Study: Americans In Denial About Future Long-Term Care Needs & Costs

A majority of Americans aged 40 or older have done little or nothing to prepare for their future long-term care needs, and some are unwilling to even think about aging, says a recent study that reveals “several critical issues” with the potential to inform the long-term care policy dialogue.

Nearly half (48%) of Americans in this age demographic acknowledge that a majority of people will need long-term care at some point as they age, but only 24% believe they will personally need those kinds of services someday, found The AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research in a new study funded by The SCAN Foundation. Studies show about 70% of Americans  aged 65 and older will eventually need long-term care. 

“Although a majority of Americans 40 years or older believe that they are at least somewhat likely to need long-term care at some point, very few people in this population report planning for their own long-term care needs,” says the report.


Only 16% report doing a “great deal” or “quite a bit” of planning for their own long-term care needs, while just under two in ten report a “moderate amount” or planning. A huge majority—65%—report doing only a little planning—or none at all. 

The lack of preparation could be due to denial: about three in 10 Americans surveyed for the study said they’d rather not think about getting older, while another 32% are only “somewhat comfortable” thinking about aging. Only 35% report being “Very comfortable” at the thought of getting older. However, the older survey respondents got, the more comfortable they were with thinking about aging, up to 75% of those aged 65 and older. 

Even so, few went beyond thinking about aging to planning. 


Only 41% of Americans aged 40 or above have even discussed long-term care preferences with their families, while an even smaller amount (35%) have set aside money to pay for future long-term care needs, the AP-NORC Center found. 

Many underestimated the costs of nursing homes while overestimating the role of Medicare in paying for that care. 

Americans in this age group generally count on their families to “be there for them” as they age, but those currently receiving long-term care, or have gotten it in the past, are less likely to believe they’ll be able to rely on family in a time of need. 

A majority of those surveyed are either a “great deal” or “quite a bit” concerned about losing their independence (52%) or diminished mental capabilities (51%). Less than half are at least “quite a bit” concerned about their ability to pay for the care or assistance they may need as they age (44%), while about 42% are at least somewhat worried they’ll have to move into a nursing home. One third have concerns they’ll be alone without friends or family around them as they age.

Those surveyed said their priorities for a living situation as they age include a single-story home (65%), living close to children (63%), and being close to medical offices or hospitals (63%). 

Access the full report

Written by Alyssa Gerace