Preparing for the Unexpected

While many people plan for a retirement in which they live through the end of life in their homes, few people have a real grasp of the costs involved. In the Research Triangle Park area (RTP), 24/7 agency home care can run from $15,000 to $18,000/month. While residential care in an Assisted Living or Memory Care rental community costs significantly less, it is still more than what most presume. In RTP, it can run from $4,000/month for a shared room in a lower end place up to over $10,000/month at a higher-end community in a one-bedroom apartment needing significant care.

You don’t learn something until you have to. And this can have big financial implications—particularly if there are penalties for needing to access large amounts of cash quickly. Unfortunately, add to the equation the common assumption that we will not need care. In fact, only 25% of people over 65 believe they will need any help as they age, yet 70% do. Women, on average, need significant help for the last 3.7 years of life and men for the last 2.2 years. That would translate to a cost in Assisted Living or Memory Care, for the average woman, to between $177,600 to $444,000, and for the average man, from $105,600 to $264,000. What I have learned in being in and out of over 80 communities is that there is a substantial difference between the quality of care in different communities and what one doesn’t want is to be forced to choose only based on cost.

What should you do then and when? The age of eighty, many physicians will tell you, is often the “tipping point,” or the point after which you can generally observe a noticeable decline about every six months. Of course, there are outliers. It’s wiser, even if you are convinced you are an outlier, to plan anyway and plan with enough foresight that, should you have a heart attack, stroke, a bad fall, or an unexpected diagnosis with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s or another devastating condition, you are prepared.