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Live Life On Your Own Terms

Depending on which set of statistics you follow, somewhere between 15 million and 40 million spouses, adult children, relatives and neighbors provide unpaid care for their ill or disabled spouses, parents, aunts, uncles and friends.

They help with dressing, bathing, cooking, medications, transportation, and much more. That adds up to 37 billion hours of care a year, with an economic value of $470 billion – $21 billion a year more than the government spends on Medicare – according to a 2015 AARP study.

A false economy?

But the fact is, family caregiving can be a false economy. As a 1999 Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) study reports, “Although family caregivers perform an important service for society and their relatives, they do so at considerable cost to themselves.” That cost is financial, physiological and emotional.

aid2793750 728px Pickpocket Step 7 300x199In 1951, a journalist asked Willie “The Actor” Sutton why he robbed banks. “Because that’s where the money is,” the bank robber replied. That answer helps explain why seniors are prime targets for fraud, con games, scams, and outright theft. They’re where the money is.

Today’s older Boomers enjoy a median net worth of $241,333. Households over age 60 own half of the nation’s discretionary investment assets. America’s 100 million consumers over 50 buy $230 billion worth of packaged goods, almost half (49%) of total sales. “You’d have to be an idiot to turn your back on this humongous market,” says an AARP spokesman. And too many criminals don’t.

hourglass 300x225Health insurers, hospitals and other facilities don’t like to keep inpatients admitted any longer than absolutely necessary – partially for economic reasons, but also because speeding recovery is generally good for the patient.

But it’s not always that good for the patient’s family members, who often learn about the discharge no more than 24 hours ahead of time. That’s not much time to make sure the recommended next step is the best one.

round hole square peg 6617 copy 276x300There’s an old expression: To the man with a hammer, everything looks like a nail. It applies to many companies and organizations that specialize in just one form of senior care.

Most work conscientiously to provide a high-quality, reliable service. Most honestly (and accurately) believe in the value of the services they sell. The problem is the narrow range of what they’re honestly selling. Because what they’re selling could very well not be what’s needed. It could be too little care, too much, or the wrong kind.

Take, for example, a company that provides full-time visiting companions. If all that’s really needed is help with housekeeping and cooking, full-time companion service is overkill. It wastes money on unneeded services and takes a toll on independence. Or, if a senior really needs home nursing care, having just a companion can be a risk to health.

maze 300x225As recently as 70 years ago, when the first Baby Boomers were born, choosing the form of care for an aging spouse, parent or family member was easy. That’s because there were only two choices. There was what was then called a retirement home or rest home, if you could afford it. If not, there was the family. In the late 1950s, another choice came along – nursing homes that provided room, board and care for elderly people with diabetes, chronic illnesses, or difficulties with activities of daily living.

Today, there’s a bewildering variety of alternatives. There’s safety hardware like grab rails and walk-in bathtubs for aging at home. There are driving services, housekeeping services, home companion services, respite care services, visiting nurse services, home nursing services. There’s adult day social care and adult day health care. There are 55+ housing, Independent Living facilities, Continuing Care Retirement Communities, and Congregate Housing.