Could You Afford Home Health Care? Maybe Not

THURSDAY, June 6, 2019 (HealthDay News) — The seniors most likely to need paid home care to maintain independent living are the least likely to be able to afford it long-term, a new study reports.

Only two out of five older adults with significant disabilities have the assets on hand to pay for at least a couple of years of extensive in-home care, researchers found.

Without some help, those elderly are much more likely to wind up in a nursing home, said lead researcher Richard Johnson. He is a senior fellow with the Urban Institute’s Income and Benefits Policy Center, in Washington, D.C.

“We have this perception that the risk of becoming frail is evenly distributed across the population, but it’s really not,” Johnson said. “It is more concentrated among people with less education, lower lifetime earnings and less wealth.”

Aging folks increasingly want to stay out of nursing homes as their health declines, maintaining their independence by living in their own houses, Johnson said.

But there hasn’t been a large increase in the number who are shelling out for paid home care, national statistics show.

To see why that might be, Johnson and his colleagues turned to data gathered by the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research.

The researchers broke paid home care down into three scenarios: limited care of 25 hours each month costing $475; moderate care of 90 hours a month costing $1,170; and extensive care of 250 hours per month costing $4,750 per month.

Initial results looked promising.

The investigators found that 74% of all seniors aged 65 and older could afford at least two years of moderate home care if they cashed in all their assets, and 58% could afford two years of extensive home care.

Then the researchers turned their attention to people most likely to need home care — those suffering from severe dementia or who require help with two or more activities of daily living. These activities can include eating, bathing, dressing, using the toilet, getting out of a chair or walking across a room, Johnson said.

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