Two-thirds of the baby boomer generation have made no plans for their future care needs, a poll suggests.
Many thousands have been forced to sell their homes to pay for care
A survey of 942 adults for the charity Help the Aged showed 62% of 45-65 year olds had made no provision for care.
One in five admitted they felt 'life is too short' to worry about something which may not happen - and many were ill-informed about the current rules.
A government consultation on reform of NHS-funded continuing care is due to end this week.
46% said they would sell their home if they needed to fund a place in a care home
45% of people are not confident that their future care needs will be met
65% of people say they would be happy to pay more income tax if it meant more money was made available to fund older people's care needs
The charity's survey found widespread confusion among those approaching retirement age.
Currently, in England and Northern Ireland anyone with savings of £21,000 or more, including the value of a home, is expected to meet the full cost of care home fees without any state funding.
But almost half of those surveyed believed the government would contribute in some way towards their care needs - and one in 10 61-65 year-olds thought the state would pick up the whole bill.
Over half (55%) thought that should they need a place in a care home, they planned to rely on their basic state pension to help cover costs. But that is just £84 a week, compared to £400 a week average cost of a care home.
A similar number (56%) thought their personal savings would cover the cost - despite two in three not having made any plans to fund such care.
One in five people said they expected to rely on help from relatives to pay their care bills.
Jonathan Ellis, senior policy manager at Help the Aged, said: "This research highlights the worrying extent of confusion among people who are at an age when they should be planning ahead, or at least thinking about what future care needs they may have.
"The government's current complex system has added to this, succeeding only in fuelling widespread uncertainty about where the state's responsibility stops and the individual's begins."
HELP THE AGED RECOMMENDATIONS
Scrap current means testing system
Increase upper savings limit above which you must fund your own care
Double the weekly amount local councils leave residents with before making deductions to fund care
Introduce a single, national assessment process to decide who should receive fully funded NHS care
Mr Ellis called on the government to invest more in care services, and to help people plan ahead for their future care needs more proactively.
Under the current system, the NHS must pay for health care needs, but not social care, such as help with washing, or taking medication.
A report issued by Age Concern England reveals that paying and charging for care is the most common issue for those contacting the charity's information service.
Market analysts Laing & Buisson predicts demand for places in residential settings for elderly and physically disabled people will increase by nearly 6% by 2016.
A Department of Health spokesperson conceded the current system was confusing.
But added: "People have always had to pay for, or contribute towards, the cost of social care.
"We are committed to a system of residential care charges that is fair to the residents of care homes, those who care for them, taxpayers and agencies, and is sustainable."