Monday, July 03, 2006

Darned if you do, or don’t...

Recently, my mother was hospitalized for a week, the victim of a prolonged headache that just wouldn’t quit. Turned out to be an inflammation of an artery, and not (as feared) something worse, such as a tumor.
In many such cases, folks start thinking about their own (and/or their parents’) long-term prospects, and the thought of Long Term Care eventually surfaces. Thankfully, Mom’s condition is (relatively) easy to treat, and she should be fine soon. ‘Course, I am concerned that she found the hospital food superior to her own home cookin’, but that’s a discussion for another day.
All of this by way of introduction to an interesting, if disheartening, study undertaken by the John Hancock (okay, you purists will have noted that I used “the,” a throwback to “the old days.” I also put an “e” at the end of envelope, and spell dilemna with an “n.”), which shows a startling disconnect between what we know to be true, and how we choose to deal with the truth.
To wit: even though we know about the graying of our population, and we know that health care costs keep escalating, we choose to ignore the connection. According to the JH study “Americans are less worried today than they were roughly a decade ago about needing and paying for LTC.” This is stupid. We know that gas prices have risen, and we grumble about those. We know that mortgage rates are on the rise, and we worry about that. But we can choose a smaller house, or a more fuel-efficient vehicle; what is the alternative to living longer?
I know, trick question.
Here's what's weird: while over half of those surveyed were concerned about the cost of care, that's still a 12 point drop from folks 10 years ago. On top of that, compared with the '97 study, fewer people were concerned that they'd even need long term care.
OTOH, almost 2/3 of the respondents thought they'd make it to (at least) 85, and that the cost of LTC would have a substantial (and negative) impact on the post-retirement financial position. This concern, by the way, is an increase over the old study.
And so, we have a population that is ageing, that believes that it will get even older, that believes that there is a greater likelihood that they'll need more (and more expensive) care, and yet aren't really worried all that much about it.
I have a picture in mind.
Something else I found interesting is that, after a decade of sales pitches, advertisements, promotions, news articles and studies, most of those surveyed had no more knowledge about the nature and cost of long term care than their counterparts did 10 years ago. That’s a bit scary, no?
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