Nursing home, nursing home, nursing home. When you think about long-term care, odds are you probably think of a nursing home first. Whether you’ve had a personal experience with extended care or not, nursing homes come to mind almost immediately. For many of us, it may not even be a coherent thought. While there are other ways to receive long-term care, somewhere in our minds, we’ve formed an opinion that was likely influenced by our perspective on nursing facilities. How did this happen? Well, for a long while, we just weren’t living very long. It wasn’t surprising to hear that people in their 60s and 70s had died suddenly because of heart attacks or strokes. The number of individuals living long enough and healthily enough to need nursing homes wasn’t high enough to be a mainstream topic. So, sure, we all knew nursing homes existed but it wasn’t expected that everyone would have an up-close-and-personal experience. For those that did have a family member live long enough to need care, they had to physically provide that care themselves. Mom or dad moved in. Or they had to pay for mom and dad’s care. Or they had to watch mom and dad spend through the inheritance, sell the home, or make other drastic financial decisions. Maybe they had to put mom and dad on Medicaid. Or maybe they fought with their siblings on the best plan of action. At that time, there weren’t too many options besides family and facility.
Given that exposure, most of us end up falling into one of two camps: we either want to dodge or mitigate the financial burden of a nursing home, or we want to avoid having to be there on principal. I often hear from clients that nursing homes are sad, or smelly, or lacking in quality of life. Even if you’ve never stepped foot in a nursing home, those phrases might be familiar to you. (By the way, if that’s you, and you’ve never stepped foot in a nursing home—that’s great! There are fewer and fewer of you each year.) People who have experienced long-term care for a family member will often go out of their way to avoid that pain for their own spouses, kids, or families. If the prevailing thought about nursing home is that it’s terrible, who wants to spend $6000 per month minimum on it? And that is where Long Term Care insurance comes into play. More than anything else, the primary function of Long Term Care insurance is to provide flexibility and freedom to the people receiving the care. And, sometimes more importantly, it provides those same things to the loved ones around them
Current day, the Department of Health and Human Services has found that individuals who live to be 65 or older have a 70% chance of needing long term care. Thankfully, over the last 25 years, assisted living facilities came into being and home care agencies have exploded in popularity. Heard of adult day care? Continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs)? These are new ways to express our freedom and maintain flexible options in a care situation. No longer is long-term care primarily nursing home—it’s home care and it’s assisted living more often. So, while we shudder and think of nursing home when someone mentions long-term care, that’s not entirely accurate anymore. The next generation of planning is here, and it very much relies on people utilizing the tools at hand to smooth the way for their later years.