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The Long Term Care Review by Duane Lipham, CLTC

Welcome to the Long Term Care Review.

Through this blog I will try to keep you updated on the most important news and changes in the field of long term care as it happens.

Long term care is such an important and vital subject that affects us all in one way or another, and the next few years promise to bring significant challenges in this field as the senior population expands rapidly.

So be sure to check back here regularly or just grab our blog feed to stay current with the most important changes as they take place.

And be sure to visit my website for even more information and articles on long term care issues.

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Common Choices For LTCI Benefits

USA Today published an article on long-term care insurance recently that discussed the most common choices for benefits that are made by consumers these days.

Here are some of the ideas from that article:

“And there are plenty of variables in the cost. The main one: Age, says Hopkins. The older you are, the more likely you are to need long-term care insurance in the near future, and the more expensive the policy.

Other factors that affect the cost of a policy:

• Inflation riders. Most policies now have inflation riders — a wise choice, if you’re buying insurance you might not need for 20 years.

• Deductible. Most policies have a 90-day deductible period, Slome says, meaning that you don’t get any benefits until you have used 90 days of long-term care assistance. Shorter deductibles cost more, and longer deductibles cost less.

• Daily benefit. Policies will pay up to a certain amount a day, typically $150, for long-term care. Increasing or decreasing the daily benefit will raise or lower your benefit. Most people get benefits in the $100 to $200 a day range.

• Maximum benefit. Some policies will pay a set number of years of benefit. A lifetime policy is more expensive than one that pays five years’ worth of benefits. Most people opt for four years of coverage or less.

To qualify for benefits, you typically have to be unable to perform two activities of daily living such as bathing, dressing, grooming, cooking, managing medications, using the bathroom or driving.

What are the drawbacks? One is that you might not qualify, typically for health or age reasons. Age is the main factor in whether or not you get declined for a policy. About 15% of people in their 50s get declined, Hopkins says, and that rate doubles for people in their 60s. “The 50s are the sweet spot,” he says.”

Take An Aging Parent Reality Care Check This Holiday Season

Beginning with Thanksgiving and continuing through New Year’s millions of adult children will visit their aging parents. You’ve been talking by phone all year being told everything is fine. But, once you arrive, it is obvious that all is not well.

“The holidays are an ideal time to take an aging parental reality care check to avoid future calamity,” suggests Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long Term Care Insurance. “Those who can’t regularly look in on aging family members should use seasonal visits to help aging parents maintain their independence as long as possible.”

Holiday visits provide an ideal opportunity to assess the health of a loved one, to address home safety issues and to discuss important planning issues. “People tend to hope that a problem is not really happening to them and that it will go away by itself; denying reality is common.”

How do you tell that your aging parent may need help at home? The Association shares some things to watch for.
Bruises that cannot be explained which often result from a fall.
Spoiled food on shelves or in the fridge.
Difficulty getting up from a chair.
Smell of urine in the home.
Stacks of unopened mail.
Late payment notices, letters from bill collectors or bounced checks.
Dents or scratches on a car.

“The holidays are also a good time to check the home environment and make it safer for elderly parents,” Slome notes. Address safety issues such as loose rugs or wires that could result in falls. “Write down important information including the license plate of the parent’s car,” Slome advises. “That way, if it is gone, you’ll have information accessible to share with the police.”

Other suggestions include preparing a written list of medications and the physician contact information. “Record important local resources such as plumbers or electricians should repair issues arise,” Slome adds. “Ask if the parent has prepared advanced health directives and know where they keep copies. If they own long term care insurance protection write down the policy number and claim department contact information.”

Many older Americans eventually need some hands-on assistance. For some, the holidays are often the time when families recognize that eventuality has arrived. For others, a home and care reality check-up is an excellent opportunity to put things in good order.

Most Without LTCI Lament Not Having It

A recent study by Genworth focused on those who do not buy LTCI and/or plan ahead for long-term care needs. This is what the study found:

” Those who failed to take any steps to prepare for a long-term care situation in the family expressed regret over not having done so. More than half – 51 percent – said it was a mistake to have not made arrangements sooner, and 58 percent of those without LTCI see the benefit in the insurance and lament not purchasing a policy. The majority contend that having LTCI would have relieved the financial burden of caring for a loved one (59 percent); meant less strain on family situations; and relief from stress on the family (51 percent).

For why they delayed planning, 38 percent of care receivers indicated they avoided admitting care was required. Other reasons included not wanting to talk about the possibility of needing long-term care (28 percent) and not knowing where to start (23 percent).”

2014 LTCI Tax Deduction Limits Announced

Here are the 2014 Tax deductible limits for eligible long-term care insurance premiums.

Attained Age Before The Close of the Tax Year / Limitation on Premiums

40 or Less - $370
More than 40 but not more than 50 - $700
More than 50 but not more than 60 - $1,400
More than 60 but not more than 70 - $3,720
More than 70 - $4,660

AARP Report Predicts Major “Care Gap”

While family caregivers provide the vast majority of care today, an August report from the AARP Public Policy Institute predicts that won’t be the case in the future. Between now and 2050, the numbers of Americans age 45-64 will decrease while those over 80 will increase, causing a widening “care gap” in every state in the nation. Here is some of their findings:

” The period from 1990 to 2010 was marked by boomers aging into the prime caregiving years. As a result, the caregiver ratio was high and increased slightly, from 6.6 to 7.2 potential caregivers aged 45–64 for every person aged 80-plus.

The period from 2010 to 2030 will be a time of transition as boomers progress into old age and the caregiver ratio declines sharply from 7.2 to 4.1— especially when the oldest boomers begin to reach age 80 in the 2020s.

The period from 2030 to 2050 will include all remaining boomers aging into the high-risk years of 80-plus, and the caregiver ratio is expected to continue to drift downward, from 4.1 to 2.9.”

How Much Do Long-Term Care Premiums Go Up?

How much do long-term care premiums go up? Fortunately, a federal law that went into effect in 1997, requires every long-term care insurer to disclose, in writing, their history of premium increases.

But even though the rate increase histories are public information, there are a lot of misconceptions in the media.

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal included comments that were completely false. For example one comment read: “…the rates are not locked in. Typically they change every 5 years of age. Just when someone is likely to need the benefits - over age 80- the price becomes prohibitive and the insured person drops the plan.”

Recently, a friend of mine was told by someone: “I can’t afford a long-term care policy because I heard the premiums double every 10 years.”

Fortunately, neither of these statements is true.

Long-term care premiums do NOT go up every 5 years.
Long-term care premiums do NOT double every ten years.

In fact, according to a study done in 2012 by an insurance commissioner, 8 of the top 13 long-term care insurance companies have not had any premium increases on any of the LTCi policies they’ve sold since 2001.

Everyone who purchased an LTCi policy since 2001, from one of those 8 companies, is still paying the exact same premium today!

What changed in 2001? In August, 2000, a model regulation was passed by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners that removed the “profit incentive” from LTCi premium increases. Every penny of an LTCi premium increase has to go towards claims payments or the cost of administering the claim. This regulation encouraged long-term care insurers to price their policies more appropriately to begin with, so as to avoid the need for a premium increase in the future. That was the intent of the regulation and, based upon the 2012 study, the regulation has worked!

This regulation is in effect in 46 states.

Then why do we read so much about LTCi premium increases on the internet? That’s because most of the premium increases we read about on the internet are for LTCi policies that were sold before this regulation took effect (e.g. policies that were sold before the year 2001).

Group LTC Insurance 15-36% More Expensive Than Individual

I often work with consumers who are trying to compare individual long-term care insurance with group LTCI usually available at their place of work.

Unfortunately, many seem convinced that the group plan is automatically the better way to go. But a recent study found just the opposite and here is why:

Couples’ premiums with good health were an average of 36.12% less than group plans.

Individuals’ premiums with good health were an average of 15.49% less than group plans.

Employers typically offer group plans to encourage their employees to plan for retirement and old age, a respectable intent. However, because the insurance provider allows open enrollment of policyholders, they are forced to accept all kinds of health types: smokers, people who are obese, have diabetes, or even cancer. For people in good health, this is bad news.

The open enrollment groups healthy people into the same rate class as the high risk people. While their good health would normally get them a discount with an individual plan, with the group plan, they are stuck in the same rate class as everyone else. Right off the bat, the insurance coverage is more expensive with no more benefits to show for the cost. Most importantly, rates for group plans have historically been increased on existing customers by a higher percentage than individual plans and the rate increases have been more frequent. In an individual policy, buyers can sometimes get discounts of 10 to 20 percent, depending on their health and the company’s criteria. This can make a significant impact in the premium rate and save a lot of money over time. Jumping on the group plan at work may seem easy, but in the long run, could result in way overpaying for coverage and being in a much more unstable rate class.

The study also analyzed how the adverse selection in long term care insurance open enrollment periods at the workplace has led to consequences later for some large group plans. The unhealthy people opt for the group plans because they can’t qualify for the individual and the healthy opt for the less expensive individual plans. Many have been forced to raise rates, some as high as 200%, in order to compensate for the increasing cost of care for the higher risk group. When these increases occur, a healthy person who was clumped in with these policyholders in the beginning sees their rates raise again, at no fault of their own. Skipping the group plan and choosing an individual plan if the person has relatively good health will place them into a more stable rate class, reducing the risk that their premium rates will increase later.

Average Age Of LTCI Buyer Drops To 53.1

New data from LTC Tree indicates the average buyer of LTC coverage is younger than ever before. A new report from the firm investigates several reasons why 50 may be the new 65 when it comes to retirement planning. LTC Tree’s statistical department analyzed more than 53,000 cases from 1999 to 2013 to find the mean change in the buyer’s age. The findings show an emerging trend.

  • In 1999, the average age of LTC Tree’s long term care insurance buyer was 67.3 years old.
  • By 2006, that age had dropped 6.09% to 63.2 years old.
  • By, 2013 that age had dropped a staggering 21.09% to 56.1 years old.

How To Be A Smart LTCI Consumer

Consumers that are just looking into LTCI often feel overwhelmed even though it is not as complicated as some try to make it seem. But here is an excerpt from a recent article that helps identify the single smartest move that a consumer who is considering long-term care insurance can make:

” Significant price differences between leading long term care insurance companies can cost consumers hundreds of dollars annually an analysis finds.

“We now see large price differences between leading insurers resulting from pricing approaches, discounts offered and health classifications,” explains Jesse Slome director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI). “People can easily pay 40-to-90 percent more than they need to and many people forgo getting this important coverage simply because they fail to understand how to take advantage of discounts still available.”

“Each long term care insurance company sets their price based on 20-to-25 different pricing factors,” Slome notes. “The single smartest move a consumer can make today is working with an insurance professional who understands the many pricing differences and legitimate ways to reduce what you pay for this important protection.”"

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

LTC Spending On Elderly Poised To Soar

A new analysis from the Congressional Budget Office indicates the nation’s spending on LTC services and supports is expected to surge from 1.3% of gross domestic product today to 3% by 2050. The analysis points out that informal care represents 55% of care today because institutional care costs are often “catastrophic,” yet “many, if not most” people are failing to prepare financially for their future long term care needs.

Here is an excerpt from that analysis:

“In 2011, the total market for LTSS was $426 billion. An aging population will drive spending in the coming decades, but a number of variables will impact the total increase.

Medical advances and declining obesity rates could help control costs by limiting seniors’ functional impairments. However, smaller average family size could drive costs up, as there will be fewer people to provide informal care to elders, who will go into facilities. Informal care accounted for 55% of the LTSS market ($234 billion) in 2011, and institutional care accounted for 31% ($134 billion), according to the CBO report.”

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Tougher LTCI Underwriting Approvals

Atlanta-based LTC Tree recently released the company’s approval statistics and the numbers reveal a significant downturn in insurer acceptance rates. From 1999 to 2011, the LTCI acceptance rate averaged 80.91 percent. By 2012 and 2013, it had plummeted to 65.45 percent. The change reflects a nationwide trend resulting from tighter underwriting and aging Baby Boomer applicants. Here is an excerpt from the article revealing this trend:

“There are a number of health condition trends that were identified as causing the number of rejections for long term care insurance applications to grow. These include: diabetes, obesity, heart disease, and a greater use of anxiety medications.

According to the CEO of the company, Darrick Wilkins, insurers selling long term care insurance “are really tightening the underwriting belt. People with conditions such as Diabetes that would have been approved in the past are getting declined now.” He also pointed out that this type of policy is an important part of many retirement planning strategies in order to help to curb the risk of unforeseen expenses linked to conditions such as Alzheimer’s or an accident.

The company’s approval statistics showed that the approval rate for long term care insurance from 1999 to 2011 was an average of 80.91 percent. However, that rate plummeted in 2012 and 2013 to an average of 65.45 percent.”

What About Long-Term Care Insurance Rate Increases?

The subject of possible future LTCI rate increases is on the mind of many of those I work with on a daily basis. Since almost all of the major LTCI insurers have raised premium rates on some of their policyholders, it is also fair to ask why rate increases happen in the first place and what to expect going forward?

Here is an outstanding article from the Journal of Financial Planning that answers these questions about LTCI rate increases in a very reasonable way:

“As the long-term-care (LTC) insurance industry continues to struggle in today’s low interest rate environment, a growing number of clients who bought long-term-care insurance in the past are getting notifications of premium increases—and often they’re very significant increases, even from major companies like Genworth, John Hancock, Prudential, and MetLife.

While the rate increase may be a shock, the reality is that in many cases the coverage is still cheaper than it would be to buy the policy anew in today’s marketplace—which essentially means that even with the premium increase, continuing the LTC coverage can be a pretty good deal.

Nonetheless, in some situations the premium increase makes the insurance unaffordable, forcing clients to decide how to modify and reduce the coverage to maintain the original premiums. When such reductions are necessary, most clients should choose to reduce the benefit period, and older clients may reduce the rate on the inflation rider as well; most clients will probably want to avoid reducing the daily benefit amount.

The good news is that given how much more expensive LTC insurance is in the current marketplace, it’s drastically less likely there will be premium increases on today’s new policies. However, it’s still necessary to properly deal with and navigate the rate increases that are occurring on coverage purchased years ago.

How Rate Increases Work

Qualified long-term-care insurance (eligible for tax-free benefits under the Internal Revenue Code) must be guaranteed renewable—meaning as long as premiums continue to be paid, the insurance company must continue the client’s coverage, and they cannot single the client out to either cancel his or her coverage or raise the premiums.

However, rates on insurance that are guaranteed renewable can be increased by going to a state’s Department of Insurance and requesting a premium increase for an entire class of policies, such as “all policies issued to people age 55–64 in the year 1998,” and if your client falls into that group, the client’s rates can be increased.

Given that state insurance departments have to agree to premium increases, which aren’t exactly popular, why do they ever approve them? Because in situations where the premiums are too far below anticipated claims, there’s a risk that the insurance company could be rendered insolvent and unable to fully pay all claims to all policyowners. It’s better to have a rate increase that ensures policyowners get all their benefits than keep premiums in place at the risk of rendering the policies partially or entirely defunct.

Notably, though, what premium increases do not allow is for companies to make up prior losses or increase the premiums so far that the insurance company can make a big profit going forward. Premium increases tend to merely be enough to ensure that the company remains solvent and capable of fully paying all claims for all policyowners. Of course, there is some uncertainty to the projections, so it’s conceivable that the insurance department may approve a rate increase large enough that the insurance company will enjoy some extra profits.

But in practice, the opposite seems to be the case; state insurance departments have been so unwilling to push through premium increases (unless absolutely necessary) that often the increases are huge when they do occur because the insurance company has been undercharging for so many years. Some companies have ultimately had to go back later and ask for another premium increase, because the first increase was so conservative for existing policyowners that it still wasn’t enough to ensure solvency (much less any profits) for the insurance company.

What to Do When a Premium Increase Occurs

Given all the steps involved for an insurance company to get a premium increase approved, what should clients do when the notification arrives?

The good news is there are usually more choices than just “pay the new premium,” or “get rid of the policy.” To give policyowners flexibility in how to handle a rate increase, insurance companies usually offer several options, including:

  • Keep the policy as-is and just pay the new premium
  • Keep the current premium and reduce the policy’s daily benefit amount to the extent necessary to bring benefits in line with cost (for example, from $250/day down to $200/day)
  • Keep the current premium and reduce the policy’s benefit period to the extent necessary to bring benefits in line with cost (for example, from a five-year benefit period down to four years)
  • Keep the current premium and reduce the policy’s benefits inflation rate (if the policy included an inflation rider) to the extent necessary to bring benefits in line with cost (for example, from a 5 percent inflation rider down to a 3.5 percent inflation rider)
  • Cancel the policy

The bad news is that more choices make the decision more complex. Although not every insurance company and premium increase situation will include all five options—the requirements for what is made available vary by state, and some insurance companies offer more flexibility than others—most companies will offer at least one or two of the options in the middle, in addition to the first and last.

Which choices are most appealing? …….”

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

LTCI Benefits Exceed $6B in 2012

Insurers paid $6.6 billion in long-term care insurance benefits in 2012, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. Approximately 264,000 people received benefits.

“At a time when so much is written about rate increases and changing markets, there is no more important story to tell than the fact that the nation’s long-term care insurers pay claims, and lots of them,” Jesse Slome, director of AALTCI, said in a statement.

The most common reasons for claims to be paid were for Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, arthritis and cancer. The report noted that benefits covered people who were receiving in-home care as well as those at nursing homes and assisted living facilities. In fact, in-home care accounted for about half of all new insurance claims. “People associate long-term care with nursing home care but insurance actually enables many people to remain at home when care is needed,” Slome said.

About two-thirds of benefit recipients were women, AALTCI found, who could find they’re paying more for LTCI in the future. Washington Bureau Chief Melanie Waddell reported on Feb. 20 that some insurers, notably Genworth, are looking at gender-based pricing for their LTCI policies.

Alzheimers And Long-Term Care Insurance

An estimated $200 billion was spent in 2012 to treat the 5.4 million American suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, so preparation is crucial to handling such stunning costs. Here is an article from Kiplinger’s Personal Finance magazine encouraging the use of long-term care insurance to be well prepared in advance:

“A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s before age 65 is rare. But one in eight people age 65 and older start showing signs of the disease, and 45% of people age 85 and older have it, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. All told, more than five million Americans have Alzheimer’s. The cost of medical and long-term care for Alzheimer’s patients was $200 billion in 2012—not counting the estimated 17 billion hours of unpaid care by family members and friends.

Part of the tragedy of the disease is that it often strikes healthy, vigorous individuals, who then go through a series of stages that rob them of their memory, their awareness of their surroundings and, eventually, their ability to do even the most basic tasks. They typically live nearly a decade after the diagnosis and usually need full-time care, initially at home but ultimately in a nursing home. “Costs associated with Alzheimer’s disease cripple families at a time when they are also coping with the huge practical, social and emotional toll of this chronic brain disorder,” says Carol Steinberg, executive vice-president of the Alzheimer’s Foundation of America.”

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Helpful Long-Term Care Insurance Statistics

The American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance (AALTCI) collects data from several of the major insurers in this industry and they have published some of their findings concerning the choices that consumers are making about the coverage they are selecting for their LTCI policies. They also have revealed some interesting statistics on how underwriting affects applicants by age group. Here is what they have found:

1. Percentage of applicants qualifying for good health discounts by age:

40-49: 42 percent

50-59: 32 percent

60-69: 21 percent

70-79: 17 percent

2. Percentage of applicants rejected for coverage (individual policies) by age:

Below 50: 11 percent

50-59: 16 percent

60-69: 24 percent

70-79: 41 percent

80 and above: 63 percent

3. Sales by issue age:

45-54: 22 percent

55-64: 56 percent

65-74: 17 percent

4. Benefit periods:

Less than three years: 12 percent

Three years: 34 percent

Four years: 26 percent

Five years: 20 percent

5. Daily benefit amount:

$99 or less: 7 percent

$100 to $149: 36 percent

$150 to $199: 34 percent

$200 to $249: 18 percent

$250 or more: 5 percent

6. Benefits inflation protection

5 percent compound for life: 34 percent

5 percent simple for life: 12 percent

3 percent compound: 24 percent

CPI formula: 8 percent

Future step-up option: 8 percent

None/other: 15 percent

Baby Boomers May Live Longer, But Need More Care

I often find that consumers looking into long-term care insurance for the first time assume that their health in later life will be very similar to that of their parents. But new studies are showing that although baby boomers may be living longer, they have more health problems than their parents did and require more care in old age due to disability. Here is an interesting excerpt from an article on that subject:

“At midlife, the nation’s 78 million baby boomers appear to be in worse health than the generation that preceded them, a new study finds.

Researchers from West Virginia University School of Medicine and the Medical University of South Carolina knew that American’s life expectancy has steadily improved, but they wondered whether that meant baby boomers were healthier than their parents or simply benefiting from better medical treatments……

“Despite their longer life expectancy over previous generations, US baby boomers have higher rates of chronic disease, more disability, and lower self-rated health than members of the previous generation at the same age,” the authors concluded.”

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Upcoming Long-Term Care Insurance Rate Increases for Women

Women will soon pay between 20 and 40 percent more than men for long term care insurance as leading insurers move to sex-distinct pricing.

“Women have an opportunity to lock in lower rates but the window for significant savings is closing,” declares Jesse Slome, director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, and author of A Woman’s Guide To Long-Term Care Insurance Protection.

According to AALTCI women are far more likely to need long term health care and receive two-thirds of all long term care insurance benefit dollars. “Leading insurers will soon cease offering unisex pricing and begin charging women more to reflect that most claim dollars pay for care needed by women,” Slome reports.

Insurers paid over $6.6 billion in claims last year according to the Association. “Women account for 65 percent of all new claims opened,” Slome notes. “Dementia, cancer, fractures, stroke, osteoarthritis and hip fractures or replacements are the most frequent reasons women require long term care insurance benefits.”

A final opportunity to take advantage of unisex rates provides women with a chance to lock in savings. “Both married women and women living alone can take advantage of the currently available rates,” Slome shares. “We especially encourage women who are single, divorced or widowed to consider planning now because their need is great and they often lack the built-in support of a spouse when the need for care occurs.”

Between ages 55 and 65 is the best time to explore options for long term care according to Slome. “Insurance protection is only an option for those able to health qualify and, as we age, health conditions tend to arise,” he adds. “Plus long term care insurance tends to cost between eight and 10 percent more for every year you delay.”

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

LTCI Cost For Women Going Higher

Until now, insurers have charged the same premiums regardless of gender on LTCi policies, which help pay for future nursing-home, assisted-living and home care. But beginning early next year, Genworth Financial, the country’s largest long-term-care insurer, plans to start charging women applying for coverage as much as 40% more than men.

The move is designed to better reflect the risks involved in covering women, who are paid two out of every three benefit dollars from long-term-care insurance, in part because they live longer and often have no caregivers at home, according to the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance, a trade group based in Westlake Village, Calif.

Other insurers are expected to follow Genworth’s lead, says Jesse Slome, the association’s executive director.

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.

Tips For Adult Children Who Will Visit Aging Parents During The Holidays

Some tips when visiting older loved ones during the holidays to help assess their health:

1. Check the home environment. Look for unopened mail, especially unpaid bills. Address safety issues such as loose rugs or wires that could result in falls.

2. Has the parent lost weight. Is there outdated and spoiled food in the refrigerator or pantry?

3. Write down important information including the license plate of the parent’s car. That way, if it is gone, you’ll have information accessible to share with the police.

4. Prepare a list of medications and the physician contact information. Record important local resources such as plumbers or electricians should repair issues arise.

5. Ask if the parent has prepared advanced health directives and know where they keep copies. If they own long term care insurance protection write down the policy number and claim department contact information. “The number of people calling with questions about policy benefits increases by roughly 15 percent immediately following the holidays,” explains Bill Jones, President of MedAmerica a family of leading long term care insurance carriers. “Many older Americans eventually need some hands-on assistance and the holidays are often the time of year when families recognize that eventuality has arrived.”

Long Distance Caregiving Produces High Anxiety, High Expenses

While caregiving itself is tough, providing care from a distance is even harder. Fifteen percent of the nation’s 34 million caregivers live an hour or more away from elderly relatives who need their help. And as distance increases, so does a caregiver’s anxiety and spending. Here is an interesting article about this kind of caregiving challenge:

“If living a few counties away from aging relatives is enough to cause anxiety, imagine living several thousand miles across the country. How do people take care of their parents and other elderly relatives from afar?

The answers, as more than 5 million long-distance caregivers have already learned, can be hard to find – but they’re increasingly crucial in a rapidly aging nation. The silver tsunami of baby boomers, in the thick of caring for elderly relatives today, will themselves be recipients of care in coming decades.

Like Miller, 15 percent of the country’s 34 million caregivers live an hour or more away from aging relatives who need their help, according to National Institute on Aging data. The average distance for respondents in a 2004 MetLife caregiving study was 450 miles, and almost a quarter of those surveyed said they were their loved ones’ only caregivers.

They spend money to take care of their relatives: an average of $400 a month. Not surprisingly, the caregivers living the farthest spend the most — almost $9,000 a year, AARP statistics show.

And they spend time, too. Half of long-distance caregivers visit several times a month to help with shopping, medical appointments and paying bills. More than 40 percent told MetLife that they had to take time off work because of their caregiving responsibilities.

Caring for fragile loved ones from a distance can be a frustrating, exhausting endeavor, even for people who are professionals in the field.”

You can read the rest of the article by clicking here.