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Poll finds that blacks, Latinos worry over long-term care crises

Bruce Chernof | 8/14/2013, 11:33 a.m.

A mere 27 percent of older adults surveyed are confident that they will have the resources to pay for the care they need as they age. This confusion about how services are paid for leads to a lack of knowledge on how to plan and, again, individuals find themselves in situations of need with no idea of where to turn for help.

African Americans and Latinos were especially worried. Well over half of blacks (57 percent) expressed concern about being able to pay for needed care, compared to 45 percent of Hispanics and 41 percent of whites.

Also, half or more of African Americans and Latinos said they worry about becoming a burden on their families, in contrast to just over one in three whites. And almost half of blacks surveyed were concerned that they may leave debts to family related to long-term care, compared to just over one in four Hispanics and whites.

The prospect of ending up in a nursing home proved somewhat more troubling for African Americans (57 percent) than for Hispanics (44 percent) and whites (40 percent).

Promising Solutions

However, there is promise for innovative approaches to solving these issues: Americans across the political spectrum show majority support for public policy solutions to transform the nation’s system of long-term care. More than three-quarters of Americans support tax breaks to encourage saving for long-term care expenses; just over half support a government-administered long-term care insurance program similar to Medicare.

Solutions on how to effectively plan for future care are not partisan concerns but universal ones, with affordable and accessible services for older adults a priority for all.

The new poll reflects a serious gap in knowledge and awareness that leaves individuals and their families struggling to fend for themselves when it comes to paying for these services.

However, what this poll also shows is that people support a better model, a toolbox that offers a suite of services with viable options for individuals to stay in their homes and communities whenever possible.

The timing for this poll is critical as our window for action is short. Americans are clearly asking for solutions and mechanisms to begin to prepare for their future care needs so that we all can age with dignity, choice and independence.

Bruce Chernof, M.D., FACP, is the president and CEO of The SCAN Foundation, as well as the chair of the Commission on Long-Term Care.