The concept of eldercare or long term care planning is fairly new. A fast-growing generation of elderly people needing care is starting to put a great deal of pressure on caregiving family members and government programs for long term care. More and more we are seeing articles and books about the burden of long term care on families. And a huge group of 77 million baby boomers, poised for retirement, is causing alarm in the eldercare provider community.
Over the years, we have met with many families in a crisis mode, struggling to find services and preserve assets for loved ones needing long term care. When statistics tell us about one out of two people will need long term care, it’s appalling that most of the current generation of elderly have not planned for this crisis in their lives.
And the current pre-retirement generation is doing no better. Sometimes I think Americans are about as unprepared as the ancient tribes of Israel wandering in the desert. When the time comes for long term care, most people believe help will come to them like manna from heaven. In most cases this won’t happen.
I’ve encountered it so many times, I am no longer surprised when people ask me if there’s not some kind of government program that will pay them to quit their jobs and to stay at home and provide long term care for their loved ones.
According to research By the National Care Planning Council only about 16% of long-term care services are covered by the government. The other 84% are provided free of charge by family caregivers or provided by services paid out-of-pocket by families or from those receiving care. And the bulk of government care services are provided only after a care recipient has depleted all of his or her savings. The Council also estimates that at any given time approximately 22% of the population over age 65 is receiving some form of long term care support.
According to an April 2005 congressional hearing press release from Congresswoman Nancy L. Johnson (R-CT), Chairman, Subcommittee on Health of the Committee on Ways and Means, "…In 2004, according to CBO, approximately $135 billion was spent on long term care for the elderly. Sixty percent of this amount was financed through Medicaid and Medicare, one third through out-of-pocket payments, and the remainder by other programs and private insurance. This funding excludes the significant resources devoted to long term care by informal caregivers (primarily spouses and children). The CBO estimates that informal care is the largest single component of long term care…."
In conjunction with the spending estimates above, the National Care Planning Council has actually estimated the equivalent cost of care provided for free by informal caregivers. We think it is close to a staggering $313 billion for the year 2005. This is almost four times the amount the federal and state governments currently pay for all long term care services nationwide. It would bankrupt the federal and state governments if they had to pick up the cost of these free services. Many groups are pushing for the government to do just that — pay a greater share of informal care services.
The process of long term care planning involves seven steps that embody the following four principles:
- Knowledge is the key to success.
- Professional help is crucial in saving time, money and stress.
- The planning process is most effective when there is money available.
- Success is assured through a written agreement with all parties involved.
"Guide to Long Term Care Planning" is a new online resource developed by the National Care Planning Council for use by the public and to support the Long Term Care Consumer Awareness Campaign from the Department of Health and Human Services.
This free, noncommercial source of information is the largest and most comprehensive work on long term care planning ever produced. This public-service, online publication contains over 670 printable pages including 96 charts and graphs. It is written by eight experts and organized into 35 chapters. It also includes a section on helping seniors with the new Medicare prescription drug benefit. The URL for this online publication is found at www.longtermcarelink.net/guide.