There are many myths about how people will get long-term care and pay for it as they get older. According to a recent poll by the Associated Press (AP) that many of us need help connecting the dots when it comes to long-term care.
One example, 38% of poll respondents expect to rely “quite a bit” or “completely” on Medicare to pay for long-term supports and services. The reality is that with few exceptions, Medicare does not pay for long-term care. While Medicare is essentially a health insurance program, most long-term care is non-medical.
More Impact on Family Than Most Realize
The survey also showed a big disconnect involving family. Just 18% of people in the poll expect to rely quite a bit or completely on a family member to provide care at no cost. But 77% of respondents want to be cared for in their own home, and only about one-third said they’ve set aside any money to pay for care. Only 20% have long-term care insurance to pay for it.
In all, about 80% of all care at home comes from unpaid caregivers, usually family members and close friends. About 40% of the family caregivers had to miss work to provide care to a loved one. The study also shows there is an estimated lost income of about $300,000 (wages, retirement account earnings and Social Security benefits) for an average person 50 or older who reduces work hours or leaves the work force early to care for a parent.
Just 18 percent expect to rely on a family member to provide care. But 77 percent want to be cared for at home, and only about a third have set aside any money to pay it.
Will Support Withstand the Cost?
The Associated Press also reports that 19 states are considering laws that would require companies to give paid leave to family caregivers. Just three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — already have such laws; New York will put one into effect in 2018.
Poll respondents show strong support for the idea of paid leave and for other ideas to help families meet the costs of long-term care including tax incentives that would reward personal saving to Social Security credits for caregivers.
It’s easy to say yes to things that don’t have a price tag, however, so one more dot needs to be connected before that show of support can really be meaningful: a public commitment to pay for the help that family caregivers need.