Sunday, April 1, 2012

Long-term Care Is More Probable as We Age

Photo by fairfaxcounty
Seventy percent of people 65 plus will use some form of long-term care.  This means that they will need help with ADLs and IADLs. These terms refer to activities of daily living such as dressing, eating, toileting or help with instrumental activities of daily living such as managing their medications, paying bills, and using a telephone.  

And with the Baby Boomers coming of age with increased longevity, the number of people requiring long-term care is projected to increase dramatically between 2020 and 2050. 

The type of long-term care an older adult receives may be short and provided by a family member. However, the older a person grows, the more likely he or she will need long-term care for longer periods of time. This may require some form of home health care or a period of stay in a skilled nursing center.   

Here are some statistics about long-term care:
  • Nearly 70% of Americans over 65 will require some form of long-term care.
  • Nearly 40% of Americans over 65 will spend some time in a nursing home.
  • The average stay in a nursing home is 2.5 years.
  • The average cost of a nursing home stay is about $70,000 a year.
ETA*: For additional pertinent numbers, see this 8/9/2012 news article by Christine Benz, which contains 40 separate statistics gleaned from caregiver organizations, government offices, and long-term care insurers. 

People pay for long-term care in a variety of ways: family caregivers, private long-term insurance, out-of-pocket spending, or Medicaid.  Note that Medicare does not provide significant long-term care.  For example, Medicare will provide at most 100 days of skilled nursing care (usually post-surgery). If people expect the government to pay for their long-term care, they will need to qualify for Medicaid, which requires that beneficiaries impoverish themselves first.

It's not quite evident how we will rise to the challenge of caring for older adults, but the topic is increasingly more prevalent in public discourse.  Do your part by staying informed on the issues related to aging, caregiving, long-term care, and government programs that support the frailest among our elders. 

ETA=Edited to Add


Activities of Daily Living and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living
More Seniors than Ever: Population Pyramids
Life Span (122) vs Life Expectancy (84). 


  1. So if 70% will need some form of long term care, I hope that seniors reading this blog will take some time to plan ahead- what is their aging in place plan or where will they go if they can't stay in their current home? These are the questions that are seldom asked until it is to late. Thanks for the great blog and all the info!

  2. You are right. Many people don't plan well. I think the rising generation had parents and grandparents who worked until they dropped, so long-term care wasn't an issue. (People died from diseases that are now better managed but move people into more frail health in their 80s and 90s rather than to deaths in their 60s.) Also, the upcoming seniors moved around the country pursuing careers and really didn't observe the aging process of their elders close up. I clicked through to your webpage. Thanks for the good work you are doing to help seniors by providing mobility devices, lifts and stairs that are a good fit for them and their homes.

  3. This statistic should also alert all of us to the fact that, while no one ever wants to go to a nursing home, many of us will and should be doing something now to insist that nursing homes improve their quality of care.

  4. Just read this article Karen, and the numbers still hold - so many people end up losing their life savings and "become" impoverished in a nursing home. I am learning about how elder law attorneys can help individuals and families protect a lot of their assets and still qualify for Medicaid. Thanks!

    1. I'm glad to read that you are doing research on the finances / legal aspects of aging. It can be complex! All my best to you in your elder law work (and all your worthwhile endeavors).