Home for the holidays? Talk to your family about assisted living

  • More than 6 in 10 adults in a survey say they'd rather die than go to a nursing home.
  • Survey participants on average estimate that nursing home care costs $52,100 a year.
  • In reality, it can exceed $90,000 a year.
Friends and family enjoy Thanksgiving dinner.
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If you're spending time with family for the holidays, now might be a good time to talk to them about long-term care.

Those are the findings from a Nationwide Retirement Institute survey of 1,214 adults over age 50. Just over half of those polled said they were worried about becoming a burden to their family members as they age.

More than half of participants with children said that paying for long-term care — that is, care at home, in an assisted living facility or in a nursing home — would likely use up the inheritance they planned to leave their descendants.

Six in 10 said they would rather die than go to a nursing home.

You can avoid possible future family discord by talking about elder care now.

"One of the big takeaways is that people simply aren't having the conversation about long-term care," said Eric Henderson, senior vice president of Nationwide's annuity and life insurance business.

"The call to action is for people to start having the conversation and having it well in advance: What do they plan to do and how will they take care of it?" said Henderson.

Here's why family members should be a part of the process.

Home is better

More than 70 percent of survey participants said they'd prefer to get their long-term care in their own home. Top reasons for choosing to stay at home include familiarity with the surroundings, affordability and greater interaction with family.

But don't forget the burden family caregivers deal with when they're looking after elders.

Of the survey participants who are caregivers, about two-thirds said they spend anywhere between one and 40 hours a week looking after loved ones.

Senior man nursing home
Terry Vine | Getty Images

On average, these caregivers are also spending more than $2,300 of their own cash on caregiving.

That doesn't include the loss of income for care providers who slash their hours at work in order to care for elderly parents.

"When caregivers do this, those are their prime earning years and it means they can't save as much for retirement," said Henderson.

Three in 4 survey participants who have cared for a relative said that they never received financial support for doing so.

Underestimating costs

Nearly half of the participants couldn't estimate how much a year of care in a nursing home would cost. However, among those who tried to ballpark that figure, the mean estimated cost was $52,100.

That's a far cry from the actual cost. Genworth Financial's Annual Cost of Care study found that the median annual cost for a nursing home is $97,455. A semi-private room, meanwhile, costs $87,775.

It's best to address these concerns with your financial advisor because the cost of care will influence your spending in retirement.

"Do I have the money to be able to take care of my long-term needs? Do I have enough cash on hand?" asked Henderson.

Bring up the topic

Don't just jump into a chat about nursing homes while you're opening gifts with relatives. Instead, bring up the topic over time and touch on the different options that are available when it comes to elder care, said Henderson.

If there are siblings — multiple individuals who could help out during a time of need — bring them into the discussion.

"I think the kids should talk about it," said Henderson. "Have that conversation and talk about what's best for Mom and Dad."

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