Financial Hurdles of Aging – Guest Post by Andy Berger of Senior Wellness Specialists

There’s no getting around it, aging is very expensive! Hard fact: Tens of millions of Boomers are stressing out over caring for their parents while at the same time trying to map out a course for themselves for the day they lose their independence. We have officially entered a Tsunami of Seniors. But there is hope.

We’re living longer and paying for increased medical procedures. We also have to place parents in assisted living facilities for special care, where they go through their life’s savings quickly. The fastest growing segment of the aging population is the 85 group. As was pointed out by many of you in your comments, Medicare and Medicaid may not be able to handle the demand placed on them. Signs of problems manifested over a decade ago when Florida and Tennessee put a moratorium on the construction of nursing homes; they had simply begun to run out of money to pay for the care of the elderly. Somehow the rapid growth of the senior population fell under their radar. Further cuts to both programs will take shape by 2012, as Congress tries to balance the national budget.

Suffice it to say a greater burden will be placed on families to take care of their own.  So much for parents not wanting to be a burden to their kids or to be an inconvenience to friends.

It’s been reported in the various media time and again that compared with their parents’ generation, Boomers have amassed significantly greater wealth. It’s fair to say, in light of current economic hardships placed on them, they will now have to strike a balance between the dream of a fun, relaxed lifestyle and the changing realities that aging has brought to the landscape.

The government has incentives for families that decide to take in loved ones who would otherwise be placed in a nursing home. It is significantly less expensive to write a monthly check to the family than to pay for the 24/7 care provided at a nursing home.

Other new concepts in senior living are also emerging. In the planning stages in Florida is a village where seniors live on their own in lushly landscaped suburban communities and are able bundle all expenses at discounted rates with their neighbors. This would include doctor visits, transportation, entertainment, etc. Homes are universally designed and technologically enhanced so residents can age safely, worry-free in a 21st Century approach to senior living.

Less costly alternatives to assisted living and nursing homes exist. Concierge programs and services allow you to live independently in your own home through technological innovations that make it possible to stay connected to loved ones and friends.

Long-term care insurance providers are also taking a fresh new look at selling policies that will help pay for expenses related to aging. If purchased by people in their 30s and 40s the costs would be very reasonable. Let’s all try to be better prepared for the second half of our lives.

This guest post was authored by Andy Berger of Senior Wellness Specialists.

Senior Care – Evaluating a Person’s Ability to “Safely Drive”

Many of my elderly patients seem to take comfort in the fact that they “no longer drive at night,” or “only drive in the community.”  I am not certain that these self-imposed restrictions actually provide any major reduced risk or protective benefits. In Florida, with a lack of public access transportation, giving up your car is giving up your ability to get around.   It’s also perceived by most elderly as giving up their independence.

As part of a routine office visit, I’ll ask my elderly infirm patients “How did you get to the office today”? A common response is that they are still driving independently.  This same patient, who needs assistance getting up the building’s ramp and a 60 minute appointment just to get out of their clothes and into a gown for an examination, is guiding a 5,000 pound vehicle on the roads.

Unfortunately, there’s very little data available that provides guidelines as to when an elderly infirm person should stop driving.  There is even less data supplied by the State of Florida’s Department of Motor Vehicles.

It is clear that after a neurologic event such as a seizure or loss of consciousness there is a state mandated cooling off period before you are permitted back behind the wheel. It is less clear in an individual with diminished hearing, diminished  eyesight  and diminished flexibility whether they should be driving and how much?

Thus, I was pleased to learn that the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles and a local rehabilitation facility run a State supported Senior Adaptive Driving Program. Pine Crest Rehabilitation Hospital in Delray Beach runs a comprehensive driver evaluation and instruction program. It is far more individualized and comprehensive than the programs run for seniors by their auto insurance companies.

In the Program, trained professionals thoroughly evaluate the person’s abilities to safely drive and help adapt the vehicle to assist the senior. If the professionals say you are good to go then you are qualified and capable. If you are not qualified to drive, they begin the process of rescinding your license.

When patients’ children contact me with their concerns about their parents’ driving abilities I refer them for this evaluation all the time. I highly recommend it for those of you questioning your driving abilities or those of your elderly loved ones.