When I’m 64: Part 3 of 3

August 17, 2011

In his life, my grandfather was a veterinarian, a loving husband, a father to my mom and her two older sisters, a gardener, a cowboy, and a lover of crossword puzzles, Greek mythology, HAM radio and biking.  He retired out of duty, not necessity, at the age of 82.  When his wife, my grandmother, developed Alzheimer’s-type dementia in the mid-1990s, he cared for her at home with incredible patience, surreptitiously doing laundry she insisted wasn’t dirty, but that hadn’t been washed in weeks, making sure the stove was off at night, comforting her when she was confused and upset, and getting her to doctors appointments she had forgotten about, though they were smattered all over the calendar.

When he was forced to admit her to a Skilled Nursing Facility (SNF) after her diagnosis of  ovarian/uterine cancer, he was heartbroken and guilty.  After my grandmother passed, he begged his daughters to never put him in one of “those places.”

So, when he began needing a little more companionship – a little more supervision – he moved in with my aunt and uncle (of the previous post).  He lived with them for several years, but three years ago, my 90 year-old grandfather started declining physically and cognitively, due to some undiscovered TIAs, and the burden became too great to bear for my aunt who had been the sole caregiver for both of my grandparents for a long time.  So… it was my mom’s turn.  When he began literally passing out while walking down the hall, we all considered home health.  We didn’t arrange to have an aide there all day, because of what I’m about to tell you.

Wanna know how much it costs, on average, to have a home health person for twelve hours a day? $250.00. During the work week, year round, that comes out to $65,000.00.  Holy Moses.  When the home health person is at risk of being injured because the client is unable to climb stairs safely, and often loses consciousness half-way up, wanna know how much it costs to get a room at a specialized Assisted Living Facility? On average, it costs $3,000.00/month.  In case you didn’t do the math, that’s $36,000/year.  This was brand new information to all of us at the time, and the mathematical figures caused a lot of stress.  Basically, Grampa’s entire life savings and all of his investments, including his house,  would be gone in no time if we had a full time home health aide.  Because of his growing lack of awareness, and our newfound knowledge of the costs of caring for an elderly relative, assisted living it was.  It was the avenue that would most slowly deplete my grandfather’s estate.

Grampa and my brother deciding who should get which of his dozens of (legal) firearms after he dies. He was a worrier...

Luckily, I worked at a dementia specific AL, and there was a bed available there. Almost as soon as he moved in, he began having more and more “episodes” as we called them.  His blood pressure dropped and he would lose consciousness temporarily, usually followed by a fall.  He got infections so often that he actually spent more time in the hospital while he lived at the AL, than in the lovely room at the AL he was actually paying for.

The thing is, in his more lucid life, if he knew how much it was costing him, and if the option was available then, he would have done something to prevent all of this long ago.

When Grampa couldn’t ambulate on his own anymore, an SNF was the only option.  The ONLY option.  Wanna know how much a nursing home costs per month when someone doesn’t qualify for Medicaid? (P.S. You literally have nothing left to your name when you qualify for Medicaid)  SNFs cost, on average, $168/DAY.  That’s over 60,000/year.  Are you scared yet?  I am.

So…

Long Term Care Insurance

Two years ago, my aunt and uncle decided that they had had enough of this nonsense.  They purchased Long Term Care Insurance (LTC or LCTI) so that when/if they start needing more care, it won’t cost them their entire life savings.  They haven’t worked hard their whole lives just to lose everything and not be able to leave anything to their three daughters.

LTCI pays for assisted living facilities, home health, and skilled nursing care, among other services not covered by health insurance, Medicare or Medicaid.

Want to hear some fun facts?  Sure ya do.

“About 60 percent of individuals over age 65 will require at least some type of long-term care services during their lifetime.  About 40% of those receiving long-term care today are between 18 and 64. Once a change of health occurs long-term care insurance may not be available.” (Excerpt from Wikipedia article linked in this post)

Ouch.

How about another one?

In our country,

• One in eight people aged 65 and older (13%) has Alzheimer’s disease

• Of those with Alzheimer’s disease, an estimated 10% are under the age of 74,

(Alzheimer’s Association)

_______________________________________________________________

What I’m taking from that, is THIS:

As the Baby Boomers (my parents’ generation) age, the amount of money taxpayers (and any family members or caregivers) will spend on Alzheimer’s care will be absolutely ASTRONOMICAL unless something is done, and unless everyone gets their booties in gear and buys LTCI.  Talk to your friends, parents and children about LTCI.  It will change everything.

For now, though, what I can do to ensure that my future mental and physical health issues are taken care of by insurance, and not by my future children, is purchase Long Term Care Insurance soon, and hope I never need it.

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