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Senior Living Myths: Myth Number 4

Now that we have explored the cost of retirement living in our last blog let’s dive into the subject of care.

Age Wave, a research and consulting company, surveyed the thoughts and perceptions of the 65+ population concerning various forms of Senior Care. Five myths prevailed among this age group. Age Wave discovered a dramatic difference between perception and fact. Age Wave pointed out that the misunderstanding and mythology surrounding Senior Care created so many misconceptions.

The five most common myths surrounding Senior Care are:

  1. “My current home will be the best possible place to live in retirement years.”
  2. “I will stay more active if I stay in my own home.”
  3. “It is less expensive for me to stay in my home.”
  4. “I can easily get the care I need in my own home.”
  5. “Retirement Communities are filled with old people who are sick and dying.”

The fourth myth identified by Age Wave is: “It would be easy to get any care I might need at home.”

Everyone wishes this was true, but getting reliable help in your home has never been so difficult. With the shortage of workers in almost all areas of service work, the number of in-home caregivers is severely diminished. Good caregivers need training, licensure, and bonding from a reputable company.

Baby boomers, who are the ones that need in-home care today, grew up in a time when neighborhood kids were hired to do everything from babysitting, running errands, or doing yard work. The demographics of those days are past. Young people are involved in all kinds of afterschool activities, and older neighborhoods may be deteriorating. These young people are not willing to work for .50 an hour.

Our society is in total denial about aging. We have to come to grips with the fact that we all are on the same journey toward life’s end.  Of course, we “know it,” but we don’t want to think or plan for it.  Genworth’s 2021 Cost of Care Survey says that two-thirds of the population will need long-term care after age 65.  They also reported that only 35% “believe” they will need care. The gap is created by our unwillingness to face the facts about our own aging issues. We prepare for life’s difficulties with wills, trusts, and insurance, but preparing for personal care assistance seems unnecessary because we can’t imagine a time when we can’t do everything ourselves.

The Genworth 2021 survey reports that the cost of senior care services has increased as follows:

  • Assisted living facility rates increased by 4.65% to an annual national median
    cost of $54,000 per year.
  • The cost of a home health aide, which includes “hands-on” personal assistance
    with activities such as bathing, dressing, and eating, has increased 12.5% to an
    annual median cost of $61,776.  Homemaker services, which include
    assistance with “hands-off” tasks such as cooking, cleaning and running
    errands have increased by 10.64% to an annual median cost of $59,488.
  • To explore median Cost of Care data by city, state, or ZIP Code, to find charts
    showing trends since 2004, and to access lists of states ranked in order of care
    costs, visit www.genworth.com/costofcare.

The study also indicated that the vast majority of seniors do not want to be a burden to their families. Even when support is minimal, family caregivers have their own family lives to care for. Over time it may become a burden even when families are close, and the desire is there to provide care. Family dynamics may develop that cause friction and unhappiness for everyone involved.

So, the idea that it is easy and cost-effective to get adequate senior care in your home is not accurate.  Private-duty caregivers are expensive. Even when caregiving costs are calculated, there are the continued expenses of living in your own home. The expenses of taxes, insurance, utilities, home maintenance, and groceries do not go away. And if additional licensed nursing care is needed, prices will escalate. Many times, home remodeling is required for safety features like grab bars, ramps, walk-in showers, et al. All these expenses add up.

Virginia moved into McCrite Plaza after having in-home care for a year. She had a series
of private duty sitters that did not satisfy her needs. Her cognition was excellent, but
mobility was a serious issue. She wanted someone to talk to about daily current news.
She wanted someone who was well-read and conversant about a wide range of topics.
Although she was grateful for the help, she was not satisfied with the people assigned to
her care. She specifically asked for someone that could take her on outings to her favorite
places and help her fill in the daily crossword puzzle. They were simple requests, but with
each new assignee, there was a problem. In addition, she was paying $22 an hour for her
care which amounted to well over $50,000 that first year. And that was added to the
regular expenses of her household. After considering what she was paying and her
dissatisfaction, she decided to move into McCrite Plaza where she would have other like-
minded people to talk to and daily activities to satisfy her needs.”

Isolation and lack of socialization remain the number one health risk for seniors.

Living at home with paid staff still does not solve the problem of isolation and inactivity. In-home caregivers oftentimes are younger individuals who spend a great deal of time on their devices. Rules have to be firmly enforced that lengthy time on the phone is not allowed.

Private-duty caregivers are not certified to give medications and do other nursing duties, so their main function is to sit with the senior as a companion. It may be difficult to find common interests to converse about. Having someone sitting in the same room may feel awkward if there is not a common bond of communication.

Living in a place where you have daily opportunities to interact with other people is critical for good health. Being in your own home does not always provide for that. Isolation is so typical among seniors that it has been coined the silent killer. Loneliness leads to depression and disorientation, which causes medication errors, poor eating habits, and many more life-threatening problems. Living in a community, whether a 55+ senior housing, assisted living community, or skilled nursing center, allows for human interaction every day.

Why can’t family and friends provide support?

In an ideal situation, family and friends can provide in-home care. But this is typically temporary. After an illness or surgery, a team of friends and family make excellent backup support. But when the care becomes long-term, it becomes more difficult to rely on this plan. Families are busy with their own schedules, and neighbors may not be reliable on a daily basis.

When a senior is challenged with mobility and needs help transferring from bed to a chair or needs help getting to the bathroom, it is a timely event. An individual can’t simply wait for hours to be assisted. This requires someone to wait all the time to perform a simple transfer. This type of care needs to be available 24×7, but the actual time spent making the transfer may be a few minutes.

When care needs are for those with failing cognition, it becomes imperative to have round-the-clock care for safety reasons. Many Elders who have excellent physical health can be in serious danger when left alone because of Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. They may become wanderers and get lost in their own neighborhoods. Every year there are unfortunate stories of seniors getting lost in seriously bad weather and suffering frostbite or even death. Being in a community allows these individuals to have a more normal life in an atmosphere that fits their needs but keeps them safe.

Round-the-clock supervision of a loved one with dementia is very stressful for the caregiver. Statistics say that the caregiver has a 63% greater chance of a major health event than the one cared for. When this happens, there is a real emergency to provide care for both individuals at the same time.

Carla’s needs were very simple, but her lack of mobility became a problem to
solve. Carla was 99 years old when she moved to McCrite Plaza. She was sharp
as a tack and had, until recently, had a very active life. She was still swimming
weekly at the YWCA until her arthritis became crippling. She could no longer
dress herself because she couldn’t button her shirt or work a zipper. She had
trouble getting out of bed in the morning and getting upright. Bathing was
dangerous even though she had a walk-in shower. Her daughter lived close by
and was at her home every morning to help her get out of bed and dress, but her
daughter also had a job and family to care for. So, the time came to move out of
her home. The McCrite team could meet all her needs but allowed her to remain
as independent as possible. A call button allowed her to get assistance in a timely
manner, but otherwise she could function at a very high level. We had the
privilege of hosting a grand 100 th birthday party for her that year!”

The hard truth is it very difficult to get good, reliable, cost-effective help in your own home. Home care is valuable for temporary or short-term support, but when the issues become permanent, the best solution is community care. Take time to investigate the differences between home care and living in a community where help is always available. When the needs increase, even if on a temporary basis, more help can be arranged. At McCrite Plaza, we provide a full range of care for each unique individual, but for all of our residents, there is a daily list of activities, social engagements, and outings included. Nutritional and delicious meals are available, as are friends to share them with. McCrite Plaza has created an atmosphere of healthy and active living.

Give us a call in Kansas City at (816) 888-7930 or (785) 267-2960 in Topeka for lunch and a tour.

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