Why Elder Care Is So Expensive For Americans

Elder care is exhausting, expensive, and unrelenting. As people age, their physical health and often, their cognitive abilities too, decline gradually at first. Then, suddenly, they seem to fall off of a cliff and fall, and fall and fall again. After each cliff, an older adult has often fallen so far that it is well nigh impossible to get them back to where they were before they fell. Often, older adults and their families are unprepared for their sunset years. It is not common for people to purchase long-term care insurance early in their lives, paying the premiums every month. Most adults do not have any kind of long-term care insurance. Many people assume that Medicare will cover their long-term care costs once they;ve turned 65. However, Medicare does not cover a person’s long-term daily care, regardless of whether it is within the home or at a nursing facility.

To get long-term daily care, a family has to be prepared to part with a median cost of $54,912 a year, just for a home health aide, or a median cost of $105,850 a year for a private room in a nursing home. If a person cannot afford that, they can only qualify for Medicaid if they have less than $2,000 in assets. In that case, Medicaid will cover their health care costs, including home-based health care. Around 80 million Americans qualify for Medicaid. Yet, qualification does not mean a person will actually get the help you need. There is a huge waiting list, of some 800,000 people, for home-based care assistance and the average wait time is over three years. So, many Americans find themselves unable to afford elder care, and not qualifying for Medicaid. Even when they can afford a nurse home, the persistent staffing shortages there mean that getting beds is becoming harder with each passing day.

Supply-side constraints are a major reason for high costs. Staffing shortages, a lack of beds, and of facilities, means that demand far outstrips supply. In such a scenario, prices can only go up. According to AARP, this reality has forced approximately 41.8 million people to become carers for at least one older adult (defined as being adults over the age of 50). In order to care for older adults, 28% no longer save, 23% have increased their level of indebtedness, and 22% have tapped out their short-term savings. Worryingly, 11% cannot cover their basic needs, such as food. This creates a cycle where carers become less and less financially able to afford the care their older adults need, and they become unable to afford the long-term care plans they need.

Although the health care market continues to be one of the fastest growing in America, its caregivers are underpaid, or in the case of family members looking after older adults, unpaid. Caregivers experience burnout, and burnout erodes empathy and makes good caregivers become bad caregivers. Paid caregivers are simply not paid enough to make the field attractive. The wages are low and stagnant and the schedules inconsistent and the conditions demanding. The median salary of a paid caregiver is $27,080, although that federal-level figure varies dramatically according to state. In Houston, Texas, the annual mean wage is $21,120, whereas in Seattle, Washington, that figure is $33,770. Under such conditions, elder care facilities struggle to get the staffing they need to serve everyone the best way possible. And this pushes the costs high. It’s difficult to find a place that provides elder care at an affordable price and according to the highest standards, like Skylark elderly day care.

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