How Not to Be a Burden on Your Family

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You'd think dying would rank as our worst fear. But a recent survey reveals that it's actually the least of our worries. More than five times as many people -- a solid 55% of Americans -- are terrified that a long-term illness will make them a burden to their family. Roughly 24% dread ending up in a nursing home; 12% worry about burning through their savings; and only 10% fear the Grim Reaper.

Yet the Age Wave/Harris Interactive survey, sponsored by Genworth Financial, revealed that Americans are doing surprisingly little to address their No. 1 concern. We don't talk about long-term care with our loved ones. We don't express our preferences. And by and large, we don't prepare for the possibility. No wonder we're worried!

Scary numbers
The big picture suggests that most of us should be at least a little nervous about long-term care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), roughly 70% of adults over age 65 will need some type of long-term care during their lifetimes. That aid's not cheap, either. The average 65-year-old couple may spend $200,000 on health care in retirement. If one of them ends up in a nursing home, that bill could even top $500,000.

Soothing strategies
Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to make your situation better:

  • Take care of yourself, to decrease the odds that you'll need long-term care.
  • Talk with your loved ones about your preferences and plans.
  • Figure out how much you need to save, and how you'll do so.
  • Look into buying long-term care insurance. It's not right for everyone, but it might be right for you.

Help from Washington
Still worried? Consider this last bit of encouragement: The "Class Act" recently became law. It will create a long-term care insurance program, run by HHS, that you can voluntarily sign up for, which will help defray the costs of long-term care. It won't cover everything, but it could be a big help for many people.

The prospect of long-term care for you or your loved ones needn't weigh heavily on your mind. Planning for it and talking about it can help you ensure a brighter, burden-free future.

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian owns shares of no company mentioned in this article. Try any of our investing newsletter services free for 30 days. The Motley Fool is Fools writing for Fools.

Read/Post Comments (2) | Recommend This Article (4)

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Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 27, 2010, at 4:53 PM, JesseSlome wrote:

    Folks will hear more about the CLASS Act but it's important to keep in mind the program was really designed for disabled and health-impaired workers unable to qualify for private long-term care insurance. If CLASS is priced properly to take into account that most people signing-up will tend to be unhealthy, premiums should be higher than comparable private LTC insurance. One big point worth noting. CLASS is not a contractual agreement. The rules can be changed at any point by the government. All information to chew on. For the most current information on regulations and what they mean to you, visit the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance's online Consumer Information Center. As the trade organization, they offer the best-unbiased source of information freely accessible to the general public. Click on this link to read the free CLASS Act update <a href> </a>.

    Jesse Slome

    Executive Director

    American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance

    <a href> </a>

  • Report this Comment On April 28, 2010, at 12:40 PM, ScottAOlsonLTC wrote:

    There are 2 reasons the projected premiums for the CLASS Act are expected to be much higher than a comparable long term care insurance policy.

    1) Anyone who is working (even just part-time) can enroll in the CLASS Act regardless of their health history.

    2) Those who earn less than the federal poverty level will be automatically enrolled in the CLASS Act for only $5 per month (unless they opt-out). Their premiums are being subsidized by the rest of the enrollees.

    The CLASS Act's $50 per day "average benefit" will only cover a small portion of the $75,000+ per year most Americans pay for in-home care. Most people who want to protect their savings will still need to purchase long-term care insurance.

    One of the biggest problems we face is that most Americans still think that Medicare or their medical insurance covers the cost of long term care.

    The CLASS Act addresses this problem by making a very clear statement: You have to pay for your own long term care. You either have to pay for your own long term care by using your savings, the $50 per day CLASS Act benefit, long term care insurance, or a combination of these.

    Most of the ten million Americans who own LTC insurance, own it because they've seen friends or family forced to spend down their assets in order to qualify for Medicaid. The CLASS Act will help alert the rest of the country to the fact that they need to financially plan for their future long term care needs.

    Scott A. Olson

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