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New Study Shows What Americans Don't Know About Long-Term Care

Couple studying insurance forms.
Most Americans know what long-term care is and how much it costs, but their scores fall short regarding how many people will need it and how they will pay for it. The MetLife Long-Term Care IQ Survey, taken by 1,021 individuals aged 40 to 70 in 2009, reveals that most are not taking appropriate steps to protect themselves from potentially catastrophic expenses.

According to the study:

  • Just 36% of those surveyed know that 60%-70% of 65-year-olds will require long-term care services at some point in their lives. 
  • Just 37% know that most long-term care services are received at home.   
  • Older people (over 60) are more knowledgeable about long-term care than younger people (40 to 49). 
  • Only 45% are aware that one in five American households care for an adult family member or loved one.  
  • Few are taking action to protect themselves from such potentially catastrophic expenses; only 18% know long-term care insurance rates are based on age.
  • 87% are aware that a comprehensive long-term care policy covers home, assisted living and nursing home care.

Popular Myths vs. the Facts on Long-Term Care



Most long-term care is provided in a nursing home.

Most long-term care is provided at home.

Medicare, health insurance and disability insurance pay long-term care expenses.

Long-term care insurance is the only form of private insurance that pays long-term care expenses.

You can immediately qualify for Medicaid to pay for long-term care by transferring assets to family.

Upon application, the state will “look-back” over five years to see if assets were transferred for less than fair market value. If so, application may be denied.

Family history, income and age are all primary factors in calculating long-term care insurance premiums.

Age is the primary factor in calculating long-term care insurance premiums.


"Many middle-aged and older Americans fail to grasp long-term care's fundamental concepts, setting the stage for difficulties in the future," said Dr. Sandra Timmermann, director of the MetLife Market Institute. "Still others mistakenly believe they will be covered by resources that do not pay for such care. And, there is the common misconception that 'this won’t happen to me.' "

Dr. Timmerman adds, "As people plan for retirement, they need to consider not only how much income and savings they will need to last a lifetime, but also how they would pay for ongoing care should they develop a chronic condition or serious illness. Without adequate savings or long-term care insurance, the cost of care can potentially derail a financial plan and put retirement at risk. The need for long-term care can occur at younger ages as well, so it's especially important to begin the planning process early."

Important facts to keep in mind during the planning process:

  • Though chronic disability can occur at any time, the demand for long-term care services increases dramatically with age.
  • About 70% of people over age 65 will require at least some long-term care services during their lifetime.
  • As the U.S. population ages, the percentage of people older than 65 will increase from about 13% in 2009 to 20% in 2040.
  • Part of the projected increase is due to an increased life expectancy beyond age 65.
  • Long-term care can be provided in a nursing home or assisted living facility, but most care is provided at home.  

To help consumers increase their knowledge about long-term care and long-term care insurance, the MetLife Mature Market Institute offers an informational guide, The Essentials: Long-Term Care Insurance, which is available for download. The publication covers such topics as the types of long-term care available, financing and the various options available within long-term care insurance policies.

Source: The MetLife Mature Market Institute, MetLife's research organization, which is a recognized thought leader on the multi-dimensional and multi-generational issues of aging and longevity. Visit the MetLife website to download a free copy of the MetLife Long-Term Care IQ Survey.   


Learn More About Long-Term Care Insurance

If you would like more specifics about policies available in your state, or to get no-obligation information and a quote on long-term care insurance, you can visit the American Association of Long Term Care Insurance at their consumer website. The website includes ratings for leading insurers offering long-term care insurance.


Right at Home is a national organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for those we serve. We fulfill that mission through a dedicated network of locally owned, franchised providers of in-home care and assistance services. 

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