Some couples plan ahead so they can be sure to have enough assets and income for the surviving spouse to live on. Social Security will be reduced to one payment instead of two after the death of the first spouse. Many times the retirement pension of the first spouse is reduced or eliminated at his or her death. I know husbands who will refuse care because they are worried about the costs and what it will do to the lifestyle of the wife they leave behind.
Other people have planned and saved all their lives to pay off their mortgage so they can leave the house to their children. For some reason, this asset means more to people with meager savings because they have worked so hard to finally “own it.” It has been their intention that at least their kids will get the house. Others who have saved more money may also want to leave some of it for their children. They will not ask for the help they need because this gift is so important to them. Fear of leaving nothing behind is real and should be taken into consideration when people are faced with long term care choices.
I can tell you that my parents never had a lot of money they planned to leave as an inheritance. They both worked, provided us with a wonderful home, and we were happy. All of us had successfully moved on to our own lives and were not planning on receiving money when they died. But for my parents themselves, the amount of money required to pay for care was a shock. Mom and Dad had never stayed in a hotel that had cost even $150 per night. Now, the nursing home wanted $300 for every day my father was required to stay beyond the days that Medicare would cover.
My father was worried about how my mom would get by if they had to spend all their savings on his care. They were of a generation that had been taught to save for a rainy day and to be able to pay for the things they needed. They had paid off their credit-card bill each month. Like many people, they never lived beyond their means and saved as much has they could. Mom cut coupons and they bought savings bonds to put money aside for security.
My parents sense of security was threatened by the overwhelming cost of long term care. Dad’s pension would be cut in half when he died, and mom would be living on one Social Security check. For people who never thought of asking anyone else for help, the prospect of impoverishment was all of a sudden a reality. Financial insecurity is a very real part of getting older and becomes another worry along with the physical decline elders are already experiencing. To relieve these burdens, it is really important that families receive the proper advice at this time.
This is a short excerpt from the book “Embracing Elderhood: Planning for the Next Stage of Life.” To find out more about this book and how it may help you or those you love as you prepare for aging issues that we all confront, CLICK HERE.