Long-Term Care: What Women Need to Know

Especially for women in transition and other women approaching or in midlife, the issue of affordable long-term care should be top-of-mind. First of all, women are disproportionately likely to face the need to become caretakers at some point in their lives, either for an aging parent or for a spouse with serious health issues. According to the American Council of Life Insurers, 70% of persons 65 and older will require long-term care at some point in their lives, and in many cases, women who are family members will likely provide at least some portion of that care. In fact, the Women’s Institute for Secure Retirement (WiserWomen.org) reports that 75% of those providing long-term care for family members are women.

Not only that, but because women statistically live longer than men, they are more likely to require long-term care at some point in their later years. According to WiserWomen.org, “Women spend twice as many years in a disabled state as men do: 2.8 years if they live past 65, 3 years if they live past 80.”

These two factors—women as caregivers and women as recipients of long-term care—also contribute to a third important complication for women: their ability to pay for long-term care. Because they are more likely than men to spend a significant amount of time—sometimes years—as primary caregivers, women often are less able to spend the same amount of time as earners as men, which directly impacts their ability to save for retirement and the increased healthcare costs that often go with it.

It’s important to keep in mind that most long-term care costs are not covered by Medicare. Medicaid does cover some of these costs, but that government program is only available to persons of very limited means. And the potential costs of long-term care are significant. According to long-term care insurance (LTCI) provider Genworth, costs for services like extended stays in a nursing home, home health aides, or adult assisted-living facilities can range from $19,500 to more than $100,000 per year.

How can women cover these costs? One option, of course, is to pay out-of-pocket, but for many women approaching or in retirement, that is an expensive proposition. Another option is using Medicare to cover the limited categories available. Some individuals opt to divest themselves of most assets in order to qualify for assistance through Medicaid, but that strategy requires careful attention to federal rules regarding the length of time since the assets were owned by the applicant and also the types of assets retained.

LTCI is an important option for women to consider. Policies can be purchased while the applicant is younger and in relatively good health, which makes the premiums less expensive. Depending on the level of coverage sought, an LTCI policy for a woman in her mid-50s—the age at which many experts recommend purchasing LTCI—may cost as little as $2,000 per year or as much as $5,000. Most policies guarantee a daily benefit to pay for long-term care services, and the benefit can range from $50 to $250 per day.

The key, of course, is planning. For women approaching retirement, it is vital to consider the likelihood of long-term care in the future and to take steps to cover those costs well in advance of the retirement years.

I specialize in helping women in transition, women entrepreneurs, and others build individualized plans to provide secure retirement lifestyles. To find out how I can help you, please contact my office for a no-obligation appointment. And to learn more, click here to read my recent article, “Aiming for 100: Why Women Should Plan and Invest Differently Than Men.”

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