Straight Talk

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About Money

What is not talked about, but looms in the background in discussions of elder care, is the price to maintain a “quality of life.” We want to see that our loved ones have good care at the end of their lives- they deserve it. We are faced every day with decisions to see that this is so. But it makes you wonder, though, at the cost.

Every month I receive a bill in the mail for my mother’s lodging, meals and care. When she first moved to Atria it cost $3,300 and it has risen a little every few months as her care increases.

When my mother first arrived at Atria she qualified for care level one. This level is for residents who are mostly independent. Every month each resident is evaluated by the staff and given a numerical score depending on how much care they receive. This determines the care level they are assigned. Of course, after she had been there six months they saw that she needed more oversight and help, and she was placed at care level three. This increased the cost $400 which didn’t seem too bad. I knew she was not able to make her bed any more, she called for help more often, and asked them to bring her meals to her room. She soon required even more attention when she began to have hallucinatory episodes.

What you don’t count on is the “do-able” rate they start at will inevitably increase year after year and month, by month. One day I opened a bill from Atria that I dropped in shock. $7,087!! It was high, I finally realized,  because they charged her retroactively for part of the the previous month. In the middle of that month the Haldol had taken affect and she lost use of her legs. She then needed help with almost everything: using the toilet, dressing, getting in and out of bed and being taken to the dining room in her wheelchair.

After we sold my mother’s house, I put $50,000 into her checking account and the rest into a money market account. With my Dad’s pension and my mother’s small social security allotment I estimated we could use the checking account money to supplement her assisted living costs for three years before we had to delve into the money market account. When her care costs rose to over $4,000 I recalculated and determined the checking account money could last for two and a half years.

When her bill jumped to over $5,000, not dipping into the money market account became moot. It was not a question of if we would have to draw from it, but when. Last month I wrote the last check to Atria from the checking account. We had to transfer all her savings to an annuity that will pay out every month. Now, according to my calculations, it will take three years and four months before her savings is used up. She can live until ninety-eight until she runs out of money.

She is now on care level six and her bill evens out to about $5,400 a month.That comes to $64,800 for twelve months, more than most people earn in a year!

For the amount spent on caregiving a person could live in a four star hotel with room service. It is sad that at the end of our lives so much money is required to sustain us at a time when we are not physically and mentally able enjoy it.

At times, I have considered what it would be like to put my mother on a cruise ship and send her on a world tour. Same cost.

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One response »

  1. Kathy, My mom was registered for ALTCCCS (Arizona Long Term Care Cost Containment System).  She was able to keep her house at that time.  When she sold her house (knowing she wouldn’t be moving back), she was able to purchase things for her use.  She was able to arrange her funeral, and prepay the whole thing…. even the roses on her casket.  Once that house money was gone (from having too much money from the sale of her house she was disqualified from ALTCCCS temporarily), she qualified (once again) for the ALTCCCS care.  She got to keep about $100 for personal items (shampoo, etc) and the rest went to ALTCCCS.  Then ALTCCCS paid the bill for her long term care at the nursing home.  While your mom has money, make sure to get her to the dentist, get clothes, a funeral package (if she doesn’t already have one), the eye doctor, etc.  I am assuming California has a similar program, as our nation doesn’t seem to throw old people out on the street.  I don’t know if people can still keep their houses.  Rules have changed. If you have questions, email pattycoolman@yahoo.com

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