Long-term care in aging U.S.: Not for me, poll says

By Lauren Neergaard and Jennifer Agiesta

Associated Press

Published: Wednesday, April 24 2013 11:11 p.m. MDT

This handout photo provided by Mary Washington Healthcare, taken April 16, 2013, Andrea Vassel of Mary Washington Healthcare explains the benefits of an advance directive at Mary Washington Hospital in Fredericksburg, Va., as part of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16. A poll from the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found people 40 and older underestimate their chances of needing long-term care as they get older, and aren't doing enough to prepare. But about 47 percent say they have taken one step, creating an advance directive to outline the medical care they'd want if they couldn't communicate. (AP Photo/Mary Washington Healthcare)

Associated Press

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WASHINGTON — We're in denial: Americans underestimate their chances of needing long-term care as they get older — and are taking few steps to get ready.

A new poll examined how people 40 and over are preparing for this difficult and often pricey reality of aging and found two-thirds say they've done little to no planning.

In fact, 3 in 10 would rather not think about getting older at all. Only a quarter predict it's very likely that they'll personally need help getting around or caring for themselves during their senior years, according to the poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

That's a surprise considering the poll found more than half of the 40-plus crowd already have been caregivers for an impaired relative or friend — seeing from the other side the kind of assistance they, too, are likely to need later on.

"I didn't think I was old. I still don't think I'm old," explained retired schoolteacher Malinda Bowman, 60, of Laura, Ohio.

Bowman has been a caregiver twice, first for her grandmother. Then after her father died in 2006, Bowman moved in with her mother, caring for her until her death in January. Yet Bowman has made few plans for herself.

"I guess I was focused on caring for my grandmother and mom and dad, so I didn't really think about myself," she said. "Everything we had was devoted to taking care of them."

The poll found most people expect family to step up if they need long-term care — even though 6 in 10 haven't talked with loved ones about the possibility and how they'd like it to work.

Bowman said she's healthy now but expects to need help someday from her two grown sons. Last month, prompted by a brother's fall and blood clot, she began the conversation by telling her youngest son about her living will and life insurance policy.

"I need to plan eventually," she acknowledged.

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