Understanding the true costs of senior care

Personal finances are a critical point of decision making when evaluating ideal living arrangements for elderly parents. Questions like “does mom have enough money to allow her to live in an assisted living community?” or “Is in-home care economically feasible?” are likely to be top-of-mind.

While we can’t answer all these questions without knowing specific inputs for each individual situation, here are a couple of considerations for those weighing the options and attempting to understand the true costs of senior care.

When evaluating the cost of in-house care, think about the amount of care time that would be needed, how those needs will increase over time, and the expenses associated with ensuring the living environment is properly outfitted and safe for the aging loved one. Weigh these considerations against mom or dad’s desire (and cognitive/physical capacity) to remain in their home, your ability to augment in-home care hours, and total living/housing costs (meals, transportation, taxes, repairs, utilities, lawn care, snow removal, etc.).

There are also a long list of less tangible costs to weigh as well, such as the emotional/physical toll on family care providers, the increased opportunity for an aging parent to become isolated from others, and the safety of the aging adult in an at-home environment.

As an example, let’s say mom needs extra help in the morning or later in the day. In-home care can be arranged on an hourly basis, typically with a two-hour minimum visit. Let’s say a care provider comes for 2 hours in the morning and 2 hours later in the afternoon for a total of 4 hours per day. At an estimated cost of $22-30 per hour, ($440-$600 per week (20 hours) or $1760-$2400 per month) might seem pricey. And all the other costs of aging-in-place have to be factored in.

Costs associated with assisted living can cause sticker shock for many people. However, let’s break it down a little. For example, let’s say an assisted living facility costs $6000/month and includes 28 hours a week of quality-controlled care. This cost also covers housing, balanced meals, structured activities and the opportunity to remain mostly independent, socialize and engage with peers in an environment that is safe, comfortable and appropriately outfitted for the aging adult. When taking everything into account, it might not seem like a high price.

On the surface, it might appear that costs are significantly higher for one option versus the other. However, be sure to analyze the tangible and intangible costs associated with care and the scales may be more equally balanced.

In the end, determining the best care option is a weighty and costly decision that should involve careful thought and family-involved dialogue to identify options based on the needs and wishes of the senior.

As seen in the Racine Journal Times | October 6, 2019



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