Vermont Nursing Home Costs and Star Ratings Updated

Vermont — home to Bernie Sanders, Ben and Jerry, and over 105,000 seniors.* And although the number of seniors receiving long-term care in an institutional setting is dropping, many elderly Vermonters find themselves utilizing one of the state’s 38 nursing homes at some point in their lives.

Vermont nursing home care costs are among the highest in the nation. Aside from Alaska and Hawaii, the top 10 most expensive states for nursing home care are on the east coast.

Vermont senior care planning includes understanding costs of nursing homes in the chosen area, along with their overall ratings. Many times, hospitals will discharge the senior to a nursing home for rehabilitation. If the senior’s stay is longer than the Medicare-covered 100 days, those costs becomes out-of-pocket.

Nursing homes cost a lot of money — ask any family whose senior loved one is burning through their assets in order to get quality long-term care in a nursing facility. The sad truth is that the general consumer has no idea how much nursing home care costs in their area, and usually doesn’t learn of those costs until their back is up against the wall and long-term care is needed.

Long-term senior care costs are a concern among our readers and we at Caregiverlist have an ongoing mission to educate the consumer. To that end, we are constantly updating our nursing home cost database and have released the latest costs and ratings for Vermont nursing homes.

Below is a snapshot of Vermont nursing home costs and ratings:


Total Number of Nursing Homes: 38

Average Single Price: $301.95

Average Double Price: $280.65

Average Rating: 3.1 (out of 5)


Star Rating Snapshot:

5-Star        2

4-Star        19

3-Star        14

2-Star        3

1-Star        0 


Some seniors and their families will prefer to stay at home and hire an in-home professional senior caregiver.  Hourly rate for senior home care in Vermont can range from $11 to $28 per hour, depending on the location and level of care required. A quality home care agency will fully vet an in-home caregiver with a thorough background check. As opposed to hiring a caregiver directly, an agency provides all necessary liability and worker's compensation insurance protections and payroll taxes as required by law.

Vermont offers Choices for Care (1115 Long-Term Care Medicaid Waiver), a Medicaid-funded, long-term care program to pay for care and support for older Vermonters. If a senior meets the clinical and financial criteria, they can receive help with costs for professional care at home, in an enhanced residential care setting, or in a nursing facility. There is also a separate Moderate Need program in place and seniors and their families can learn about program eligibility directly from a Home Health Agency in their area.

Seniors and their family caregivers can research nursing home costs and ratings in any state nationwide through the Caregiverlist Nursing Home Directory, the only resource with this trademarked information.

A good way to start anticipating for those future long-term care costs is consulting with a professional who can come up with a  financial action plan that includes an assessment of your family’s assets and future spending needs. Caregiverlist can also provide a care plan to find senior home care agency options in Vermont and help you learn about the costs for senior care.

*according to the 2014 U.S. Census

How to Pay for Senior Care

Senior care costs are not covered by Medicare, the health insurance for America's seniors. Only short-term stays in a nursing home, after a major medical event, are covered. This means everyone must plan ahead for the possibility of caregiving needs as they age. Insurance actuaries estimate all of us will need some senior caregiving services for at least 2 years.

Caregiving for someone with memory loss, called "dementia" can be one of the longest journeys and cost the most. A new conversation around how we want to age has begun, with the book "Being Mortal" igniting many conversations on the topic. Aging is part of living and so is dying. Understanding the benefits Medicare does and does not provide is part of creating a healthy aging plan.

Retirement planning must include planning for how to pay for the costs of senior care. Perhaps a senior will only need caregiving services for a short period of time while recovering from surgery such as hip replacement or a stroke. However, it is healthy to accept that part of aging includes our bodies, and sometimes our minds, will no longer regenerate cells and perform as when we were younger. This is natural. Or as the song says "that's life"!

Learn about the costs of senior care and how to structure a caregiving financial plan with a complimentary telephone consultation provided by Transamerica and download their free caregiving guide. Start talking with your family members about how you would like to both pay for and receive care as the gift of a long life presents itself.

Nursing Home Senior Care Costs

Many seniors and their family members do not realize that nursing homes care is not covered for ongoing stays by Medicare. This confusion arises because many times a senior will know another senior who is receiving a long-term stay in a nursing home through Medicaid, the program for low-income seniors with few assets.  Medicaid will pay for nursing home stays when a senior qualifies for this level of care. 

However, perhaps the senior receiving Medicaid benefits is someone who you know had plenty of savings and would not be considered low-income.  Here is what happens:  seniors can quickly "spend down" to qualify for Medicaid because of the high daily cost of a nursing home stay.

Seniors should plan ahead to understand the costs and ratings of nursing homes in their area to be prepared should a major medical incident occur as many times hospitals will discharge the senior directly to a nursing home for rehabilitation.  Below are some examples of the average daily nursing home costs in some states. As you can see, with the daily cost of a nursing home being as much as $300 per day, a senior can quickly burn through their assets to qualify for Medicaid benefits.

Nursing Home Average Daily Costs

Alaska:  $666

Arizona:  $184

California:  $203

Illinois:  $158

Louisiana:  $133

Massachusetts: $299

Texas:  $115

Wisconsin:  $197

As these are just an example of the average cost, it is easy to see how a senior can spend-down to qualify for Medicaid, with a monthly stay at a nursing home in California costing $6,090 per month and if a senior lives in Alaska, well, perhaps they can consider moving South as there are less than 10 nursing homes in Alaska and the average cost results in $19,980 per month.

Seniors and their family members may reserach nursing home costs and ratings in the Caregiverlist Nursing Home Directory, the only resource with this trademarked information. As many times hospitals will discharge a senior directly to a nursing home for rehabilitation, families should plan ahead to choose the nursing home they would prefer.  

Some seniors prefer to stay at home to receive professional senior care services and pay an hourly rate for senior home care which can range from $18 to $26 per hour, depending on the location, and includes all the necessary liability and worker's compensation insurance protections and includes payroll taxes as required by law. Seniors may request a care plan to find senior home care agency options in their area and learn about the costs for senior care.









Chefs Make Housecalls for Seniors

One of the reasons a senior may finally choose to move into assisted living is for the meals. The elderly who live independently may decide that by the time groceries are bought, pots and pans are put on the stove, food is plated and plates are cleaned, it’s just too much trouble to cook for one. Many times seniors will microwave some high-fat, high-sodium, prepared and processed food. Not good for nutrition and certainly not good for the soul.

Chefs for Seniors out of Madison, Wisc. has been getting a lot of press lately, and with good reason. Their mission? They want seniors to stay independent a little longer by offering a service dedicated to improving seniors’ lives through food (emphasis theirs.) They’ve recently been featured on NPR and in Senior Housing News. The family-run company staffs vetted, licensed, professional chefs to come to shop and cook for seniors, right in their own homes.

Whole, healthy, homemade food is of course preferable to industrial, processed, mass-produced food stuffs. But taking a meal is so much more than the simple act of eating. Taking every meal alone, no matter how nutritious, delicious, and convenient it may be, can be a lonely proposition for those who are used to communal meals.

Perhaps with Chefs for Seniors, the community is had in the making. Owners Barrett and Lisa Allman, as well as their son Nathan, seem to understand that the relationship between a seniors and their caregiver (in this case, the person preparing their meals) is important and consistency is an issue. Outside of special circumstances, the company tries to maintain that unique client/chef relationship.

“Routine is important for seniors, so we try to keep the same chef coming to their home every week,” Allman told Home Health Care News’ Jason Oliva.

The chef can visit twice a week, weekly, or bi-weekly, based on the senior’s need and preference. After an initial consultation, a senior-specific menu is prepared, a chef is assigned, and then the culinary friendship is forged.

Like many senior care services, this one was born from family need. Allman told NPR that the inspiration for Chefs for Seniors was his wife's grandmother. She entered assisted living ten years ago, when she could no longer cook for herself. The family knew she could have stayed in her own home longer if she had access to nutritional and tasty meals.

But don’t give up on senior communities. Many assisted living facilities have also discarded the notion of industrial food for their residents. Chefs like Carol Koty at Lockwood Lodge at Masonicare at Newtown are providing restaurant-quality meals to the seniors for whom they cook. Caregiverlist recommends you thoroughly check into all your senior care options, from in-home care, specialty care (like Chefs for Seniors), independent and assisted living, and nursing homes for your specific eldercare needs.

A New Kind of Assisted Living

The term “Assisted Living” is the most one of the most Googled senior living search trends. Although aging at home is the preference of many seniors, if there are no family caregivers available and no in-home caregivers, that solitude can be an awful thing. Those who have chosen assisted living report a high degree of satisfaction with their senior living choice.

However, Baby Boomers, those born post World War II — between 1946 and 1964, are defining a new way of aging. They are living longer and more actively so it makes sense that they would seek to establish a new kind of senior living dynamic. When living alone and aging in place is no longer a viable or preferred option, they are choosing to age in communities of their own design.

Marianne Kilkenny is one such advocate leading the charge in bringing forth a new aging community model. She created and founded Women Living in Community (WLIC) in 2007. What began as a simple website has grown into a movement. WLIC brings together individuals, families, and professionals who are changing the face of senior housing options. The vision is to move from the standard aging elder institutional settings like assisted living housing and nursing homes to communities where neighbors care for each other.  

“Aging in Community is more than shared housing. It’s refocusing our outlook on aging from one that is medical and healthcare-centric to one that focuses upon community," Ms. Kilkenny writes on her website. "Wellbeing is more than healthcare; it’s emotional care and that kind of care comes from being surrounded by people we know, love and trust, not just by nurses and planned activities.”

Ms. Kilkenny has also authored Your Quest for Home: A Guidebook to Find the Ideal Community for Your Later Years. The workbook details the options for resident-created communities that might include co-housing and “pocket communities” where residents look after each other, care about each other, and support each other.

As with all senior living options, there are challenges to the model as well. Traditional assisted living provides planned activities. Unless a resident is proactive about getting yoga instructors to come to a central community location, or hire a van or bus to take groups on cultural outings, those perks won’t be available to those seniors who are unable to get out and enjoy these experiences on their own. More importantly, what sort of medical attention is available onsite?

I also think one of the keys to the success of these communities is to make sure they are multi-generational. If everyone in the community is aging together at the same time, how good is your brother’s (or sister’s) keeper when you are both in your 90s and need the same level of attention and help with the activities of daily living? And one of my biggest beefs with institutional aging settings is the age-segregation that naturally occurs.

I’ve always liked the idea of a Golden Girls kind of living arrangement where I wind up co-housing and cracking wise with a group of girlfriends (women generally outlive their male spouses.) Of course, these alternate retirement communities are not just for the ladies. NBC Nightly News filmed a shared housing model in Asheville, NC. featuring four women and one “Golden Guy”.



What do you think of this alternative to existing assisted living and nursing home models? Do you think this might just be the future of an aging society? What do you think would make this interesting atypical retirement community work even better?

Bipartisan Task Force Seeks to Help Seniors Age in Place

Can senior housing issues stretch across the aisle? The Bipartisan Policy Center (BPC) is banking on it by launching its new Health and Housing Task Force. Leading the effort are democrat Henry Cisneros, HUD secretary during former President Bill Clinton’s administration and republican Mel Martinez , HUD secretary during former President George W. Bush’s administration. Joining them in the effort are former Representatives Allyson Schwartz and Vin Weber.

The task force will look at how senior-friendly, affordable housing might reduce healthcare system costs and, at the same time, allow more seniors to age in place at home. Surveys show that most older Americans would prefer to age in their own communities rather than in institutional settings, such as nursing homes. However, the way things stand now, many homes are not equipped for safe, independent living and communities are ill-prepared to provide much-needed services like transportation for seniors who no longer drive.

At the end of the day, it’s all about potential Medicaid and Medicare savings. The current system won’t be able to sustain the growing elderly population. In-home senior care has proven much more cost-effective than institutional care, so it’s in everyone’s best interest to expand home and community based senior care.

“In 2011, only about half of Medicaid-covered long-term services and supports were provided at home or in the community, even though for most seniors, home and community-based care is preferred and often significantly less expensive,” said task force member Allyson Schwartz, a former congresswoman from Pennsylvania.

The Health and Housing Task force’s one-year effort will:

  • Seek cost-effective ways to modify homes and communities to make independent living for seniors available and safe. Finding potential funding sources will be crucial.
  • Bring attention to best practices on state and local levels for integrating housing, healthcare, and long-term services and supports. The task force will find programs that work and investigate how they can be replicated elsewhere.
  • Determine barriers to offering home- and community-based services and supports through Medicare and Medicaid.
  • Explore opportunities for further collaboration between the Departments of Housing and Urban Development and Health and Human Services.

America is an aging nation. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, projections show the population age 65 and older is expected to more than double between 2012 and 2060, from 43.1 million to 92.0 million. The increase in the number of the “oldest old” will be even more considerable— those 85 and older are projected to more than triple from 5.9 million to 18.2 million, reaching 4.3 percent of the total population. The “oldest old” are those seniors who tend to need senior care most.

Caregiverlist believes that a key element to helping seniors age in place is the well-trained, well-paid in-home caregiver. Let’s hope this bipartisan task force takes into account the issue of fair senior caregiver wages in order to help stem caregiver turnover in an effort to provide the best senior home care.

Discounts for Seniors

The poverty rate among seniors in America is already high and growing. The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the poverty rate for Americans 65 and older rose (albeit slightly) from 8.9 percent in 2009 to 9.0 percent in 2010. The growing cost of food, housing, and especially medical care, which tends to increase as we age, adds to economic instability for many of our elderly.

Sure, Social Security is a net to help prevent seniors from abject poverty, but recent economic recessions have forced many older Americans, those without employment income, to live hand-to-mouth. In many instances, seniors deplete their savings to a point that they are outliving their money.

Former Caregiverlist Sherpa Vera Perekoteyeva, who is always on the lookout for ways to help seniors and their caregivers, passed along this link from MOGUL that lists discounts available for older consumers; some discounts apply for those as young as 50 years old.

While senior discounts won’t cure the ill of elderly poverty, every dollar saved is a win. Discounts can be had across the board of consumer goods and services. Many times the only prerequisite for savings (besides age) is you have to ASK for the senior discount.

Senior discounts for restaurants tend to be found in fast-food and chain establishments. Caregiverlist is a great proponent of aging well which includes nutritious eating. Remember  that you can find healthy dining options, even at fast-food restaurants.

Here are the top senior discounts for 2015 making their rounds on the web (caveat — this list is found on many sites all over the web; I have not verified these discounts, if you ask for them and are met with a blank stare, don’t shoot the messenger!):

RESTAURANTS:

  • Applebee’s: 15% off with Golden Apple Card (60+)
  • Arby’s: 10% off (55+)
  • Ben & Jerry’s: 10% off (60+)
  • Bennigan’s: discount varies by location (60+)
  • Bob’s Big Boy: discount varies by location (60+)
  • Boston Market: 10% off (65+)
  • Burger King: 10% off (60+)
  • Chick-Fil-A: 10% off or free small drink or coffee (55+)
  • Chili’s: 10% off (55+)
  • CiCi’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
  • Denny’s: 10% off, 20% off for AARP members (55+)
  • Dunkin’ Donuts: 10% off or free coffee (55+)
  • Einstein’s Bagels: 10% off baker’s dozen of bagels (60+)
  • Fuddrucker’s: 10% off any senior platter (55+)
  • Gatti’s Pizza: 10% off (60+)
  • Golden Corral: 10% off (60+)
  • Hardee’s: $0.33 beverages everyday (65+)
  • IHOP: 10% off (55+)
  • Jack in the Box: up to 20% off (55+)
  • KFC: free small drink with any meal (55+)
  • Long John Silver’s: various discounts at locations (55+)
  • McDonald’s: discounts on coffee everyday (55+)
  • Mrs. Fields: 10% off at participating locations (60+)
  • Shoney’s: 10% off Sonic: 10% off or free beverage (60+)
  • Steak ‘n Shake: 10% off every Monday & Tuesday (50+)
  • Subway: 10% off (60+)
  • Sweet Tomatoes: 10% off (62+)
  • Taco Bell: 5% off; free beverages for seniors (65+)
  • TCBY: 10% off (55+)
  • Tea Room Cafe: 10% off (50+)
  • Village Inn: 10% off (60+)
  • Waffle House: 10% off every Monday (60+)
  • Wendy’s: 10% off (55+)
  • White Castle: 10% off (62+)

RETAIL & APPAREL:

  • Banana Republic: 10% off (50+)
  • Bealls: 20% off first Tuesday of each month (55+)
  • Belk’s: 15% off first Tuesday of every month (55+)
  • Bon-Ton Department Stores: 15% off on senior discount days (55+)
  • C.J. Banks: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
  • Clarks: 10% off (62+)
  • Dress Barn: 10% off (55+)
  • Goodwill: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
  • Hallmark: 10% off one day a week (date varies by location)
  • Kohl’s: 15% off (60+)
  • Marshall’s: 20% off every Tuesday (55+)
  • Modell’s Sporting Goods: 10% off
  • Rite Aid: 10% off on Tuesdays & 10% off prescriptions
  • Ross Stores: 10% off every Tuesday (55+)
  • TJ Maxx: 10% off every Tuesday (55+)
  • The Salvation Army Thrift Stores: up to 50% off (55+)
  • Stein Mart: 20% off red dot/clearance items first Monday of every month (55+)

GROCERY:

  • Albertson’s: 10% off first Wednesday of each month (55+)
  • American Discount Stores: 10% off every Monday (50+)
  • Compare Foods Supermarket: 10% off every Wednesday (60+)
  • DeCicco Family Markets: 5% off every Wednesday (60+)
  • Fry’s Supermarket: free Fry’s VIP Club Membership & 10% off every Monday (55+)
  • Great Valu Food Store: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • Gristedes Supermarket: 10% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • Harris Teeter: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • Hy-Vee: 5% off one day a week (date varies by location)
  • Kroger: 10% off (date varies by location)
  • Morton Williams Supermarket: 5% off every Tuesday (60+)
  • The Plant Shed: 10% off every Tuesday (50+)
  • Publix: 5% off every Wednesday (55+)
  • Rogers Marketplace: 5% off every Thursday (60+)
  • Uncle Guiseppe’s Marketplace: 5% off (62+)

TRAVEL:
Airlines:

  • Alaska Airlines: 10% off (65+)
  • American Airlines: various discounts for 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • Continental Airlines: no initiation fee for Continental Presidents Club & special fares for select destinations
  • Southwest Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • United Airlines: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • U.S. Airways: various discounts for ages 65 and up (call before booking for discount)
  • Amtrak: 15% off (62+)
  • Greyhound: 5% off (62+)
  • Trailways Transportation System: various discounts for ages 50+

Car Rental:

  • Alamo Car Rental: up to 25% off for AARP members
  • Avis: up to 25% off for AARP members Best Western: 10% off (55+)
  • Budget Rental Cars: 10% off; up to 20% off for AARP members (50+)
  • Dollar Rent-A-Car: 10% off (50+)
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car: 5% off for AARP members
  • Hertz: up to 25% off for AARP members
  • National Rent-A-Car: up to 30% off for AARP members

Hotels:

  • Cambria Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Clarion Motels: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Comfort Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Comfort Suites: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Econo Lodge: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Hampton Inns & Suites: 10% off when booked 72 hours in advance
  • Holiday Inn: 10%-30% off depending on location (62+)
  • Hyatt Hotels: 25%-50% off (62+)
  • InterContinental Hotels Group: various discounts at all hotels (65+)
  • Mainstay Suites: 10% off with Mature Traveler’s Discount (50+); 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Marriott Hotels: 15% off (62+)
  • Motel 6: 10% off (60+)
  • Myrtle Beach Resort: 10% off (55+)
  • Quality Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Rodeway Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)
  • Sleep Inn: 20%-30% off (60+)

ACTIVITIES & ENTERTAINMENT:

  • AMC Theaters: up to 30% off (55+)
  • Bally Total Fitness: up to $100 off memberships (62+)
  • Busch Gardens Tampa, FL: $3 off one-day tickets (50+)
  • Carmike Cinemas: 35% off (65+)
  • Cinemark/Century Theaters: up to 35% off
  • U.S. National Parks: $10 lifetime pass; 50% off additional services including camping (62+)
  • Regal Cinemas: 30% off Ripley’s Believe it or Not: @ off one-day ticket (55+)
  • SeaWorld Orlando, FL: $3 off one-day tickets (50+)

CELL PHONE DISCOUNTS:

  • AT&T: Special Senior Nation 200 Plan $29.99/month (65+)
  • Jitterbug: $10/month cell phone service (50+)
  • Verizon Wireless: Verizon Nationwide 65 Plus Plan $29.99/month (65+)

MISCELLANEOUS:

  • Great Clips: $3 off hair cuts (60+)
  • Super Cuts: $2 off haircuts (60+)

The serious issue of senior poverty won’t be resolved with 10 percent discounts. If you are in or near Chicago over the next few days, The Aging in America Conference will be held from March 23-27 at the Hyatt Regency Chicago, where over 2,500 attendees from across the nation and abroad will discuss issues of aging and quality of life for older adults. On Thursday, March 26, from 9-10am, Paul Nathanson, JD, Special Counsel, National Senior Citizens Law Center will present Let’s Talk Senior Poverty: What Are We Doing About It? Learn more about ASA’s Aging in America Conference here.

Cruise Ship Retirement: Assisted Living on the High Seas?

Last month I read the USA Today story about Lee Wachtstetter, an 86-year-old Florida widow who sold her Fort Lauderdale home (and acreage) and to live a “stress-free, fairy-tale life” aboard Crystal Cruise Line's 11-year-old ship, Crystal Serenity.

Retiring as a permanent resident on a luxury cruise ship isn’t cheap. “Mama Lee” estimates she pays $164,000 per year, or about $450 per day, for her lifestyle. That cost includes her single occupancy stateroom, all meals (and the ubiquitous buffets,) beverages, gratuities, housekeeping, cocktail parties, movies, lectures, Broadway-type shows, and her favorite, nightly ballroom dancing — not to mention travelling to every city around the world that has a port. As long as Ms. Lee doesn’t become acutely ill or need special medical attention, which can get pricey on-board, cruise ship retirement seems like a pretty glamorous and exotic way to live out one’s golden years.

Or is it?

The Straight Dope’s Cecil Adams tackled this topic in a June 2012 article and compares cruise ship retirement with luxury hotel retirement, except the retiree gets to travel the world instead of being stuck in one place. Temperate climates and nightly sunsets on a vast horizon make cruise ship retirement sound like a better alternative to staid assisted living, but only if the senior is in the best of health and doesn’t mind traveling light. Ship staterooms can be cramped, especially when one is on a budget. Sleeping quarters aside, the entire ship and all its amenities are at your service.

While the employee-to-guest ratio is generally higher on a ship than the staff-to-resident ratio in most assisted living communities, those employees aren’t as likely to be trained for the special needs presented by older adults. And sure, the amenities are great, but if the ship breaks out in norovirus, as happened twice recently on Royal Caribbean's cruise line, those with compromised immune systems, such as the elderly, would be hardest hit. And there’s nowhere to run (no pun intended.)

While a long-term passenger might miss family and friends, how many receive sporadic visits, at best, when they reside in assisted living facilities? As seniors become more comfortable with technology, they can keep in touch through Facebook and email. Right now, video bandwidth is limited; most ships block or limit Skype. For face-to-face visits, onshore connections using free Wi-Fi in port with a smartphone may be the best route.

But what about the actual dollar cost? In 2004, geriatrics doctors Lee Lindquist and Robert Golub published an article in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society which showed that cruises were priced similarly to assisted living centers could accommodate the needs of seniors and possibly provide a more desirable option to seniors for retirement. In their hypothetical, an 80-year old woman, for example would pay $228,075 in an assisted-living facility compared to $230,497 on a cruise ship over a 20-year time span.

More recently, however, Genworth’s 2014 Cost of Care Survey listed Washington, D.C. as the most costly spot for assisted living, with an annual median cost of about  $82,600 for a single-occupancy unit. Assisted living costs usually cover room and board, basic utilities (electricity, heat, water, and garbage), basic housekeeping (fresh linens) and some meals, significantly less than the price tag for Ms. Wachtstetter's cruise ship retirement lifestyle. It’s difficult to compare apples-to-apples, but it seems only like the least expensive cruise costs might be similar to a highest-end assisted living community.

Have you or a family member ever thought of cruise ship retirement as a viable option? I’d love to hear from assisted living community and cruise ship directors alike as to why theirs is the best retirement option. Or if you happen to read this while on an extended cruise, let us know what that's like. As for me, I think I’d like to summer on land and winter at sea, as long as I can have access to the helipad for quick escapes from either.

Will Wisconsin Seniors Pay More for Drugs?

For the second time during his tenure, Wisconsin State Governor Scott Walker is proposing to cut the state’s popular SeniorCare prescription drug program by requiring Wisconsin's seniors to first enroll in the federal government’s Medicare Part D prescription coverage.

The majority of elderly in Wisconsin like the system the way it is. Some 85,000 SeniorCare members across Wisconsin pay a yearly $30 enrollment fee as well as co-pays of $5 for generic drugs and $15 for name-brand drugs, with no gaps in coverage. Medicare Part D can cost $30-$40 monthly and many plans include deductibles.

Governor Walker’s office disagrees. "In some cases, SeniorCare deductibles are higher than Medicare Part D," Laurel Patrick, a spokesperson for Gov. Walker, wrote in a statement to 27 News, Madison, WI.  "Also there is a provision under SeniorCare that requires some individuals to spend down their income, which means they need to pay for prescription drugs out-of-pocket in order to reach eligibility levels, that makes it less beneficial for many seniors."

The governor’s plan calls for seniors to first enroll in a Medicare Part D plan and SeniorCare would supplement coverage for any drugs not covered by the federal plan. His office estimates a $15 million, or 40 percent savings over the next two years in the state’s budget for the prescription drug program for low-income seniors.

Gov. Walker first proposed a similar plan in 2011. At that time, the proposal was dropped when it faced opposition from both Democrats and Republicans.

It’s interesting that when so many want less federal intervention and more statewide control, a state program with so much local support, especially when, during fall campaigns, elected lawmakers voiced their "commitment(ment) to fully fund SeniorCare."

Currently, Democrats Sen. Dave Hansen and Rep. Eric Genrich are launching a petition to drop the proposal.  They suggest the Republican governor is "putting the interests of big pharma above Wisconsin's seniors." AARP also denounces the plan, urging Wisconsin members to contact state legislators to encourage them to remove the provisions from the governor’s proposed budget.

Bracing for the Elder Boom in America

The image of a typical nursing home, right or wrong, inspires fear in the hearts of many seniors. They picture dark, dank living spaces, rife with an uncaring, or worse, malicious staff, and, perhaps most of all, they fear becoming isolated and forgotten. It’s no wonder, then, that the idea of aging in place, at home, is a popular option for elders in America. And as the baby boom gives way to the elder boom, we realize that whatever viable options are put in place for seniors today will become our aging options in the not-too-distant future.

In her book, The Age of Dignity: Preparing for the Elder Boom in a Changing America, 2014 MacArthur Fellow Ai-jen Poo discusses the need to provide an environment whereby the increasingly aging population can stay in their own homes if they choose. But finding a competent careforce will be the primary challenge. Tackling that imminent problem is Ms. Poo’s primary focus.

Living longer is a good thing, as long as there are systems in place to care for the aged. By 2035 there will be 11.5 million Americans over the age of 85, more than double today's five million. Right now, those who need long-term care, nearly 79%, live at home or in community settings, not in institutions, and 90% would prefer to age at home. Currently, the lion’s share of home care is provided free of charge by informal or family caregivers.

This dynamic is unsustainable according to demographics and to a changing society, as Ms. Poo points out in the book. Whereas the women in the family were traditionally expected to provide care for aging parents, dual-income American family households means there is no one at home full-time to absorb those duties. Households with fewer children and more elderly begins to look a little like something from Roald Dahl’s imagination.

The answer, clearly, is a vital, supported profession senior care workforce. Ms. Poo fights for the rights of domestic workers across the nation. Fair wages along with comprehensive senior care training would go a long way to help stem the high caregiver turnover rate and provide consistency for seniors, their families, and for the workers themselves. But paying for in-home care is already a challenge for most seniors and their families. Ms. Poo proposes that this nation needs to face and tackle these challenges now, so that all seniors and their families have access to the care they deserve.

Ms. Poo recently worked with the Department of Labor to include senior caregivers in federal minimum wage and overtime protections (which has since been delayed.). She is a vital part of Caring Across Generations who believe that this country has “an unprecedented opportunity to bring care back home—where we feel most safe and secure, and surrounded by love – and to create much needed jobs in the process.”

The Age of Dignity provides a positive roadmap to becoming a more caring nation while addressing our fraying safety net and the limited opportunities for women and immigrants in the workforce.

 

 

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