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Consumers to Pollsters: Caregiving? What's That?

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Consumers may be avoiding some parts of the dangerous river called “De Nile” but continuing to get stuck in other parts.

Analysts at the Hartford Financial Services Group Inc., Hartford (NYSE:HIG) and researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) AgeLab presented fresh survey data on consumer denial Tuesday at a press conference in New York.

The team commissioned a polling firm to conduct a telephone survey of 1,964 U.S. residents ages 45 years and older who have retired in the past 2 to 10 years or plan to retire in the next 2 to 10 years.

The team asked about general views on aging, retirement income needs, retirement expectations, and related topics of interest to companies, government agencies and other data users with an interest in meeting the needs of older consumers.

Consumer denial about the need for long-term care (LTC) and long-term care insurance (LTCI) is the stuff of many LTCI surveys and articles.

The survey team found evidence that the survey participants were in more denial about some health-related topics than others.

The team found that most participants said they value their health more than they value their wealth. About 40% of the pre-retirees and 41%  of the retirees said the idea of having “health or medical issues” is they one thing they most worry about impacting their retirement.

The risk of having serious health problems was the top-ranked concern.

For both groups of survey participants, about 25% ranked “running out of money” as the biggest fear, and 12% ranked a spouse or significant dying first as the biggest fear.

LTC concerns trailed far behind: Only about 10% of the survey participants ranked caring for a spouse or other family member as the biggest concern.

When pollsters asked the survey participants who would care for them if they became seriously ill, only 10% of the pre-retirees and 13% of the retirees said they would get care from medical professionals.

About 63% said they would get care from a spouse, and 11% said they would get care from a daughter.

The study team found that retirees are starting to be less confident that they will be able to get care from a spouse. Only 48% of the retirees said a spouse would be their caregiver if they became seriously ill; 19% said a daughter would handle the job.

Jodi Olshevski, a gerontologist at Hartford who has written the book “Stress Reduction for Caregivers,” said the Hartford gerontology group, said at the press conference that she was surprised that the risk of having to provide care for a loved one ranked so on the list of top concerns about retirement.

“The truth is that the number of adult children who have started to provide either personal care or financial care for an older relative over the 15 years has tripled,” Olshevski said. “I think it’s really critical that people begin to think about this as a role that they probably will fall into.”

Some people may spend less time on caregiving than others, or take a less active role, but the issue is still likely to affect them, Olshevski said.

Olshevski also commented on the pre-retirees’ assumption that their spouses will be their primary caregivers if they do need care.

“That works out really well if you’re a man,” Olshevski said.

Women tend to outlive their husbands, however, and they, especially, need to be working hard to build support networks if they want to be able to use informal care to stay in their own homes as long as possible, Olshevski said.


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