Some Americans are spending nearly seven times more for certain long-term care services than others, according to research commissioned by financial security company Northwestern Mutual.

The survey of nearly 7,000 home health care providers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes revealed stark differences in cost for long-term care services based on geographic location. The most significant difference between locations was the hourly wage of Home Health Aides (HHAs), causing consumers in the most expensive markets to spend nearly seven times more than those in the least expensive markets.

"This information can be very helpful as people plan for their future long-term care needs," says Terence Holahan at Northwestern Mutual. "Americans are living longer, so they need to be thinking ahead and educating themselves about the options available. Certainly people will want to look at their lifestyle needs, considering how - and where - they will be cared for," adds Holahan, who directed the new research.

In addition to HHAs, the cost of nursing home care differed greatly across the country. For example, residents of Lafayette, Louisiana are spending an average of $118 a day for a private nursing home room, while residents of New York City are spending five times that amount, at an average of $590 a day. The national average was $210 a day in the markets surveyed.

Similarly, the costs of a private room in an assisted living facility vary widely by region. A room in El Paso, Texas, will cost on average $2,043 per month on average, versus more than twice that in Bridgeport/Stratford, Connecticut, at $4,896 per month.

Average cost of care by state

When looking at the cost of long-term care by state, similar contrasts emerge. For instance, Hawaii is the most expensive on average for care in an assisted living facility at $4,406 a month, which is two and a half times the average cost of the least expensive state, North Dakota ($1,901 a month). A notable regional pattern emerges in the northeast, where Connecticut ($4,077), Maine ($4,190), Maryland ($4,289), New Hampshire ($4,299), New Jersey ($4,063) and New York ($4,122) have average monthly costs for care in an assisted living facility above $4,000.

"These differences in cost for long-term care services illustrate the choices Americans have and the questions they should ask themselves," continued Holahan. "Americans should prioritize. Is it important to live in close proximity to family, or in a moderate climate? Do you want to remain in your own home, or would you prefer a retirement community? All of these considerations will impact your budget for long-term care."

How long will you live?

Lifespan is another key consideration as people prepare for potential long-term care needs. How many years beyond retirement will you live, and what actions can you take today to live a longer, happier, healthier life? Check out Northwestern Mutual's online Lifespan Calculator, which considers 13 lifestyle factors including diet, drinking, smoking and stress to estimate the length of a person's lifetime.

About the study

In October and November 2008, the Long Term Care Group, Inc. conducted customized Cost of Care research on behalf of Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company, a Northwestern Mutual company, of nearly 7,000 home health care providers, assisted living facilities and nursing homes. To view the full survey report, visit www.northwesterncostofltc.com.

About Northwestern Mutual

The Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company, Milwaukee, WI, a FORTUNE 500 company with over $1 trillion of life insurance protection in force, has been helping its policyowners and clients achieve financial security for more than 150 years. Through the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network, the marketing name for the company's nationwide sales distribution arm, the company and its affiliates deliver a unique approach to combining insurance and investment solutions to help clients achieve financial security. These solutions include life insurance, long-term care insurance, disability insurance, annuities, mutual funds and employee benefit services. Northwestern Mutual's subsidiaries and affiliates are comprised of Northwestern Mutual Investment Services, LLC, a wholly-owned company, broker-dealer, member of FINRA and SIPC; the Northwestern Mutual Wealth Management Company, a wholly-owned company of Northwestern Mutual and limited purpose federal savings bank; Northwestern Long Term Care Insurance Company; and the Russell Investment Group

Further information on Northwestern Mutual, its subsidiaries and affiliates can be found at: http://www.nmfn.com/.

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SOURCE: Northwestern Mutual

CONTACT: Jean Towell of Northwestern Mutual, 1-800-323-7033,
mediarelations@northwesternmutual.com

Web Site: http://www.nmfn.com/