THE BLOG
12/27/2011 12:01 pm ET Updated May 18, 2012

Long-Term Care Insurance Is Expensive

This may scare the bejesus out of you. And I hope so. Lately, I've been spending too much time in the company of boomers who act like we're invincible.

According to a Met Life survey of long-term care costs, it will take more than $87,000 to spend a year in a nursing home, $42,000 for an assisted living place (plus a myriad of extras if you actually need any assistance with your living) and a death-defying $184,000 a year for home health aides working around the clock in eight-hour shifts if you delusionally think you can keep Mom or Pop at home. Oh, and p.s.: Eight out of 10 people over 85 will need this kind of help.

Got that much cash? Didn't think so; few of us do.

What the Met Life study doesn't say -- this is the company whose spokesman is Snoopy, right? -- is that getting old is not only hard on the body, but staying alive when the parts start to fail can seriously suck. And a lot of us are now learning this the hard way as we care for elderly parents and relatives who didn't bother getting long-term care insurance.

What were they thinking? That we'd let them die peacefully in their sleep? Sorry, but modern medicine doesn't really allow for that. We bestow the civility of a compassionate death on our house pets, but insist on employing the full arsenal of the big medicinal guns for the humans we purport to love.

No, this isn't an ode to the memory of Jack Kevorkian, just a friendly reminder that long-term care is an insurance benefit you are more likely to find useful than life insurance since life insurance requires that we actually allow someone to die before a nickel is paid out.

So make your own choice here, or better still, as a gift to your children, get yourself a living will and just ponder these numbers, brought to you courtesy of the Long Term Care National Advisory Center. http://www.longtermcareinsurance.org/

By 2030, one in five Americans will be a senior citizen and estimates are that those needing long-term care insurance will skyrocket to more than 23 million Americans. And each one of them is looking at a projected long-term care costs of about $300,000 a year.

Those who merely need an assisted living arrangement -- where your mom rents an overpriced room in a place and is supposed to be able to make her own way down to the communal dining room -- can expect to spend an additional $352 a month on help getting dressed in the morning and another $307 a month for help getting in and out of the shower. Set aside another $530 a month on top of that if she needs help eating or suffers incontinence or needs a helpful arm to get up off the couch. Medication monitoring? Another $370 a month for when the little calendar pill boxes don't do the trick anymore.

Here's the real catch: While it may be too late for your 80-year-old mother who didn't take out a policy when she was younger, it likely isn't too late for you -- assuming you are still healthy and can accept the idea that even though you look and feel terrific today, you may not down the road.

The insurance isn't cheap though and as the boomer bulge ages, is getting even less so. The average new policy costs 25% to 30% more than it did five years ago, says the American Association for Long-Term Care Insurance. While no one likes writing a check with a lot of zeroes in it, without a policy, the alternative is that you'll pay out of pocket until you've nearly exhausted your assets and can qualify for Medicaid. That or become a burden to your kids, and too many of us already know what that feels like.