Young people becoming more realistic about future long-term care needs, survey finds

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Younger people are more informed about long-term care financing and are more likely to be saving for their future needs than older Americans, according to a recent national survey.

Out of more than 2,000 people surveyed, about 30% said they were saving for future long-term care needs. The number was highest (36%) for those between 18 and 34 years old. Only 21% of people between the ages of 45 and 54 said they were saving.

The 18- to 34-year-old respondents were less likely than other groups to put their faith in insurance programs. Only 37% of this demographic said they believed Medicare, Medicaid or other insurance generally covers long-term care, compared with 52% of those 55 or older.

Insurance company Northwestern Mutual conducted the online survey in October.

Polls have generally shown widespread misunderstanding about how long-term care is paid for, and how commonly it is needed. If younger people are beginning to have a firmer grasp on long-term care needs and the most common payment methods, it could be because they are increasingly becoming caregivers for family and friends. About 70% of caregivers polled by Northwestern Mutual said they've made plans to address their own future needs.

"We're seeing awareness of long-term care issues at earlier and earlier ages," stated Steve Sperka, Northwestern Mutual vice president of long-term care. "Younger people are more aware today of the effects that long-term care issues could have on their lives, especially if they find themselves in a caregiving role.”

Despite the trend toward planning among younger respondents, the survey showed that overall, people are still largely unsure about how the nation's long-term care system works.

Click here to view the full results, released Tuesday.