Like most elderly, I want to remain independent and in my own home until I die. My greatest fear is of having an illness so debilitating that I can no longer do that. I am not alone in my worst nightmare because we elderly do not want to burden our families. Therefore, unless we are wealthy we must enter a nursing home or allow a loved one to give up part of their life being our caregiver. Neither one is a palatable option.
This is a subject that you don't hear much about in the debates on the pending health care reform legislation. For those of us in our declining years it is a subject that is of primary concern and should be addressed.
In my grandparent's day there was no social security or medicare. When aging parents were no longer able to live alone a loved one would step in and move the elderly relative into their home. Quite often this was an unhappy event for all concerned. My grandfather died at home and my grandmother, a fiercely independent business woman, continued working and helping to support her children. She was the provider for her son, daughter and their families during most of the Great Depression. After the death of my grandfather she continued to provide for my mother and me although my Mom had remarried.
Then my grandmother, in her 70's, broke her hip and she was no longer able to run her business. She owned a Cottage Court and Trailer Park that catered to tourists. My mom and step-father moved into my grandmother's home and took over. My step-father was a very lazy man and he resented having to take money from my grandmother. (The psychology of that might be a subject for a future discussion). As a result, he was not kind to the woman who had taken on the responsibility of providing for him and his family. After a few months of what must have been bitter unhappiness, my grandmother moved into the home of her sister.
I am now older than my grandmother was at that time and I can understand how miserable her last years must have been.
I have given some thought about what will become of me should a stroke fell me. I do not have the money for an assisted living place, nor will I burden my children with my care. What is left? It is too late to obtain a long term care policy so I have come to the conclusion that my only out would be suicide. There is the possibility that I will not be physically able to carry it out.
Oregon had the best answer for this; the Death with Dignity law. Doctor assisted suicide should be the right of anyone in my position. If you recall, John Ashcroft, Attorney General under George H. W. Bush, sued to make this illegal. The law remains in effect after the Bush Administration sued and lost the appeal. (As an aside I have to throw this question in. What is it about the conservatives that make them think they have to be the guardian of the morals of those who do not believe as they do?)
It would be less expensive for Medicare to pay for in-home care instead of the costly alternative of a nursing home. Why is this not part of the health care debate? After all, they will be eliminating Medicare Advantage to pay for the program.
I am posting on this subject not as a 'pity party' issue, but as a wake-up call for those of you who are younger. I don't think our legislators will help you so my advice to you is to look into Long Term Care insurance.
An article on the Huffington Post by Ken Dychtwald, PhD, gerontologist, had some eye opening statistics.
- A person who is 65 years old today has a life expectancy of 85 and it continues to rise.
- Home care is approximately $42,000 per year and a nursing home is $74,000.
- Nearly 70% of those over 65 will need some type of long term care
- The children of the elderly are working and/or relocated to another state.
Long Term Care insurance rates go up as you get older. I do not believe that politicians will do the sensible thing and include home care in the legislation. If you are younger and can afford it, it would be prudent to check out Long Term Care policies. We are not all going to "go gentle into that good night".
Helpful resources:. www.longtermcare.gov, www.caringtalk.com, and www.ResearchLTC.com.