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New study predicts fewer family caregivers for elderly, disabled

The majority of Americans believe that family members will care for them when they become old and less able to get around or care for themselves. Indeed, currently about 70 percent of long-term care is provided by relatives.

The demographics of our country are changing, however. The title of a new study by the American Association of Retired Persons, “The Aging of the Baby Boom and the Growing Care Gap,” says it all. Members of the “Boomer Generation” will be turning 65 through 2030. By that year, according to the study, the ratio of family caregivers to those in need of care (Caregiver Support Ratio) will drop to 4-to-1. That’s down from 7-to-1 in 2010. By 2050, it will be just 3-to-1.

These changing demographics highlight the need for people entering their senior years soon to do some serious long-term care planning. This includes looking at long-term care insurance options.

We’ve previously discussed the fact that the costs of assisted living facilities such as nursing homes can wipe out a person’s savings. Medicare and Medicaid cannot be expected to take care of everything. Government programs like these, as well as veterans’ benefits should be considered as only part of your long-term care planning.

As people plan for retirement, they need to be planning for long-term care as well. There are a variety of options for LTC insurance. In addition to traditional LTC plans, there are hybrid plans that allow a policy to be used for life insurance or LTC insurance, depending upon what is needed.

Planning for long-term care involves more than financial planning. Like other types of estate planning, such as wills and health care directives, it is often best done in consultation with family members so that everyone understands your wishes and expectations.

Many couples plan to care for each other in their old age. Sadly, when one spouse becomes sick or disabled, the caregiver spouse often damages his or her own health. By taking ownership of your long-term care planning, people can lift a burden from loved ones.

While many people want to take care of spouses and parents as they age, often they are simply not qualified to do so. Having a plan to pay for whatever professional care you may need will free family members to enjoy your later years with you without taking on responsibilities for which they are not equipped.

Source:  Forbes, “Changing Family Caregiver Dynamics Ramp Up the Importance of Long-Term Care Planning” Jamie Hopkins, Jul. 28, 2014

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