Millions of families are beginning to grapple with the one major health expense for which most Americans are not insured: long-term care. About 10 million elderly people currently rely on others for daily care, such as help getting dressed, preparing foods or taking medication. That number will only increase as more of the nation’s 78 million middle-agers enter old age. Nearly 7 in 10 people will need some way of long-term care after turning 65, according to the Georgetown University Public Policy Institute. “Nobody wants to go to a senior care facility, it’s the last resort,” says James Firman, president of the National Council on Aging. “People want to stay in their own house and if they can’t, they want to go to a place where they can get assistance but that still feels homelike.”
Nursing houses are the most intense way of long-term care, including round-the-clock medical supervision. That level of senior care comes with a steep price tag: the average cost of a semi-private space last year was $81,000, according to a survey by insurance company MetLife. A private space ran more than $90,500. Fortunately most elderly people won’t require extended senior care facility care. Only 5 percent will need five years or more in a senior care facility.
Less intense alternatives include home-care solutions that offer help with foods and household chores, and boarding houses where some elderly people live with on-site caretakers. But like assisted living facilities, these solutions aren’t covered by Medicare, the government’s health care insurance option for elderly people, or private health insurance coverage. Plans for long-term care are available, but only about 5 percent of adults have them. Most family members don’t plan for long-term care, because often the need comes unexpectedly: an elder takes a bad fall or experiences a stroke. Cost is another problem, because policies can run $1,000 to $8,000 a year, based on a senior’s age, health and other aspects.