Long-Term Care Planning Neglected by Many Older Americans

When individuals plan ahead for long-term care, they can better secure their own future while reducing financial burdens on their friends and family.

A recent survey conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of OneAmerica asked more than 2,000 adults whether they have had any conversations about long-term care—with a family member, spouse or partner, friend, health care professional, financial planner, insurance agent, attorney, clergy member, accountant or anyone else about preparing for their possible need of long-term care.

Despite the survey asking about such wide networks, still nearly four in 10 Americans age 65 and over say they haven’t had conversations with anyone about preparing for their possible need of long-term care. According to Harris Poll and OneAmerica, this low proportion was similar to American adults overall, 38% of whom said they hadn’t had such conversations.

On the flip side, survey results show 62% of Americans say they have had these conversations, with adults age 65 and older more likely than younger adults (18 to 64) to have talked to their spouse/partner (38% vs. 27%) and/or a financial planner (17% vs. 7%).

OneAmerica researchers call these findings troubling, given the fact that as many as 70% of Americans can expect to have a long-term care need at some point in their lifetimes, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

“For about 20% of Americans, long-term will be needed for longer than five years, due to conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, Parkinson’s disease, and other chronic conditions,” they explain. “Planning ahead for the possibility of long-term can ensure assets are best positioned for any need that arises, and can reduce the burden on family members and loved ones when the time comes.”

Unsurprisingly, the wealthier segments of the population are more likely to say they have engaged in any long-term care planning conversations, with 70% of those making $100,000 or more reporting so. This compares with only 56% of those whose annual household income is less than $75,000.

Even though they are more likely to speak about the topic with friends or family, still only 15% of those with annual household incomes of $100,000 or more say they’ve had such conversations with a professional financial planner, and just 10% report speaking with an insurance agent.

“For individuals and financial professionals, it’s important to start those conversations,” says Tracey Edgar, vice president of sales for care solutions at OneAmerica. “Regardless of income, it’s important to have conversations about the possibility of long-term care. Asset-based protection is a solution that may be more within reach than people realize, especially if they’re nearing retirement and have assets to position. And everyone can benefit from understanding each other’s wishes and expectations for care.”