What, Me Worry?

What, we worry?

Why America slept: SeniorCare.com’s findings are worrisome.

Good afternoon, ProviderNation.

The numbers are in, and they aren’t encouraging. The fine folks at SeniorCare.com crunched survey data and found that Americans are woefully under-prepared for their aging future. In separate surveys, 37 percent of respondents said they thought they would need long term care in the future; as it happens, though, 69 percent of Americans are actually expected to need long term care.

“It’s time for a senior care reality check,” SeniorCare.com says, in what may count as one of the understatements of our millennium.

More than half of Americans will spend at least some time in nursing homes, according to SeniorCare.com’s projections. Another 19 percent will use assisted living. Most people—86 percent—are predicted to use informal caregivers at some point (the numbers overlap).

But nearly three-quarters of people who need long term care will have to pay out-of-pocket, because Medicare will only cover about 12 percent of the nation’s long term care needs and only 30 percent of people qualify for Medicaid, SeniorCare.com reports.

If you think that’s bad, don’t worry, it gets worse. Because almost three-quarters of people surveyed haven’t bothered to have “The Talk” about long term care options with their loved ones, SeniorCare.com finds.

So what’s to be done? SeniorCare.com asked a few dozen professional thought leaders. AHCA/NCAL’s own Tom Burke urges families to take it slowly.

“Have several talks over time,” he says. “Avoid one-and-done scenarios. Go slow. Be patient with your mom or dad. Know that this is a scary topic.”

Dr. Bill Thomas, who is taking his show on the road as we speak, says the numbers speak to a larger problem with aging in our culture.

“We need to change the narrative surrounding aging in general,” he says. “Your topic is actually just one (very tangible) example of the toll we pay for living in a deeply ageist society. Fixing this problem requires us addressing ageism head on.”

Thomas puts the preparedness crisis bluntly. Age free, or—well, you know. “People who are prepared,” he says, “get to choose the kinds of care they will receive and who will deliver that care. People who are not prepared get care that is chosen by someone else.”

Bill Myers is Provider’s senior editor. Email him at wmyers@providermagazine.com. Follow him on Twitter, @ProviderMyers.

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