Taking Responsibility For Our Own Long Term Care Needs

In all of the debate about long term care costs, a central underlying cause of the general apathy that many folks exhibit toward preparing for their own long term care needs does not get as much attention as it deserves.

The fact is that for a long time now Americans have often shifted the responsibility of care giving away from themselves and left it instead to others to provide. This could be members of their own family, or even the government. The point is that much of the public is just not in the habit of taking responsibility for their own possible need for custodial care.

In past years, it was just expected that spouses and children would care for the aged and infirmed. And many have done so while bearing immense financial, emotional and physical strain. The alternative has been to just let the state foot the bill and provide long term care in the most expensive and dreary of settings, a facility.

Times have changed though, and perceptions need to change along with it. The characteristics of family life has changed dramatically in the past thirty years or so, making the old out-dated assumptions of yesterday unrealistic in today’s society.

Consider for instance, that family dynamics today often mean that family members do not live anywhere close to one another. In fact, thousands of miles may separate them today. In addition, most families require both husband and wife to work full-time in order to make a decent living. Just trying to raise children in this atmosphere can be a real challenge for working age parents, but if you also insert the need to try to care for aging parents at the same time, the situation quickly becomes unmanageable.

Even if raising children is not involved, having a grown child available to be able to devote a large part of their time every day for years to care for a frail parent is increasingly becoming unrealistic. Those who do try to carry on in such a labor of love often become more ill than those that they care for, and many never fully recover from the experience.

So why not just rely on the good old government programs like Medicaid to take care of the problem? Well, that has been the fall-back position for many years now, and these programs are all showing the strain of such reasoning. In the near future the sheer numbers of baby boomer retirees will most certainly overwhelm the current capacity of the system to adequately provide any kind of reasonable care at the government’s expense. The only solutions left will be simple, either cut back the quality and quantity of care, or raise taxes to pay for the care that is needed.

Ironically, many of the same people who plan on just letting the government pay for their long term care needs are the very same people who loudly and strongly decry the taxes that they have to pay to allow the government to provide such care.

What is needed is a shift in thinking instead. It is important that each of us recognize the need to take responsibility for our own long term care needs just as we do for other health care and financial matters.