Advance Planning Helps Consumers Make Better Decisions about Long-Term Care

From 1993 to 1994, researchers with the Setting Priorities for Retirement Years Foundation examined how people make decisions about long-term care, the availability of information about long-term care, and the barriers faced in making informed decisions.

Key Findings

  • Consumers and health care professionals lack understanding about the availability, appropriateness and quality of long-term care services.

  • Older people have four distinct decision-making styles concerning long-term care, with about two-thirds falling in one of the first three non-planning groups:

    • Scramblers, who change their living situation only in response to a crisis, when a serious injury or illness forces a search for a quick fix.
    • Wake-Up Call people, who change their living arrangements in response to a near-crisis such as a minor fall that could have been serious.
    • Reluctant Consenters, who are pushed into making a change in living arrangements by relatives or health care professionals.
    • Advance Planners, who spend time planning and researching alternatives for their retirement years before a crisis hits, or after a near crisis.
  • Crisis decision-making about long-term care contributes to loss of autonomy.

  • The closeness and affection of the older person's relatives play a significant role in the ultimate long-term care arrangement, especially for non-planners.