Do Kentucky Middle-agers See Long-term Care in Their Future?

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No one in Kentucky likes to think about growing old, but then again, no one likes to think about the alternative, either. We all need to face the truth of our own mortality. If we are lucky enough to live until a ripe old age, we will gradually lose more and more capability to care for ourselves.

In 2000, people older than age 65 made up 12 percent of the U.S. population; by 2030, this age group is likely to increase to 19 percent. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services estimates that, of these 72 million elderly Americans, about 70 percent will need some form of long-term care for three years on average.

Earlier this year, The Associated Press(AP)–NORC Center for Public Affairs released results of a research study they conducted, entitled, “Long-Term Care: Perceptions, Experiences, and Attitudes among Americans 40 or Older.” Their findings reveal some interesting facts. 

The Study

  • The research, which was funded by the SCAN Foundation, entailed conducting 1,019 interviews with a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults age 40 years or older. The information the researchers sought includes the following:
  • The target population’s understanding of the long-term care system
  • Their perceptions and misperceptions regarding the likelihood of needing long-term care and of the cost of those services
  • Their attitudes and behaviors regarding planning for long-term care

The Results

A number of issues regarding perceptions of and attitudes toward long-term care came to light that would be critical for policymakers to consider.

  • In the United States, 3 in 10 people at least 40 years old admit that they would rather not think about it
  • More than half (52 percent) of people this age are quite concerned about losing their independence
  • Slightly more than half (51 percent) are worried about losing their memories or other mental faculties
  • Although most people 40 or more years old believe that they are at least somewhat likely to need long-term care at some point, a striking minority have done any planning and preparation for it
  • Few Americans in this age group are confident that they will have the financial resources to pay for long-term care should they need it
  • People often overestimate Medicare’s role in paying for long-term care.
  • A majority of people in this age group support tax breaks and other policy initiatives to help elderly people pay for long-term care
  • More than half of Americans 40 years and older have had some experience with long-term care, either in the form of services for themselves or because they provided such care to a family member or close friend
  • More than half of people in this age group expect their families to help them out as they get older—81 percent of those with family nearby and 56 percent of those with family who live far away.
  • The highest priorities for this group when considering their future living situation focus on features that support their independence.

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