According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Americans reaching the age of 65 have a 70 percent chance of needing long-term care.
Research by long-term care insurer Genworth concludes that just 40 percent of Americans ages 45 to 54 have any long-term care plans, and while that percentage rises as people get older and closer to retirement, it never reaches 100 percent.
Why do people avoid making plans to pay for long-term care? You don't need a study to figure that out. It's a tough topic. Who wants to think about getting so old that you're unable to go to the bathroom without help? The thought makes me cringe.
But the alternatives are even less comfortable. Here are the options.
Family. What would your grown children say if you announced at Thanksgiving dinner that you needed help -- and you were moving in?
The government. Medicaid will pay for long-term care if you have less than $2,000 in assets. The Department of Veterans Affairs also has a plan if you served during time of war and you're impoverished.
Savings. The median cost of a private room in a nursing home is $81,030 a year. Most of us will blow through every penny we have quickly.
Long-term care insurance. Conventional long-term care insurance costs $2,000 a year on average for a single person age 55 and about $2,500 a year for a 55-year-old couple, according to the American Association of Long-Term Care Insurance. But don't let those numbers stop you from exploring the possibilities. There are some lower cost options, so it pays to talk to an expert.
It also makes sense to think creatively about long-term care. For instance, your children might be willing to kick in on an insurance policy if it makes it more likely that they won't have to face the need to provide more direct care or you won't have to sell the family lakefront cottage to pay the bills.
Anyway you look at it, the need for care when you're old and decrepit is a tough topic, but grappling with it as part of retirement planning while you still have options is better than waiting until you don't.
Correction: An earlier version of this post incorrectly stated that only 18 percent of Americans between age 45 and 54 have long-term care plans.