In caregiving circles we see it every day: Sticker shock. And no, I’m not talking about innocents pricing a senior care facility with all the amenities of a luxury resort. Sticker shock comes most dramatically to families who think they are prepared, who think their needs and expectations are modest and reasonable. The shock comes not so much at the actual cost, but at the options that are and are not available to pay for care.
A family I’ll call the Browns recently contacted the senior advisors at Care.com to find in-home care for the husband’s 89-year-old mother. The elder Mrs. Brown is still mobile, still perfectly capable of thinking for herself. She just needs someone to come in for three hours a day, help her bathe and dress and prepare meals. The younger Browns simply wanted to find the right person to spend time with Mom. After all, Mrs. Brown has Medicare and supplemental insurance, so affording an aide should be no problem, right?
You can imagine their shock and dismay when I told them neither Medicare, nor supplemental insurance would pay for non-medical home care. Either Mom, or they, would have to pay the fees out of pocket.
This scenario plays out every day in families across the U.S., and it’s often complicated by a reluctance to discuss finances. Adult children may not want to alarm depression-era parents who fear being broke more than death, or they don’t want to seem like they’re eyeing a possible inheritance. In some families, money is just never discussed and the children feel profoundly uncomfortable bringing it up.
In my own case, I’ve watched my still-working mother take responsiblity for all the finances and bill paying, a task my Dad had assumed until his dementia worsened years ago.. I suppose we’ve both been so focused on Dad, who has been living with dementia for 15 years, that I’ve forgotten to ask my mother how she plans to pay for her own eldercare needs when the time comes. I don’t expect any surprises, but after counseling the Browns, it’s definitely a conversation I plan to have.
How are you feeling about the cost of senior care (see our tool on what senior care costs in your area)? Tell us how you are starting – or started – the caregiving conversation with your family. What worries you the most?
Here are 4 ways to start the senior care conversation. We’ve also come up with a list of subsidized senior care services, which might help as well. But if you ever need to talk through your needs, our senior care advisors are happy to help (855-772-2730).