Guest Columns

Planning for the eldercare boom

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Angil Tarach-Ritchey
Angil Tarach-Ritchey

For the last two years, ten thousand Baby Boomers have been turning 65 years old each and every day. This will continue for the next 17 years. If you work in eldercare or you're a Baby Boomer that is not new to you, but how serious are you taking the fact that our current healthcare and private care system cannot support this growing population?

Geriatric care providers and healthcare professionals see where our current system is failing seniors, and family caregivers, but what are we doing to improve it, change it, or create a new system? As it stands today, if you are a senior in the U.S. and you need assistance with bathing, meals, housekeeping, transportation or errands there are no real financial resources to speak of unless you are a veteran or have already purchased a long-term care insurance policy. Seniors for the most part are paying out-of-pocket for assistance and/or care. While there are limited state or county programs some qualify for, it's not generally enough to provide the assistance that many seniors or their families are seeking. It's not uncommon to find those programs closed to new applicants or to be put on a waiting list a mile long.

We have seen recently that the cost of a private nursing home room is up to $84,000, according to Genworth Financial. Since Medicare and private health insurance doesn't pay for long-term care, an aging adult is expected to pay out of pocket, or exhaust all savings and assets to qualify for Medicaid. Could you pay that much per year for care?  If you can, how many years would you be able to handle that cost? I venture to guess that the majority of us could not pay this price much more than a year or two, if at all.

That same semi-private bed in a skilled facility will average over $210,000 a year over the next two decades. Considering your own age and how far into the future you may need care. Even if you are a dedicated long-term care employee, you have to ask if YOU will you be able to cover your care? Medicare and Social Security are floundering to continue into the future, and Medicaid cannot possibly handle these costs. Will you count on a son or daughter you expect will be healthy, financially well off enough to be able to care for you, or do you just want to go into the future by the seat of your pants just hoping you'll be cared for in some way? What if you don't have children? What if they become sick or are not stable enough to help you? Do you really want to burden them or have them forgo their own lives and happiness to care for you?

This is the scenario, folks! It's similar to New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina: How long did the government and powers that be in New Orleans talk about the city being unable to handle a major hurricane? It really wasn't a matter of "if" it would happen, it was a matter of "when", yet nothing was ever acted on. No one reinforced the levees. It appears as if everyone knew the devastation would come but brushed it under the rug.  They just ignored the need to act, hoping that hurricane would never come.  They had time to prepare, they just didn't.

With the impending eldercare crisis, it's similar. Do you see the devastation ahead if we do nothing more than talk about it?

As eldercare leaders, we can create our aging future in the next five years or we can wish we had. We cannot rely on the government to care for us. It's up to each of us to get our heads out of the sand and join together in advocacy and action!  There are many individuals, companies and nonprofits doing great things, but we are too fragmented.  We can create a positive and hopeful future by acting now. I'm ready, are you?

To check the cost of care in your state now and into the future Genworth Financial has a care cost calculator http://tinyurl.com/dxzt3vp

Angil Tarach-Ritchey RN, GCM is the author of Beyond the Old-Face: Aging in America and the Coming Eldercare Boom. She can be reached via her website, www.elderboom.org

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Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.

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