Are You Prepared?

Blog#183- 12/16/23

By Richard Davis

According to a report recently released by the Windham Aging group 14,015 people or 31% of the Windham County area is over the age of 60 and that number is projected to increase while the numbers for lower age groups is projected to decrease. The numbers are similar for the state as well as the rest of the country. The bottom line is that the average age of our population is growing and there will be a lot of older people in the years to come.

Our society currently doesn’t have the capacity to deal with the elderly population that we have. There are not enough home care providers and nursing homes and it is almost impossible for someone to stay at home as they age and become infirm unless they have an unlimited amount of financial resources.

We have never had a national discussion about how our government should support the aging population. Most other developed countries around the world provide more support for the elderly but the United States has left matters to be solved by chance. If you have enough money you may be able to age gracefully, but most of us do not have those kind of resources. It is rare for people to make concrete plans for life after 60.

In my work in health care over the past 45 years it has become clear that most people wait for a catastrophic event before they do anything to support a life that may change drastically in an instant. We don’t have to live in fear of something bad happening to us as we age. Planning for some of life’s inevitable changes is simply a smart thing to do to avoid even more misery after something bad happens.

Consider a few common scenarios. You and your spouse or partner have been living in the same house for decades and you want to spend the rest of your life there. The house is two stories and your bedroom is on the second floor and the bathroom is on the first floor. As many people age it becomes more and more difficult and dangerous to climb a set of stairs multiple times during the day.

These people have two options. They can sell their house and move to a place on one level. It may be a more controlled environment such as assisted living, which is unaffordable for many people, or a smaller house which may be nearly impossible to find or afford.

One of the couple might break a hip. They won’t be able to manage stairs for some time. The only option is to set up a bed on the lower level until that person can climb stairs again. Depending on the house it may make life difficult for everybody. Returning home after hip surgery they could have an ambulance crew bring the person to the upstairs bedroom and rely on using a commode and turning part of the bedroom into a bathroom.

In another scenario, which I have seen too many times, one of the couple develops either a terminal illness such as ALS or cancer or is no longer able to move around independently. The only solution is to get a hospital bed and turn the living room into a facsimile of a nursing home. Life changes drastically for everyone in that house.

If a person is sick enough to need a hospital bed they will also need a level of care that is probably beyond the capability of anyone living in the house. They may be able to receive home care under Medicare for a time but then will have to find private care that can cost anywhere from $20 to $50 an hour.

At some point a nursing home might seem the only viable alternative. That can cost well over $15,000 a month, depending on the facility. In order to qualify for Medicaid, which pays for nursing home care, you have to have very little money in the bank or spend down most of what you have.

These are not fantasy scenarios. This is real life. If you want to plan ahead I suggest contacting a lawyer who specializes in elder care planning as well as caseworkers from Area Agencies on Aging. Gather as much information as you can while you are healthy because just knowing what your options are before you have to act will save you a lot of trouble later on.

Comments | 1

  • So true

    My 80+ dad was doing great at home, then he fell one evening and cracked a hip. Decided he couldn’t live there alone anymore and wanted to move. A couple of months later he was living across the country near my sister in an assisted care facility.

    He’s lucky to have all the goodies that generation got – social security, pensions, health care, etc. If the same thing happens to me, I don’t have the same benefits he does and could not get the care that he has.

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