Analysts at Northwestern Mutual have explored a foggy frontier: The gap that keeps people from talking about long-term care (LTC) needs, plans and funding arrangements with their relatives.

The company commissioned a survey of 2,016 U.S. residents. The survey team asked the participants about many issues related to LTC planning, including planning needs, the likelihood that they themselves will become informal caregivers, and how participants expect to pay for their own LTC needs.

But the survey data on family LTC planning communications problems might be newest and most useful for LTC planners.

One thing long-term care insurance (LTCI) and other LTC funding arrangements can do is increase the comfort and independence of the people who need the care.

But successful LTC planning may also reduce the odds that people’s relatives will have to care for them. In that situation, successful planning arrangements may be more useful to the caregivers than they are to the insureds. One challenge planners have is finding ways to help the prospective caregivers protect themselves against caregiving challenges they are unable or unwilling to handle.

See also: 8 new facts about LTC caregivers who suffer

Here’s a look at three survey findings that relate to LTC communications.

Communication

1. Many consumers say they have talked about their plans with their relatives.

The survey team found that many survey participants claim to have done a good job of planning for LTC needs and of telling relatives or other loved ones about those needs.

About 53 percent of the men and 44 percent of the women said they understand the LTC options and resources available, and 35 percent of the men and 23 percent of the women said they have addressed their LTC needs within their retirement plans.

About 37 percent of all participants — including 41 percent of the men and 34 percent of the women — said they have talked about their LTC option preferences with friends and relatives.

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2. Consumers (think they) are not very likely to need help in later years from friends and relatives.

Although survey participants said they understand LTC options and resources, and might reasonably have been supposed to have seen the studies showing that about three-quarters of elderly people need at least a little help as they get on in years, only 19 percent of the participants said they thought their friends and relatives would end up taking care of them.

About 9 percent said they own some kind of LTC insurance.

Another 14 percent have what might be described as coulda, shoulda, woulda coverage: They’re thinking about long-term care insurance.

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3. Consumers have not heard much about LTC plans from their own relatives. 

Survey participants were about as likely to say they had heard from relatives about LTC plans as to say they had tried to share their own plans with relatives: About 37 percent of the participants said their family members have talked to them about LTC option preferences.

The likelihood that participants knew family members had planned for LTC needs was even lower for older participants than younger participants.

Only 26 percent of the participants said they knew they family members had addressed LTC needs. The percentage was 29 percent for participants ages 18 to 34 — and just 21 percent for consumers ages 65 and older.

About 39 percent of the men surveyed said they knew about relatives’ LTC preferences, and 32 percent reported knowing about funding arrangements.

Although 35 percent of the women surveyed knew about relatives’ preferences, just 21 percent said they knew that relatives had actually addressed LTC funding needs.