Safe at Home X: The 5 Ps

Published on: April 13, 2016


Jimmy Curtis

Jimmy Curtis

Tenth in a series

Several decades ago in one of my failed business ventures, a producer/director of TV commercials gave me words of wisdom I never forgot: “Poor planning produces poor production.”

The 5 Ps of video production apply to most aspects of life. Forget a camera lens and produce a flop. Forget to plan for your elder years and produce pain and suffering.

Understandably, many people put off planning for long-term care. Yet the odds of needing long-term care are high:

• Approximately 70 percent of people will need long-term care at some point during their lifetimes after reaching age 65.

• Approximately one in eight people 71 and older have Alzheimer’s disease, a disorder that often leads to the need for nursing home care.

Plus, the cost of long-term care is rising:

Currently, the average annual cost of a one-year nursing home stay is $80,000, and in many states the cost is much higher. An assisted-living facility in the Tampa Bay area costs about $35,000 to $60,000 per year. Round-the-clock in-home care runs $100,000 per year. In the future, long-term care is likely to be even more expensive. If costs rise at just 3 percent a year (a conservative estimate), in 20 years, a one-year nursing home stay will cost approximately $144,489.

Since I became involved helping my neighbor Mo, the escapee from an assisted-living facility who I found lying in the parking lot, I have been exposed to about a dozen persons in the last six months who desperately needed help. Their desperation stemmed from poor planning or no planning. Suddenly, they were in crisis and seeking help.

Recently, however, I provided a live-in caregiver to a husband and wife in Apollo Beach who planned their elder care remarkably well. Both are in their mid-80s with impressively sharp minds. They were executives. The husband ran a corporation and the wife ran a family with six daughters.

The husband left corporate America and launched his own printing company. The wife joined him once the girls flew away and left the nest empty. Their entire lives they acquired and demonstrated skills that enabled them to plan ahead.

Now after 13 years of retirement in Florida, life has changed drastically. The wife suffers from congestive heart failure, incontinence, and is confined to a wheelchair. Their mutual goal was to spend their declining years in their comfortable home among friends, neighbors and with at least some of the children nearby.

They are able to afford 24/7 assistance in their home from a dedicated, skilled caregiver because years ago they had the foresight to acquire a long-term health care insurance policy that now pays the bill.

This plan is the way this couple chose to map out their future. There are other avenues to get to the same place in our latter years — some good, some not-so-good.

My plan is probably typical: Die before I get feeble, helpless and run out of money. However, I am rethinking my plan now that I am involved with elder care.

How is this for an out-of-the-box, off-the-wall plan?

Buy a big house with all the goodies — waterfront, plenty of glass, pool, jacuzzi, mahogany bar with beer tap, pickleball court, theater room, gym. Make it senior-friendly; bring in a bevy of loving, kind, competent caregivers; and create a co-op made of friends and loved ones. I think I remember a guy named Hugh with a similar vision.

For better or worse, my plan is to be the star boarder of my own guest home rather than reside in an institution. Of course, my mindset has always been a tad off-kilter. As Waylon Jennings sang, “I’ve always been crazy but it stopped me from going insane.”

That’s my plan and I’m stickin’ to it — at least for now.

What’s your plan?

Jimmy Curtis is registered to provide homemaker and companion services with the State of Florida, Agency for Health Care Administration. He can be reached at or 813-331-3471.