Stretch Your Eldercare Dollars
by Phyllis Staff
Many elders fear outliving their retirement nestegg, so we put
together a few of our best dollar-saving tips to help select
the lowest level of care possible.
Many Assisted Living offer graduated levels of care. They may
be able to meet your elder's needs with something less than
24-hour-a-day care. Among other services, they can provide
· medication reminders,
· transfers from bed to wheelchair,
· bathing, and,
· grooming and dressing help.
Monthly expenses will be significantly lower than those of nursing
homes, perhaps as much as $1000 less each month.
Eldercare facilities that offer "aging in place" provide
a double benefit. You reap the cost savings associated with
lower levels of care, and your elder can relax, protected from
the stresses of a future major move.
Look for care provided by nonprofit organizations.
Our research shows that, on average, nursing homes run by nonprofit
organizations have about 1/3 fewer deficiencies than homes run
by for-profit organizations. Homes run by large corporations,
especially those that manage many facilities, have the greatest
average number of deficiencies. By finding a nonprofit facility
that provides suitable care, you could save thousands of dollars
over the course of a year. And your elder may get better care.
A word of caution: I do not mean to imply that all nonprofit
organizations provide good care or that all corporate homes
offer poor care. It depends on the particular organization.
Once you have visited a specific facility several times you'll
have a reasonably accurate evaluation of the quality of care
Slash the Costs of Prescription Medications
Your saving can mount into thousands of dollars each year if
you use only one or two of these tactics.
1. Ask your doctor for generic substitutes;
2. Order brand-name prescriptions from out-of-the-country pharmacies,
notably those in Canada.
3. Apply for reduced-cost or free medications. Pharmaceutical
companies often have programs that provide reduced-cost or free
prescriptions available to elders who cannot afford them otherwise.
Ask your doctor whether such programs are available for the
prescriptions your elder needs.
Ask Retailers for Discounts for Senior Citizens
Many businesses routinely offer discounts for senior citizens,
but you may not know that such discounts exist unless you ask
Do compare senior discounts with sale prices, especially for
air travel. It is not unusual to find that sale prices are lower
than the discounted price.
Take advantage of end-of-season sales
Buy clothing, including sleepwear, casual wear, shoes, and coats,
at significant savings at the end of the current retail season.
If your elder needs adaptive clothing, look for the websites
that feature specials and close-outs.
Use public services
Libraries - It may be quicker and easier to drop by your local
bookshop for the latest best-seller, but it's cheaper to borrow
it from your local library. It's also a big advantage to be
able to return the book to someone else's shelves once it has
been read. Elder housing usually lacks plentiful storage space.
Public transportation - Elder Americans are no different from
Americans in any other age group. They want their own transportation,
available immediately, and they prize the independence that
an automobile represents. But, the costs of ownership, insurance,
licensing, and property taxes may not be justified for an elder
who no longer drives routinely. If you can persuade your elder
to forgo car ownership, you may save as much as two hundred
dollars each month.
Many public transportation authorities provide door-to-door,
cost-saving rides for elderly and disabled people. If your elder
lives in a retirement community, some transportation will be
included in the monthly rental. Special fees may apply for transportation
to special events, but having alternative transportation available
may help you build a solid case for your elder to give up the
Senior centers - Senior centers offer companionship and a variety
of activities at little or no cost. Check to see what your local
senior center has that might interest your elder.
Avoid the hidden costs of long-term care
Assessments - Most elder care facilities require assessments.
Such assessments usually take place before the elder becomes
a resident and are repeated periodically or following a serious
illness or accident. Fees for most assessments range between
$300 and $500. Sometimes, a doctor's assessment can substitute
for the facility's assessment.
You'll save money when you're alert to hefty assessment fees,
a few costing upwards of one thousand dollars. Such fees fit
neatly into the category of "hidden costs."
A crafty variation is the practice of performing initial assessments
30 days after the elder becomes a resident. If you question
this practice, you'll probably hear that an assessment would
not be accurate until the elder has settled fully into his new
home. Watch out!
Most facilities will allow you to terminate your elder's lease
without penalty within the first 30 days of residency. However,
if the assessment increases the monthly fees substantially (a
likely outcome), you won't know about it until after you're
locked into a contract. Often, by terminating a lease after
30 days you lay yourself open to sizable penalties.
Pharmacy Costs - A new twist in hidden costs is a facility's
demand that medications be packaged in single dose packets.
If you thought prescription costs were already high, get ready
for heart-stopping sticker-shock when you see the prices for
individually packaged doses. This requirement can add as much
as six thousand dollars each year to your long-term care costs.
Ask specifically about this practice before you sign a contract.
Fees and Deposits - Fees are recurring charges for monthly services,
while deposits are sums held by the property owner to protect
against potential damages. Pets, smokers, and wheelchair/cart
users can damage a property, so charging fees or deposits in
these special circumstances is reasonable.
Not so reasonable, however, is the practice of charging both
fees and deposits. It amounts to another hidden cost that you
Don't allow the simplicity of these tactics to mislead you.
While they are simple to carry out, the savings they create
could amount to tens of thousands of dollars every year.
About the Author
Phyllis Staff, Ph.D. - Phyllis Staff is an experimental psychologist
and the CEO of The Best Is Yet.Net, an internet company that
helps seniors and caregivers find trustworthy residential care.
She is the author of How to Find Great Senior Housing: A Roadmap
for Elders and Those Who Love Them. She is also the daughter
of a victim of Alzheimer's disease. Visit the author's web site