Seventy-five percent of Americans have never had a conversation about long-term care with loved ones. In the shadow of the possible demise of the CLASS program, this is even more pertinent to employees who may have retirement accounts, but not a backup for immediate long-term care assistance.

According to the "2011 Financial Reality Check Study" conducted by Genworth, 70% would not know what to do if a family member were to require immediate long-term care assistance; an alarming statistic considering that six out of 10 people will need long-term care sometime during their lifetimes.

The data also suggests consumers are suffering from overall financial planning inertia; however, the lack of education about long-term care planning can have significant consequences. In total, 1,073 interviews were conducted with adults ages 25 years and older, with incomes of $50,000 and above.

Women:  long term care double whammy

Women may be impacted twice by long-term care, typically as the primary caregivers during an event and then as recipients themselves. When asked which family member would be most likely to provide care if professional care could not be afforded, almost 40% felt it would be a female providing care.

Of those who indicated it would be themselves, 60% were female. Less than one third (31%) of women included in the study have purchased long-term care insurance in the past six to 10 years, while 69% of men have purchased the protection during the same timeframe.

"It's unfortunate, but not surprising that women would think of themselves last when it comes to long-term care planning," says Wendy Boglioli, Olympic gold medalist and national long-term care spokesperson of Genworth. "Without ensuring there is an adequate plan in place for their own care, women are putting themselves in serious danger. It's imperative for women to redefine balance in their lives and have a clear plan in place for their long-term care."

Family confusion

The lack of a conversation or a plan can create some confusion if a long-term care event should occur, as people assume family members, primarily females, will handle care needs. The Financial Reality Check Study reveals that in these economic times, 58% of respondents would not be willing to "quit their job, work less or devote a majority of their time" to become the primary caregiver to someone in need of long-term care. Yet in the next five years, 43% anticipate being in a situation where they may need to help care for a friend or family member.

"Genworth's ongoing goal, but particularly during Long Term Care Awareness Month, is to encourage consumers to not only initiate a conversation about long-term care planning with their families, but to give them the tools they need to create a plan for their future care and overall financial wellbeing," says Buck Stinson, President of Long Term Care, Genworth.

Financial reality check-list:

Although 89% of respondents said they took time to focus on their financial strategy at least once a year, Americans are not taking the steps to implement a plan for their financial futures. A "reality check-list" of things to do include, according to Genworth:

1. Have the conversation with loved ones to establish the baseline of your plan for a long-term care event

2. Research options and the cost of care in your area

3. Meet with a financial professional annually to create and review a holistic retirement portfolio that includes a plan for long term care

4. Write down your long-term care wishes and instructions for loved ones in the event of a long-term care event

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