“The Elder Care Journey” By Rick L. Law
The “Elder Care Journey” is a continuum of possible care needs that get more intense as the journey progresses. Typically, the journey progresses as follows:
- Healthy, vigorous senior: Most of today’s seniors are active, much more so than in years gone by. Several decades ago, you were not apt to see seniors playing tennis, running in races or skydiving? But with today’s medical technology and resources for exercise for health-conscious seniors, more people in their sixties, seventies and even eighties are living full and active lifestyles… at least for a while.
- Medications and acute health problems: At some point, it is likely that even a healthy and vigorous senior will begin to experience some type of health issues. These issues may start small, with arthritis or high blood pressure. But over time, most seniors will begin to exhibit more serious signs of physical aging and the onset of serious issues, possibly resulting in hospitalization to recover from injuries or for the purpose of various surgeries.
- Declining senior with memory or mobility issues: As the senior progresses on the journey, memory and/or mobility will begin to decline. Regardless of how active or healthy one was in the past, at some point the body and the mind will begin to slow down. These issues may start small, such as frequent forgetfulness or walking at a slower pace, until eventually the senior may need some type of in-home assistance to help with basic daily needs.
- In-home assistance: When a senior is unable to perform basic daily living activities – either physically or because they cognitively are unable to remember to do so – then some form of in-home care is needed. This could entail hiring a homemaker aide to help with household chores or bill paying, or more extensive assistance might be needed on a more regular basis. Regardless of the need, at an average cost of $17 to $22 per hour (eight hours per day x 365 days per year = $49,000 to $64,000 per year), the expenses can begin to add up.
- Assisted living facility: A time comes when the senior is unable – or unsafe to live at home without assistance throughout the day and night. At this time, even though the senior may not need medical or skilled nursing care, the family will need to consider an assisted living facility. Here the senior will still maintain a great deal of independence, yet will have access to care and assistance whenever needed.
- The fragile senior at a skilled nursing facility: Once the senior’s health deteriorates to a certain level, they will have no choice but to enter a nursing home where they can receive around-the-clock skilled care. Skilled nursing facilities are equipped to handle most conditions, and many even have a special section for patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
- Death: When the senior has passed away, a whole host of other issues will come into play. This can include survivor care, if the senior was married and is leaving behind a spouse, as well as estate administration. Pre-planning in this area is also essential, as the senior’s estate could be subject to hefty estate taxes, and his/her heirs could end up with nothing to show for a lifetime of work and saving by the senior.