Long-term Healthcare for Women

December 15, 2021

The fact we’re all living longer means we’ll have more time to relax and enjoy retirement, right? Let’s hope so. But greater life expectancy can carry a higher risk for chronic health problems that can present ongoing issues. The fact is that nearly 70%of us who make it to sixty-five will need long-term healthcare. The statistics are even higher for women because they live on average five years longer than men. Women sixty-five and older who need long-term care will require it for an average of 3.7 years, while the male standard is only 2.2 years.

What is long-term healthcare?
Long-term care generally means professional assistance with activities of daily life (ADL) deficits that can result from a lengthy illness. Assistance can include help with dressing and changing, incontinence, bathing, eating, and taking medications. Long-term care can be administered in the home, hospital, or a senior care community. While costs range widely and are based on several factors, they can be the most costly aspect of retirement years, often running into the six figures.

What do women need to know to be prepared for this expense?
Along with living longer than their male counterparts, women, on average, earn less than men and are less likely to have a retirement plan. If you’re a woman researching the issue or tackling it for a parent, here are some key items to consider:

  • Consider Long-term Health Insurance
    Many of us think we can rely on Medicare or Medicaid to pick up these expenses. But Medicare only covers a fraction of services. Long-term health insurance, whose yearly costs vary but average around $2000, can end up providing full coverage where Medicare leaves off. Timing is everything, though, in terms of qualifying for coverage. Over 50% of applicants 50-59 can get coverage, but this number drops to 24% at age 70.
  • Do Your Homework
    Like any insurance coverage, not all long-term policies are the same. Make sure your policy has an inflation rider to cover rising healthcare costs that adjusts each year. Make sure that your policy covers both in-home and in-facility care. And if you’re too young to qualify for a policy, your employer may be able to close the gap.
  • Involve Your Family
    When it comes to having frank conversations about such matters, women are statistically less comfortable with the topic than their male counterparts. According to a recent study, 31% of women reported feeling nervous or anxious talking about long-term care, while 40% of the men surveyed expressed no reservations about discussing it. Remember that your preferences and wishes will most likely affect your family members, and it’s crucial to involve them well before issues crop up.

We’ve only scratched the surface of this complex topic. Head to the US Department of Health and Human Services for more helpful info. 

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