Three-fourths of adults aged 40 or more years did not know how much it costs to live in an assisted living community when asked earlier this year for a survey, the results of which were published Thursday.

Only 25% of adults queried by investigators at the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research correctly estimated costs, which the center said average $3,000 to $4,000 per month, whereas 44% underestimated them and 30% overestimated them. Underestimating has grown since the first surveys were conducted in 2013 and 2014, when the incidence was 31%, according to center representatives.

“The challenge of long-term care is one of the most significant personal and financial issues facing aging Americans, yet is it widely misunderstood, and many Americans are unprepared as a result,” Trevor Tompson, director of the AP-NORC Center, said in a statement.

Interviews for “Long-Term Care in America: Views on Who Should Bear the Responsibility and Costs of Care” were conducted March 2 to 29 with adults aged 40 or more years representing all 50 states and the District of Columbia. A total of 1,341 people completed the survey, 1,106 online and 235 via telephone.

Paying for care and services

Consumers participating in the research appeared to be similarly unaware of the potential of some income sources and programs to pay for the costs of long-term care and services if they are needed.

Sixty-one percent of poll-takers said they expect to rely “completely or quite a bit” on Social Security to cover costs related to long-term care, although the average monthly Social Security payment of $1,348 does not meet the average monthly costs for many such services.

Fifty-seven percent said they plan to rely on Medicare for help paying for any senior care and services they need. In reality, however, Medicare does not cover many expenses related to long-term care, including most care and services provided in assisted living communities and nursing homes or by home health aides.

Only 25% of respondents said they expect to rely heavily or completely on Medicaid, even though Medicaid is the largest payer of formal long-term care and services in the United States.

Other major sources that people said they plan to tap for senior care and service expenses include personal savings or investments (40%) and pensions (29%). Only 16% said they will rely on long-term care insurance.

When it comes to who, ideally, should have a large responsibility for paying for long-term care, 56% of survey participants said the Medicare should, and 52% said health insurance companies should. Forty-four percent said that individuals should have a large responsibility for paying, and 42% said that the Medicaid program should.

Meeting needs

Senior living communities are the settings for only 3% of the long-term care provided to older Americans, according to the poll. This compares with homes (76%), friends’ and family members’ homes (16%) and nursing homes (2%).

Forty-seven percent of respondents said their local communities are doing a good job of meeting older adults’ living assistance needs in assisted living communities or nursing homes or by home healthcare aides. Forty-one percent had a neutral opinion, and 8% said their communities are doing a poor job.

Those with and without long-term care experience similarly rated their local community’s ability to meet older adults’ needs for assisted living communities, as did men and women.

Two-thirds of participants said that neither they nor the United States is well-prepared for the long-term care needs that accompany the rapidly growing older adult population.