As part of a national effort, AARP Connecticut launched a public awareness campaign this summer to educate Boomer-aged women in our state about the need to plan for long-term care, and encourage them to make decisions now that will positively impact their lifestyle in the future.
AARP Connecticut reached out to thousands of Boomer women in the state in June, July and August through direct mail and email to let them know about the association’s new, easy-to-use, step-by-step planning tools and resources that can guide them through the process of planning for their future long-term care needs, including financial, legal and family considerations.
In addition, AARP has launched a dedicated website, www.aarp.org/decide, that offers timely, relevant news on long-term care, interactive tools and information tailored to women interested in planning for their long-term care, including glossaries, polls, and an online community for women who are considering their options and planning for their future.
What is long-term care?
In general, long-term care is the day-to-day help needed by people with illnesses, disabilities, or other conditions that last a long time. Some people need long-term care for several months, while others need it for years or a lifetime.
Long-term care can include:
- changes to your home to make it safer, more comfortable, and easier to get around
- technology that helps you stay independent
- help with housekeeping, meals, and personal care like bathing or getting dressed
- skilled care provided by a nurse or other health care professional.
Many people receive long-term care at home — much of it provided by family and friends. There are also home- and community-based services offered by public and private organizations. Some examples are home-delivered meals, visiting nurses, and supervised activity programs during the day.
Some people decide it makes sense to move to a different type of living arrangement. Assisted living is an option for people who need help with personal care like bathing or getting dressed. And nursing homes provide around-the-clock care for people in transition between hospital and home or for people who choose to get their health-related needs met outside the home.
Why women? Why now?
While there is a grave need to improve awareness of long-term care planning among all Boomers— women, in particular, face significant challenges with living independently as they age.
Women make up 51 percent of Boomers (nearly 40 million women). And because they may have more retirement resources than past generations, Boomer women generally will not expect or accept being cared for exclusively by their children. With that expectation comes an information gap that most Boomer women have yet to address or ask “How will I be cared for as I age?”
Here’s a look at why some consider long-term care one of the biggest issues facing women.
Women live longer. More than two-thirds of Americans age 85 or older are women. According to data analyzed by AARP’s Public Policy Institute, women who reach age 65 can expect to live an average of 20 more years, outliving men, on average, by five years.
Women have fewer resources. Women are hit hard by changes to their finances caused by caregiving, divorce, widowhood, and job loss, cautions the Women’s Institute for a Secure Retirement. Almost half of women age 75 or older live alone. On average, their income is only three-quarters of what older men make — and less than half of what older couples bring in.
Women are more likely to need long-term care. About 79 percent of 65-year-old women will need some long-term care during their lifetime, finds Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute. On average, these women will end up needing 3.7 years of care. Men age 65 are likely to need about 2. 2 years of care over the rest of their lives.
Even if a woman never needs long-term care, a family member or friend probably will. Two-thirds of family caregivers are women, according to a survey by the National Alliance for Caregiving and AARP. Of the caregivers surveyed by the Alliance and AARP, more than 70 percent say they’ve had to make workplace accommodations related to caregiving responsibilities. This often means cutting back on hours, passing up promotions, or leaving the workforce entirely. This can mean thousands in lost wages over a lifetime.
The good news is women are uniquely positioned to redefine retirement. They can use the earning power they have now to save and invest wisely for the future. Women have time to build and expand support networks (job, family, friends, community, and faith) that can help. And healthy behaviors starting now can possibly lessen the impact of chronic diseases.
It’s never too early to start planning
You never know when you might need long-term care, so it’s important that you do know how you’ll handle it.
Early planning can help increase the number of options available and assure that the decisions being made represent intended wishes. Planning for long-term care means:
- assessing whether your home and community can support changing needs
- taking care of yourself to improve your chances for a healthy future
- knowing the costs of long-term care and learning about ways to cover them
- creating legal instructions that will help keep you in charge of decisions about your care and finances.
AARP offers a variety of resources to help individual women and local communities take steps to plan for future long-term care needs, including Facts Sheets, A Long-Term Care Resource Guide, and a Long-Term Care Worksheet so you can plan and keep track of your progress.
For more information and to download your free planning materials, visit www.aarp.org/decide.
State of Connecticut Long-Term Care Website