Some of my best memories of my Navy days are from when we were on liberty and weren’t behaving as well as we should have been.
As our behavior on shore went downhill, someone would always stand up and pronounce, “We’re Americans, we can do anything,” as if that somehow justified why we were behaving so badly.
It was a joke of course, and we laughed hysterically, but it is also true about us as a people. We are tough, resilient folks who have bounced back from everything. It does seem like we can do anything. I really believe that.
A person in Europe once said to me, “You Americans have some of the worst weather in the world (tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, etc.), yet you seem to bounce right back and just go on with your lives as if nothing happened.”
He was right. We are a tough bunch. And that means that for many of us, it will be difficult when we can’t take care of ourselves and can’t bounce back the way we once did.
For me, accepting the fact that I need help and can no longer do it alone will be one of the most difficult transitions of my life.
But as our life expectancies continue to increase and our bodies and minds wear out, we may be forced to accept some assistance.
Most people dread the thought of spending their later years in a long-term care facility. If they have a choice, most opt for in-home assistance (part time or 24-hour) or an assisted living care facility where they can retain some independence.
In terms of costs, there’s not much good news in this arena.
In today’s dollars, the cost of a vetted, in-home care assistant runs about $20 per hour. Twenty-four-hour in-home care costs in the area of $175,000 per year. That will vary depending on your location, but it’s a lot of money no matter where you live.
And assisted living facilities (again, depending on your location) can run anywhere from $2,800 to $6,700 per month. That’s an average of $57,000 per year for basic care, not even full-time assistance.
My better half, Eileen, is a hospice nurse who visits these types of facilities all the time. She informed me that the places with those average monthly costs are – in her words – “dumps.”
There is some assistance available from Veterans Affairs, Medicare and Medicaid, but it is limited and based on your assets. To qualify, you can’t own too much.
Your best bet is long-term care insurance, and only 11% of us have it. And to be honest, based on the premiums, I don’t know how much you come out ahead after you add it up.
I hate to sound redundant (and I have said this before), but the only solutions appear to be either live hard and die fast or save as much as you can while you can.
The savings option sounds more reasonable and manageable to me.