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LTC Staff
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on Tuesday, 03 April 2012
in LTC Insurance

Long Term Care and Women: An Essential Retirement Strategy

Although Long Term Care insurance is rightly considered an important part of planning for everyone who dreams of an independent and dignified retirement, experts agree that Long Term Care Insurance is especially critical to women. The reasons ought not to surprise anyone who reflects upon the following.

Women are especially hard hit by Long Term Care. Seven out of ten caregivers are women. Many women often find themselves caring for children and an aging family member at the same time; a dual care giving situation that can take a toll on their emotional and physical well-being.

Because women spend on average about 12 years working out of the traditional workplace caring for their children, parents or in-laws, they do not earn a paycheck for those years. Not only does this mean the loss of hundreds of thousands of dollars of income, it also means a lower basis for calculating Social Security benefits later in life. Beyond this financial impact, a September 2006 study published by the National Care Giving Alliance reported that caregivers face “a downward spiral of health that worsens as a result of giving care.” The study offered these troubling findings about caregivers, including weight loss, sleep deprivation and chronic pain: (USA Today 9/24/2007)

 

  • 90% experienced higher levels of stress and worry
  • 69% spent less time with family and friends
  • 51% were taking more medications
  • 37% missed time from work
  • 10% reported more frequent use of alcohol

In addition, women outlive men by an average of six years and are far more likely to live into their late eighties or even their nineties. Men commonly receive caregiving assistance from their spouses or partners, but men also tend to die first, leaving their mates alone to fend for themselves and often after retirement savings and other assets have been significantly drained. There is real truth to the anecdote that “women care for their men, who then die and leave women alone and impoverished.” Nearly 70 percent of those with incomes below poverty levels are women and more than half of elderly women now living in poverty were not poor before the death of their husbands. Providing for their care is critical. (California Dept. of Human Services 2003)

The longer life spans enjoyed by women also bring a down side; an increased likelihood of chronic and debilitating medical conditions. In fact, according to the Alliance for Aging Research, between 81-90 percent of Americans will have some type of chronic disease by age 65, let alone living to age eighty or beyond. Because of this, the California Department of Human Services underscores several other harsh realities. Namely, that older women spend more of their years and a larger percent of their lifetime disabled, and that 80% of older persons living alone are women. All of this leads to the final point. Women are far more likely to need Long Term Care assistance than men. Women make up two thirds of those requiring home health care services. They are far more likely to be admitted to a nursing home than men—three out of four nursing home residents are women. And women far more likely to have an extended stay in a facility than men.

Who will care for them? Who will pay? While other family members presumably will step up and pay the bills for care at home or a facility, there is good reason to question this common assumption. A poll conducted in the summer of 2005 by Harris Interactive and published in the Wall Street Journal reported that only 4 percent of adult Americans provided any type of financial assistance to their parents. And of this group, only 13 percent indicated that they were able to help pay for facility care for a parent. This should not be surprising given that adult children frequently are struggling to provide for their own families and paying the mortgage and college loans at the same time their parents most need assistance.

While significant gains have been made in the workplace with respect to pay equity and breaking the “glass ceiling,” certain biological, social and cultural factors place women at far greater risk of needing to plan for their Long Term Care needs. Although certain medical conditions and financial circumstances may prevent some from securing Long Term Care insurance, all women should at a minimum consider Long Term Care as a part of their overall retirement strategy. What is your plan?

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