News Articles

Almost half of Americans over 65 will spend time in a nursing home

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–While 75 percent of Americans think they will never need long-term care, almost half (48.6 percent) who reach age 65 will spend some time in a nursing home, participants in a session on preparing for long-term care were told.

The session was part of the March 22-24 Senior Adult Summit which drew more than 350 seniors and leaders to LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. LifeWay’s discipleship and family group sponsored the conference in Nashville, Tenn.

“The average nursing home stay in the United States today is two and one-half to three years,” John Marshall of Signator Financial Network said. Ten percent of nursing home residents stay five or more years and the average Alzheimer’s patient will need long-term care for eight years.

“Many obviously will not be prepared for the expense associated with long-term care,” Marshall said. The average annual cost for a private room in a skilled nursing home is $125 per day, $3,800 per month or $46,000 per year. In 10 years, the cost is projected to increase to $6,250 per month or $75,000 per year.

He cited three common misconceptions about long-term care, beginning with “it will never happen to me.” Others think family members will care for them or that Medicare will pay the costs.

Family members may have every desire to care for an aging family member, Marshall said, but they lack medical expertise, may not be able to handle the costs or deal with the physical and emotional demands.

Medicare, he emphasized, pays for short hospital stays but not for long-term care.

“Keep in mind, the first 100 days in a nursing home may be paid by Medicare,” Marshall said, as a best-case scenario.

When private funds are exhausted for long-term care, the remaining option may be Medicaid, he said.

“The average family today will qualify for Medicaid after 13 weeks of long-term care,” Marshall said.

In planning for the future, he said, people have the option of funding all or part of the risk themselves, looking to Medicaid or purchasing long-term care insurance, an option currently only exercised by 10 percent of Americans.

To be self-insured for an annual cost of $75,000 for a nursing home, Marshall said a person would need an investment portfolio of $1 million paying at least 7.5 percent in interest.

Most long-term care insurance pays for a nursing home, home health care and adult day care for varying lengths of time, depending on the policy, he said. Costs vary, depending on specifics of the policy and the age of the person when the policy is purchased.

Marshall said the average age of persons buying long-term care insurance today is 67, though some purchase policies in their 40s while others wait until their late 70s or even 80s.

Pressed by participants to suggest an age when people should buy long-term care insurance, Marshall said, “The best time to buy is before you need it.”

Long-term care insurance enables seniors to preserve independence, freedom of choice and their standard of living, Marshall said. It also is a tool for protecting assets and avoiding welfare.

“For some people it’s simply a pride issue,” he said. “They can feel good about taking care of themselves.”

    About the Author

  • Linda Lawson