Baby Boomers and Long-term Care Subject of University of Texas at Austin Social Work Study

A University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work graduate student has received a Hartford Foundation grant to study long-term care planning behavior of baby boomers.

Kristie Kimbell, a Ph.D. student in social work, will conduct the research as part of a Hartford Geriatric Social Work Doctoral Fellowship. The $50,000 fellowship will fund her dissertation research for two years. Kimbell was one of nine in the country to receive the award in 2008.

The study will examine the long-term planning behavior among baby boom age adults and look at their perception on who is responsible for the planning, provision and cost of long-term care.

"Total national spending for long-term care in 2004 was $194 million and is only expected to rise," said Kimbell. "High cost of private pay services, very limited related coverage under Medicare, restrictive access to Medicaid long-term care services and changing family patterns beg the question: How will the average America afford long-term care?" she said.

Kimbell said it is unclear to what extent individuals are even aware of or concerned about such costs or the extent to which they are planning for such care.

The population is aging, with the number of elderly expected to climb to 72 million by 2030, Kimbell said, adding that most of these individuals will need some form of long-term care at some point in their older adult lives.

"The current long-term care system," she said, "is burdensome to state and federal governments, to family members (who provide the bulk of care) and to individuals' pocket books. The system is not expected to endure the weight of the baby boom generation."

Kimbell's study will include 700 to 1,200 University of Texas benefit-eligible African American, Hispanic and white faculty and staff born between the years of 1946 and 1964.

"This is an innovative look at baby boomers' long-term planning behavior," said Dr. Namkee Choi, professor of social work, who chairs Kimbell's dissertation. "With a master's degree in social work and another from the Lyndon Baines Johnson School of Public Affairs, Kristie is the perfect person to undertake the research."

The fellowship, funded by the John A. Hartford Foundation and administered by The Gerontological Society of America, also pays for training and conference attendance.