Long-Term Care: Three Vital Things You Need to Know

The words "long-term care" stenciled in red against a white background.

The Takeaway: before you buy long-term care insurance, you need know three things:

  1. how much long-term care costs,
  2. the odds you’ll need long-term care, and
  3. how much insurance for long-term care costs.

Boomer, it’s all right here!


My mother-in-law’s descent into dementia was so soft and so gentle that we barely noticed it.  

By the end, the ravages were so virulent, her loving husband of 60 years was forced to concede defeat.  Heartbroken, he placed his bride in a nursing home.  With each daily visit, he’d reintroduce himself.

Fortunately, his teacher’s pension was able to defray some of the costs.

Bulletin:   In today’s world, you’ll have to be more strategic than to rely on a teacher’s pension if you ever need long-term care–and you might never need it. 

Here are the relevant facts about long-term care you need to know. 

(I’ve included sources and sites where you can plug in your own information and get up-to-date information for your situation.) 

four-way seat belt showing wild ride of the long-term care experienceBuckle up, Boomer!

#1.  How much does long-term care cost? 

Boomer, here’s cost information from a 50-state survey in 2017—the most current data available at press time. (See cost data for your own state here.  Project your own long-term daily, monthly, and yearly costs here.) 

These costs are important because they generally are not covered by your health insurance or by Medicare.  (Shocking, I know.)

Median National Cost of Long-term Care Annually – 2018.

Home Health Care Median
Homemaker Services1 $48,048
Home Health Aide2 $50,336
Adult Day Health Care  
Adult Day Health Care $18,720
Assisted Living Facility  
Assisted Living Facility $48,000
Nursing Home Care  
Semi-Private Room $89,297
Private Room $100,375

1Based on 5 days per week 52 weeks
2Based on 44 hours per week 52 weeks.
Source:  Nationwide survey commissioned by insurance provider Genworth Financial, Inc., 2018. 


#2.  What are the odds that you’ll need long-term care?

red dice that say "yes' or "no," signals whether there's a need or not for long-term care.

Weigh the odds, Boomer!

From the most current data available at press, a 2016 report published by the Urban Institute and the Department of Health and Human Services, projects that:

  • 47% of men and 57% of women will need long-term care at some point; 
  • on average, men will require 1½ years and women will require 2½ years of long-term care; and 
  • (on a brighter note) an average of 48% won’t require any long-term care at all.

Here are the percentage break-downs showing who needs more and who need less long-term care.  

Women Are More Likely than Men to Need Long-Term Care and They’ll Need It Longer.

Length of Care Needed Male Female
5+ years 9.8% 17.8%
2.0 – 4.9 years 11.1% 12.3%
1.0 – 1.9 years 7.4% 8.0%
Less than 1 year 18.4% 19.4%
No care needed 53.3% 42.5%
Average length of care 1.5 Years 2.5 Years

Source:  Dept. of Health and Human Services, Long-Term Services and Supports for Older Americans,, Revised 2016.

Shocked woman looking at her long-term care bill.lAnd there it is:  the most disturbing fact.  Nearly 10% of men and almost 20% of women will need more than five years of long-term care.  That’s going to cost you.

#3. What does the insurance for long-term care cost?

Boomer, you can’t look at the price of premiums without knowing what that price buys you.  Keep this in mind if you talk to an insurance agent.  The policy shown in the table below: 

  • doesn’t start paying until 90 days after you file a claim (called the “elimination” period);
  • insures you for $300 a day; 
  • has a 3% compound inflation inclusion, which increases your coverage by 3% a year; and  
  • provides long-term care for 3 years–the standard “affordable” length of care offered by companies.

One Insurer’s Annual Premiums for Long-Term Care1,2

  Unmarried Married
Age At Policy Purchase Male Female Male Female
50 $4,374 $6,816 $3,060 $4,770
55 $4,746 $7,518 $3,324 $5,262
60 $5,292 $8,532 $3,702 $5,970
65 $6,192 $9,834 $4,332 $6,882
70 $8,244 $12,132 $5,772 $8,490

1Data is from the State Farm website, the only company I could find that doesn’t force you to talk to a salesperson in order to get a quote.   See update in text below.
2I don’t have a long-term care policy with State Farm.  This table is by no means an endorsement. 
Source:  State Farm “Long-Term Care Quote” website, September 18, 2017.

Update July 22, 2018:  The numbers in the above table give you a good idea of your potential coverage costs.  However, since this column was originally written, the company providing these quotes, State Farm, has now stopped selling long-term coverage in selected states, like a lot of other insurers.  🙁  

You’ll notice from the table above that:

  • the later you buy, the more you pay;  
  • married people pay less than singles because companies plan on selling a policy to each of you; and 
  • women pay the most because statistically they live longer.  

When you look at these prices, remember that long-term care is not covered by your health insurance or by Medicare.   

What should you do?

You should know pros and cons of owning this insurance. They’re all described in my long-term care series.  You may — or may not — be protecting yourself if you buy. 

The posts below will describe the pitfalls of owning this insurance, help you determine your probability of needing this insurance, and explain the basis upon which you could be denied the insurance.  Also included is how to get Uncle Sam to (maybe) pay long-term care costs for you.

If after reading these posts you decide to buy, here are the three main types of insurance being sold.  Included in these three types is the long-term care insurance available when you buy into a community care retirement community.  We discuss if these communities are worth the money and what to ask before you sign on the dotted line

Get the facts. 

And until next time, let’s hope we’re in that group that’ll never need long-term care.

Stay well.

P.S.  Hey, Boomer!  If you think this post would help someone else, could you pass it along or post it on Facebook?  Thanks!  You rock!


Long-Term Care Series