“The potentially catastrophic consequences of becoming disabled and needing long-term care is arguably the gravest financial risk that older adults face” says an Urban Institute report. But, will it happen to you? And, if so, have you saved enough money to pay for it? These are the worries we all face as we age. This is a worry even for younger folks because an accident or illness could trigger the need for care at any time.

The Urban Institute report indicates that although there are about 6 million older Americans who need assistance with their activities of daily living, only about half a million of those are actually in nursing homes. Some use paid at-home care and many rely on unpaid family care. It seems that your chances of needing and paying for expenses care are relatively low. The stated average cost in the report is $138,000 for the average person over 65. That is a cost that could be sustained by many people, but a devastating number to some.

The report suggests that about half of us will face no long term care costs at all. About a quarter will have costs of $25,000 to $150,000. Only about 20 percent will see costs above $150,000. That’s really a pretty comforting statistic. Most elders are really worried about long term care costs and it drives them to a lot of complex planning decisions. These numbers suggest that the risk is not so high and should lead to more careful and conservative planning. For those who may have been diagnosed with certain conditions that may go against these odds, then planning become more important and urgent. But, for everyday folks, this worry isn’t as bad as we thought.

The ultimate conclusion of the Urban Institute report is that something needs to be done to change the system so it works best for everyone. Some combination of government funded long term supports and services, in a program like Medicare or Medicaid, that helps anyone who has the need. This has been suggested before and rejected by Congress as too expensive, but there is some hope they will look at it again. Until then, we still have to do our own planning.

So, what should you do? You should consult with an experienced Elder Law Attorney to discuss the issues and options so you have a good understanding of the risks and of the options for proceeding. You will need to establish your goals and then your Elder Law Attorney can help you to take the legal steps to meet your goals. You don’t have to be scared of the cost of long term care, you just have to plan properly for the possibility.