Fifth in a series
The slick ads, the glossy brochures, the Internet websites — all portray the elder care industry as compassionate and caring. And, in most cases, it is. But behind the marketing and hype, the bottom line stays the same: Show me the money.
Need an in-home personal care attendant? You can get one for $18 to $22 per hour. How about a live-in 24/7? A hundred grand per year should do it. An assisted living facility in Hillsborough County? Anywhere from $21,000 per year for a shared room in a bargain basement facility to $60,000+ for top shelf.
The final journey down the road of life can be smoother for those who have sufficient financial resources. Unfortunately, most don’t. Family and loved ones make the sacrifice instead.
My neighbor Mo fell between the cracks. His only son was 1,500 miles away; Mo tried an assisted living facility in Sun City Center, but lasted two months. “I didn’t like them, they didn’t like me,” he said.
I met him in the parking lot of our condo in Kings Point, where I found him face down. I dusted him off, put him on his scooter, and away he went. He then fell for eight consecutive days, with five trips to South Bay Hospital.
Finally, after my being awakened almost nightly by the rescue squad, I realized someone had to do something.
My mission was to establish an affordable family lifestyle for Mo, where his needs could be met and he could be safe at home. Fortunately, Mo has resources — a pension, Social Security and the cash from the sale of his home. I was able to arrange live-in 24-hour care from a wonderful, loving woman who treats Mo like her father. The cost is 50 percent less than the amount charged by most commercial providers. Nevertheless, more money goes out than comes in.
My next project is to secure VA benefits for Mo, a World War II Navy vet. There are days I feel like the mouse lost in the maze. I am confident I found the way out. But can I reach the pot of gold before Mo’s money runs out? Once Mo receives his VA benefits, then his financial worries are over.
Meanwhile, Mo is thriving. He looks better and feels better than the bloodied and bruised 87-year-old I found in the parking lot. He eats home-cooked meals and has gained weight. Joy, his caregiver, who cooks from scratch, has reduced his sodium intake to where Mo is off his high-blood-pressure pills.
“I feel better and stronger, and it’s all because of her,” he said recently.
I can tell he is better because he is feistier than before, which I consider a positive sign from a crusty, old war vet from New England. But if he gives me too much trouble, I pull Joy aside.
She administers an attitude adjustment session. In no time, we are one happy family again.
Jimmy Curtis is a retired journalist and entrepreneur. Next: Where to Find the Money