Dealing with the Challenges of Aging
October 15, 2019 | by Thomas Day
Every working day at the National Care Planning Council we receive numerous requests from the public for assistance for aging seniors. Most of these requests are submissions of online forms for our members which go directly to their emails. Some of these requests come directly to us. And somewhere between 3 to 10 email or phone requests a day come from individuals seeking where to find information on veterans benefits.
Virtually all of our requests for information on veterans benefits come from distraught family members who are seeking help for their elderly loved ones, who are either veterans or survivors of veterans. Close to 26% of the approximately 50 million individuals in this country, age 65 or older, are veterans or their survivors. These veterans and survivors come from all walks of life and are therefore a representative cross-section of the entire senior community. Typically, I field a number of requests every day on the phone. I end up directing people where to find information that will help them. If these individuals need specific assistance, I turn them over to others who specialize in helping veterans. Talking with these people gives me a good insight into the needs of a significant slice of our senior population.
So what have I learned about the challenges facing aging seniors over the years from talking with their children or sometimes with the seniors themselves? For the most part, the children and sometimes the seniors themselves are reaching out for help because they don't know where to turn for this help. Community senior services are highly fragmented. There is no one single source for finding these services. In addition, most senior service providers don't make enough income to advertise their services. As a result it is hard to find support resources for aging seniors such as, government funding sources, government and private eldercare providers, housing and transportation, legal services, home maintenance and support, long-term care facilities and the list goes on.
Over the 17 years that the National Care Planning Council has been in existence, I have communicated with perhaps thousands of mostly children of aging seniors looking for these support resources for their aging loved ones. Here is a brief summary of what I have learned.
- Many aging seniors, especially those of advanced age, are living on subsistence income with the source often being only Social Security. I am absolutely astounded by the number of widows who are surviving on $900-$1300 a month. I don't know how they do it.
- Many aging seniors are in debt, primarily because their fixed incomes do not keep pace with their expenses. I am surprised by the number of older seniors who have line of credit mortgages on their homes or who have a lot of outstanding consumer debt.
- Many of these aging seniors have spent all of their retirement savings, including reverse mortgage proceeds, and need extra income to pay for the demanding out-of-pocket costs for prescription drugs and Medicare insurance plans.
- Most of the inquiries we receive are for assistance with eldercare. Typically inquiries are from family members who are in crisis mode because they cannot find care services to keep their loved ones at home or they can no longer pay for care services to keep their loved ones at home. If the elderly loved ones owned a home, that home has often been sold in order to create cash to pay for long-term care services or to pay for out-of-pocket medical expenses.
In future articles I will go into more detail on ideas to help aging seniors and their families find the community resources they need. I will also devote several articles on resources that are available to veterans and their survivors. In addition, based on my experience over the years, I will provide some insight in future articles on how individuals or families might do some planning prior to retirement to lessen the challenges of aging.