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Here’s what it’s like dealing with the high cost of long-term care

Genworth Financial recently released its 2018 Annual Cost of Care survey and found that the annual median cost of care now ranges from $18,720 for adult day-care services to $100,375 for a private room in a nursing home. (Ridofranz/iStock)

One of my favorite Spock quotes from the Star Trek television series is, “Live long and prosper.”

Who doesn’t want a long life, right?

But what if the longevity means spending down your money for long-term care? And that’s if you’ve been prosperous and have the funds to pay a facility or home health aide to care for you.

Read more: The price of living longer: You could pay $100,000-plus a year for nursing home care

Genworth Financial recently released its 2018 Annual Cost of Care survey and found that the annual median cost of care now ranges from $18,720 for adult day-care services to $100,375 for a private room in a nursing home.

I asked readers to share their long-term care experiences, and here’s what they had to say.

“My mother had Alzheimer’s and was in a memory unit for two years,” wrote Chris Gonzales from California. “My dad has been in assisted living for two and half years and for the last two years has needed round-the-clock care. The cost, when my mother was alive, totaled $230,000 a year. The cost to care for dad is now $170,000 a year. This is in Fort Smith, Ark. My brother and I are very lucky that our parents lived below their means, saved, and did extremely well investing their money in the market, so money has not been an issue. We are also grateful for the ladies that watch over our father and consider ourselves extremely lucky to have people we can depend on as we both live out of state.”

“I managed the care of my mother (who had Alzheimer’s disease) from 1998 through 2006,” wrote Debbie Trice of Sarasota, Fla. “Even that long ago, the cost of her care approached $100,000 annually once she had to move from an assisted-living facility to a skilled nursing facility. The actual cost of long-term care goes way beyond the monthly or daily facility charges. Personal expenses (e.g., adult diapers, toiletries, laundry, haircuts) can be significant. I saved some money by purchasing diapers from a wholesaler and toiletries from a discount store and doing mother’s laundry myself. Medications cost more for residents in long-term care, too. Some states require that all medication, including over-the-counter items like aspirin and vitamins, be specially packaged by a pharmacist in blister packs — at extra cost, of course. Staffing is a critical issue. To keep their rates competitive, many facilities limit their staffing levels to the minimum required by law. But then some patients' needs can’t be adequately addressed. I found it necessary to hire private duty aides to supplement facility staff for a few hours each day.”

Lane Beckham of New Jersey wrote, “Four years ago my wife (then 71) suffered a fall which let to numerous complications over the next year. She has since been bedridden going from a home hospital bed to a wheelchair. She can feed herself, converse, watch television and read catalogues, but that’s about it. We’ve had a 24/7 home health care aide since April 2015 at a current cost of $215 a day or $78,475 a year. A long-term care policy kicks in $100 a day but only for 5 years of benefit days.”

“My mother died two years ago and for the last two years of her life, she had progressively worsening dementia,” one reader wrote. “We (mainly my sister) arranged for her to be cared for at her home. The cost was running at about $85,000 a year and that was two years ago! Why? At times, she was simply too much for one person to handle, so we often needed two people to stay with her. And while we went with the better-rated agencies, we still had problems with sitters stealing, using drugs, having friends over and even taking my mother out when they needed to run errands. What a nightmare.”

Read more: Long-term care insurance facing major pricing shift

David Treece, an investment adviser and financial planner based in Miami Shores, Fla., has a client with Alzheimer’s who has a Genworth long-term care insurance policy, which so far has paid out about $323,000.

“I have learned nothing will ruin a retirement plan faster than long-term care expenses,” Treece wrote. “Try having to come up with nearly a third of a million dollars like my client if you don’t have coverage. It’s just unimaginable for most people. My biggest concerns for my clients are a group I call ‘the alones.’ These are people who have no spouse, no children, no close siblings and really nobody else. They can’t even name a beneficiary let alone someone to serve as a power of attorney or health-care surrogate. This group seems to be increasing as so many people never had children, are divorced or never married, or are estranged from family. Who is even going to help them? Our society isn’t really set up for this, and I don’t see any easy solutions.”

Your thoughts

Let’s continue this conversation. What are you doing to plan for long term care expenses? Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. Put “Long Term Care” in the subject line.

Retirement rants and raves

I’m interested in your experiences or concerns about retirement or aging. What do you like about retirement? What came as a surprise?

If you haven’t retired yet, what concerns you financially?

You can rant or rave. This space is yours. It’s a chance for you to express what’s on your mind. Send your comments to Please include your name, city and state. In the subject line put “Retirement Rants and Raves.”

Last week, a young single mom within 10 years of retirement asked for help in figuring out how to send her children to college without jeopardizing her retirement savings.

B. D. Vilders of Seattle had some advice. He wrote, “Introduce your children to your local community college (make an appointment with the school’s counselor). Student debt, or worse student loans, guaranteed by the parent is a recipe for either parent disaster or student financial servitude. Many community colleges offer one to two-year certificates that are easily affordable and often tied to jobs and careers more in aligned with needed vocations. Also, have your kids take a long break between high school and attending college. Often called a ‘gap year’ it’s a time to travel and see what’s out there. Not being focused or knowing what you want becomes very expensive if you’re jumping from major to another at a four-year university. Travel gives you the opportunity to firm up your future education and career.”

Loved this perspective from Jim from East Lansing, Mich., who retired at 56 after working for the same school district for 33 years.

“At my age, I have a relatively good health care policy and 60 percent of my gross wages, including an increase of 3 percent each year. Fortunate, I am,” he wrote. “My challenge was not making ends meet, though I did take home less pay. My greatest hurdle was finding a meaningful life with a sense of purpose. I took on two or three different part-time gigs the first two years, but was frustrated with becoming ‘low man on the totem poll’ with a challenging work schedule and poor pay. Three years ago, I took that frustration and channeled it toward volunteering. A Godsend! Sure, even more careful spending combined with no saving, but I found a sense of purpose. The retired colleagues around me have a positive altruism mind-set and my orneriness quickly faded! Doing good trumps part time with too many office politics caveats.”

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