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The Cost of Senior Care

February 12, 2014

In the last two articles prepared for the Daily Transcript I have focused on the aging of America and then the types of housing that are available for the senior market. The basic fact of aging is that in this County, 83% of the growth in the next 20 years will be folks who are 60 and over.

That might seem a little frightening because we traditionally do not think of San Diego County as a surrogate for Florida or the Coachella Valley. And yes, our median age is much lower than most states in the Midwest, but nonetheless, we are aging (well, at least some of us).

In this article, I will address the cost of housing seniors – those that are well and those that are fading.

Fortunately, most seniors are in decent health and certainly will live a lot longer than previous senior generations. It is likely that most seniors in this County will live well into their 80’s. After all, folks who live here have generally not been working in coal mines, or dirty manufacturing plants, or, for that matter, inclement weather. And a surprisingly small percentage have not smoked their lives away.

In most senior households, the husband passes away several if not many years before the wife. Two factors: men are generally older than their wives when they marry and secondly, men have a habit of dying younger than women.

This said, there are far more senior women living alone than men and the vast majority live in the home where they raised a family and lived in peaceful retirement until hubby passed away.

The puzzle inevitably becomes more difficult when mom ages, yet resists moving from her long-time residence. At some point, mom needs someone to look after her, especially if she starts failing mentally or physically. Statistically, about 50% of folks who live until 85 have some form of memory loss. As an aside, this is the first generation of seniors that have had the great wave of memory loss because past generations passed away before they ever reached that stage of life.

Taking care of mom often presents a major problem because mom doesn’t want to leave the home she loves and she certainly doesn’t want to move in with one of her children, especially if that child isn’t living in the same metropolitan area.

Having a senior caretaker is not a cheap endeavor. Perhaps its starts out with a few hours a day but then gradually proceeds to full-time. It would be terrific if everybody had long-term care insurance, but only 2% of the adult population has that blessed financial service.

Assuming a senior caretaker has some degree of training and is provided by a licensed service, the cost per hour is likely to be $15-20. Maybe at 25 hours a week, that is only $500 a week or so. But then that care can gradually accelerate and could turn into a 24-hour, 7 day a week service that could cost $2,000-3,000 per week or more. At that point, the child or children blow the whistle. Mom has to be moved to a more suitable environment, lest she blows the entire estate.

What are the options in this County? Well, if she is physically stable and can manage to get to a dining facility and doesn’t need regular medical care, there are numerous options in this county. Typically, a nice facility offering a pleasant setting and edible food typically costs $3,000-$4,000 per month.

As the person’s health deteriorates, the cost per month starts to rise because they move from an independent living facility with food to assisted living. The difference is that assisted living facilities can offer some medical services and are under substantial state regulations. Those are in the $4,000-5,000 per month range.

At the top of the chain in terms of cost is the Alzheimer facility where the monthly tab is typically $6,000-8,000 per month. Just for the record, that is $72,000-$96,000 per annum. The good news, though cruel, is that persons living in memory care facilities, generally die within two years.

To end on a sunny note, for seniors who are capable of living alone and maintaining their own apartment, there are several viable options here in the County where rents for an independent living environment are in the $1,200-1,800 per month range.

These facilities inevitably offer a very broad range of social and wellness activities and provide a lifestyle that allow them to maintain dignity in a friendly and comforting environment.

I recognize that this article assumes that the senior is a female, but a visit to any of the senior facilities in the County will prove that to be the case, at least 75% of the time.

The possibility of becoming an infirmed senior is not a pleasant one, but it is the reality of tomorrow.

This article originally appeared on The San Diego Daily Transcript.

This article was originally published by Xpera Group which is now part of The Vertex Companies, LLC.

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Xpera Group