Caring for the elderly

Old woman in wheelchair

Because my Mom elderly, and so are her friends, I hear lots of stories about the costs of elder care.  Here’s one that’s interesting.  I’ll stick to the hearsay facts I learned and let you draw the conclusions.  (And you’re free to tell me that those facts can’t possibly be right.  I have my doubts about them too.)

Mom has some friends who are quite wealthy.  When the husband suddenly decompensated, the wife, acting on the doctor’s recommendations, placed him in a Jewish Home for the Aged.  She placed him there in a rather panicked rush.  She then told my mom how beautiful the facility had become over the last twenty-five years (which is when she had checked it out for her own ailing parents).  Each patient has a private room, the food is good, and the decor is lovely.

Last week my mom’s friend pulled her husband out, returned him to her home, and hired round-the-clock attendants.  Why?  Well, as I heard the story, the Jewish Home wanted to charge her $18,000 a month for her husband’s room and board.  In addition, it was requiring that she pay for the attendant care he required.  As she told my Mom, “I’m a rich woman, but this will break me.”

Rumor has it — and I know nothing more than rumor — that many of the patients in the home are charged only what Medicare will pay.  It is possible, then, that my Mom’s friend, who is wealthy, was being used to subsidize the difference between the Home’s costs and what it received from Medicare.

That’s all I know, plus a little bit of speculation.

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  • JKB

    That fits with what I’ve heard from the elderly I know who’ve dealt with homes.  I saw some of this with my brother but he didn’t last long enough to really get into the system.

  • heather

    I believe it.
    About ten years ago, my husband and I were looking for an apartment to rent.  We noticed that prices varied widely, but that all the lower priced ones had “income qualifications.”
    We found a complex that met our needs, and soon realized that it was divided into two identical-looking sections.  The section that we lived in required about $200 more in rent than the buildings just around the bend in the street.  Your income determined how much rent you paid.  People making just a little less than us actually had more money due to this redistribution.  in this case I believe that the gov’t was the middle man involved in the redistribution, and it seems that your “old folks” home is handling it themselves.
    I don’t think that people realize just how socialist our nation already is.

  • heather

    Also, I’ve heard tales of the elderly giving away all of their money so that they can qualify for Medicare and get into a home.

  • jj

    Is it possible?  Where have you been?  That’s the way it is across the board in American healthcare.  Down in LA not terribly long ago my wife noticed that her pupils were two different sizes – wildly so.  This is often not a good thing so, since we were in the car, we trundled on over to the emergency room at Cedars-Sinai, which was more or less handy.  They agreed that asymmetrical pupils are not a good idea, and this should be looked into.  So, she spent two and half hours sitting on a gurney in the hall in the emergency room, then another half hour or so going and coming from the scan, and actually having the scan.  She was in the place a total of about three hours and fifteen minutes, during which time she spent about ten minutes with the doctor – the rest of it she was sitting on a gurney unwatched, unsupervised, unmonitored, not even a nurse to talk to, or being fed through the MRI.  In the course of her ten minutes with him he ordered the scan.  The bill for this was $7,400.00. 
    Insurance picked up about $2,500.00 of it, and I just flat refused to pay the rest of it.  It led to some interesting conversations between me and Cedars.  Being as politically correct as I am, I did at one point ask the woman on the other end just how many Mexicans they figured I was supposed to pay for.  Equally politically correct, she didn’t miss a beat and told me anywhere from half a dozen to ten was my share.  I declined to play.  I pointed out that for what they’d actually done they had been well – in fact magnificently – compensated, and I didn’t think that, cool as their hall was, they should be charging anybody $2,000 an hour to look at it.  Cedars was also hitting the headlines right about the same time for mis-calibrating their scanners, too, vastly over-irradiating people, so that helped me to make them feel stupid.
    So they quit.  I sent them another $500. because I’m friendly, but the point was, I think, made.  You bet the people who can afford it pick up the bills for those who can’t.  And have been doing so for quite a while.  This is not a new concept.  And Cedars – give them credit – was right out front and honest about it.

  • Spartacus

    “Down in LA not terribly long ago my wife noticed that her pupils were two different sizes – wildly so.”
    Children grow at different rates, and this is perfectly natural.  In any case, sending their teacher through an MRI scan isn’t going to explain it.  Sounds like malpractice.

  • Gringo

    Charging according to one’s ability to pay is also  seen in what people pay for college tuition.
    jj- good story. Seven thousand for ten minutes with an MD does sound a bit high. Just a little.
    That is one reason why many recommend avoiding emergency rooms whenever possible.

  • riw777

    This same sort of thing happens in the construction industry, as well… When we bought our first house, we noted that the neighborhood we were in was divided roughly 75%/25%, with 25% being larger stick built houses on crawl spaces, and the 75% being “tract built” on slabs. We asked about this and were told –“These higher priced houses, being just slightly larger and in the same neighborhood, bring the values of the lower priced ones up. The idea is that someone with less income can buy a house for the actual building cost, and then get an immediate boost in value simply because of the location, which wealthier buyers are paying for.”
    So yes, just another example of socialism at work.
    What I wonder is how many people realize that when you add all these “little” things up –rent, school, housing, medical care, etc.– that there’s a clear income level it’s clearly not good to reach. Below some level, you’re actually receiving so many “breaks,” that you’re better off than if you make a single dollar more.
    I say all this as I’m trying to figure out how to pay for college for my two daughters, who are coming up on that age. I don’t want them in debt over degrees, and yet… I’m too rich to get any sort of aid, and too poor to actually pay for it out of pocket. Saving for it is a joke, tuition is rising faster than I can save…
    As my wife often says, “it pays to be poor in the US.”

  • lethargic

    True dat.  My grandma is in a home for the aged with various levels of care.  Grandma is indigent and has only her SS and Medicaid.  The home takes 80% of her SS and lets her keep 20% for spending money.  Richer people have to pay serious money.  This is standard procedure.

  • Earl

    Spartacus: I actually read it the same way the first time through!!