CAPTION: The 88-year old woman rubbed the handle of her cane and recalled the days when she and her husband would go sailing off Long Island and entertain in their comfortable Stratford, Conn., home. Now the woman is in a different type of home -- the Manor Care nursing home in Arlington -- after having sold her house to pay $135,000 in medical costs before her husband died of cancer several months ago. Her son, who lives in Falls Church, now pays the $1,800 in monthly bills at the nursing home. "There wasn't very much left after my husband died," said the woman, who asked that her name not be published. "Everbody worries, especially if you've been independent all your life". Louise Steadman, 86, said she's probably better off than most people her age. "I've always been very thrifty," Steadman said. "Otherwise, I couldn't stay here." Interviews with half a dozen women at the home revealed that few had made any financial plans in advance. As Steadman said, "I just thought I'd go on forever without any accident. I never thought I'd end up here." Many of the 186 residents are supported by trust funds or guardians, according to administrator Brent Hart. A larger number are taken care of by their children. Nearly all of the residents are women -- women generally live longer than men -- and few of the residents have ever worked outside of the home. The average price for room, board and minimal supplies at the five-year old facility is $1,800 a month. Physical and speech therapies cost an additional $21 and $29 respectively per treatment, and pharmaceuticals are extra. Medicare rarely pays all of the costs, Hart said. Many of the residents have Medicare or other insurance to pay for hospitalization. Steadman said she, too, had to sell her home, although she also receives her husband's Social Security check and a monthly annuity for having worked 35 years as a General Services Administration legal clerk. She handles some of her financial affairs, such as paying insurance and investing her money in certificates of deposit. Her lawyer, however, pays most of her bills, she said. "That's too big for me to handle." Steadman said talk about cutting Social Security benefits is shameful, particulary for those who are more worse off than I am." Catherine Scherer, 88 said her daughter takes care of everything." "When my husband living, he took care of everything," Scherer said. "I never worked outside of the home." After her husband died last January, Scherer said she considered selling the home she had lived in for the past 66 years. "I worried about selling my home and, you know, you can't sell" with the depressed housing market. "But my daughter said, 'Don't you worry about it.'" Another woman, also 88, who decided after the interview that she didn't want her name published, also lets her daughter manager her affairs. She relies on Social Security and a government annuity to cover her costs at the home. As for talk about changes in Social Security, the woman said, "I think it has to be very carefully watched. I think that it should go up, though." "We all concerned about Medicare," the woman continued. "Mr. Reagan seems to have all these plans. I think there's a thing as going ahead too far. Mr. Reagan I think he means very well, but he's got very comprehensive ideas." She said she worries a lot about money too. "I don't like this runaway inflation business."