45 and older to choose one of four options for long-term care, which is defined as getting care on a regular basis for three months or more for age-related health conditions. The options were living at home with an aide coming in a few hours daily; living at home with a skilled health professional providing services as needed; living in an assisted living facility; or living in a nursing home.

In the report “Perceptions of Long-Term Care and the Economic Recession” released this month, nearly half (49 percent) of the respondents said they expect to live at home and have an aide for a few hours daily. When asked what choice they would have made a year ago, before the economic crisis worsened, the proportion dropped to 42 percent, meaning the simplest and perhaps cheapest option might now seem more viable.

Twenty-nine percent of the respondents said that a year ago they had never thought about where they would receive long-term care services. Today, only 22 percent are in that category, another sign that the economy may be causing people to consider how they would make arrangements for such care.

Adults age 65 and over were more likely to say they feel financially prepared to pay for long-term care than those between ages 45 and 64. “This is consistent with other findings,” says Linda Barrett, senior research adviser with AARP Knowledge Management. “Most younger people have not given any thought to what [long-term care] is, nor how to pay for it.”

Other key findings:

  • Men (27 percent) were more likely than women (18 percent) to say they have given no thought to where they would receive long-term care services.
  • More than 60 percent of people who earn less than $25,000 a year said they do not feel prepared financially for long-term care. Those with higher incomes were more confident.
  • College graduates were twice as likely as those with less than a high school education to say they would live in an assisted living facility.
  • Hispanics were more likely than Caucasians to say they would live in a nursing home (15 percent versus 4 percent).


Cathie Gandel is a writer in Bridgehampton, N.Y.

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