Sooner or later, most of us will need some long-term care. That might mean help getting to appointments or cooking meals; it could mean help with bathing and dressing from a family member or a paid aide at home; it could mean months or years in an assisted living facility or nursing home.
But many of us don’t want to talk about that reality, much less plan for it.
“A lot of people are in denial,” says clinical social worker Debra Feldman, a Chicago-based care manager who is president of the Aging Life Care Association.
“We plan for retirement, but we don’t necessarily plan for the older adult years in an aging body,” says Jennifer Crowley, a registered nurse who is a life care planner in Kalispell, Montana, and author of Seven Steps to Long-Term Care Planning.
Denial, which can persist even after people become ill or disabled, has consequences: People don’t think about how to pay for care; they may not consider how livable their homes will be; and they may make faulty assumptions about who will care for them, planning experts say. The result can be fewer options when needs arise. “If you wait too long,” Crowley says, “decisions are more likely to become someone else’s decisions, not your own.”
Consider these recent findings:
• Someone turning age 65 in 2020 had a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care in their remaining years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
• The average person who needs help, at home or elsewhere, needs it for three years, but 20 percent need it for at least five years, HHS says. About one-third need nursing home care for an average of 1 year.