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Caring for a disabled spouse more stressful than for a parent

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Many Americans choose not to get long-term care insurance because they assume that their spouse or other family member will take care of them if they become ill or disabled. A recent poll by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research reflected that assumption by people in their 40s and older that family members will take care of them. Interestingly, while only 20 percent of people surveyed believe they will require long-term care, government statistics show that almost 70 percent of Americans 65 and over will require it.

What many people don't consider when they opt to rely on family -- particularly a spouse -- to care for them is the strain of being a caregiver. The poll showed that caring for a spouse is more stressful than caring for a parent or in-law. Almost two-thirds of respondents reported that caring for a spouse was stressful for the family, while approximately half of those caring for a parent reported that.

While most people say that caring for a spouse has strengthened their relationship, it can be a burden physically, emotionally and financially. Further, the average age of people taking care of a spouse (67) with a long-term disability or illness is almost ten years older than that of people caring for parents.

The type of care needed by an elderly or ill family member can vary greatly -- from help with chores to hands-on care like feeding, bathing, dressing and even providing some type of medical care. It can also become progressively more all-encompassing over time.

While the need for improved community resources for caregivers is clear, getting lawmakers to agree on how to fund these resources is another matter. Further, Medicare does not pay for many types of long-term care.

While no one likes to contemplate a time when they or their spouse will need full-time assistance with daily living, the likelihood of it happening as people live longer is very real. Instead of placing the burden on family members -- particularly a husband or wife who may at that point also be frail and elderly -- it's best to look into long-term care insurance. Your legal and financial advisors can help determine how much you need. This will help ensure that you can get professional care if and when you need it and not place undue burden on loved ones.

Source:  ABC News, "Poll: More Stressful to Care for Spouse Than Mom" Lauran Neergaard and Jennifer Agiesta, AP, May. 19, 2014

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