Movement to help elderly age in place gives me hope | Insightful Investing

By Jeffrey Moormeier | Oct 04, 2017

There may be more options for end-of-life planning than you think. This sounds horrible as I see it in writing. I started this journey of weighing end-of-life health care options as the debate over the Affordable Care Act was, and still is, an open subject.

I don’t know the right answer. Good people disagree on the topic. Those who have good health care and have planned accordingly are put off by those who expect free health care for everyone. A reasonable person knows there is no such thing as a free lunch.

It is a complex subject. It is my opinion that we are moving closer and closer to socialized medicine. My concern lies with my client’s interests. I want them to know of the risks and available options because a wrong move can have disastrous consequences.

After I penned my first column on this topic in July, I received a suggestion from a reader to find Atul Gawande’s book “Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End.”

I bought the audio version the next day and have been listening to it. Atul is a physician who comes at this topic from his training as a medical doctor. He also comes at it from a cultural perspective different from our Western, independent mindset.

My parents and grandparents always said, “I don’t want to be a burden to my family when I get older.” As a financial advisor, I am trained to help people marshal their resources in such a way that they can remain independent as long as possible. This would include cash savings for emergencies, Medicare, Medicare supplements, long-term care and so forth.

Gawande’s book goes through the history of how our elders were treated as they aged. He freely admits that his medical training had not prepared him for the eventuality we all face. By default, the aged ended up on the door step of the medical community, which is unprepared to meet all the real needs of the aged. He chronicles the history of older people living in poor houses through to the current environment of assisted living.

He is also spearheading a brand new idea called “The Village Movement” – www.helpfulvillage.com/the_village_movement. The basic idea of this movement is that the elderly stay connected within their normal environment for as long as possible. But this can be a bit tricky.

My father, who died at 90, was cared for by my mother for as long as she could physically manage. There came a day when she realized it was not possible because his needs were too great. His last few months were in a 24-hour care facility.

My mother had a different story. She had five children – two girls and three boys – all of whom lived within a few miles of her, save for one daughter three hours away. She lived alone after my father died and needed assisted living at the end. She hated it and resented us for insisting.

For the last seven months of her life, she moved between the hospital, assisted living and the hospice facility where she died. She had good care in fine facilities, yet she hated every minute of it. Why? She was isolated and disconnected from her normal environment, even though there were plenty of people around. They were strangers to her. She was safe, but she was lonely.

Now let me talk about a friend of mine. Betty is a vibrant, 73-year-old widow with one daughter who lives in Texas. Betty lives in Seattle in one of the most pleasant neighborhoods near the University of Washington, where her husband was a professor. She lives in a beautiful, 100-year-old craftsman home that has an original kitchen, staircase and basement. She intends to stay in her home as long as she can, even though some of her friends and neighbors have passed away or moved on. She has been there close to 50 years.

Betty is considering joining “The Village Movement,” her local Village support community. Villages are membership-driven grassroots organizations run by volunteers and paid staff that do everything possible to allow seniors to stay in their homes as they age.

When I spoke with Betty about this topic, I mentioned that I was in the process of reading Atul Gawande’s book and was fascinated by the idea of a community-based organization that shares this heartfelt need. She mentioned that the normal member is a 74-year-old single female. Chuckling, she reminded me she was only 73.

My mother’s biggest complaint at the end of her life was that her friends never came to see her anymore. Since she was 14 years younger than my father and most of their friends were his age, I reminded her that they couldn’t see, hear or drive. They were 30 miles away and in worse shape than she was. Or they had already died. It didn’t matter; she still felt lonely and forgotten.

All this suggests there are alternatives we have yet to consider. And as a baby boomer, I am quite sure our generation will change this landscape, too.

 

Jeffrey Moormeier of JG Moormeier Financial is a Mukilteo-based financial advisor affiliated with KMS Financial Services, an SEC registered investment adviser. His column does not represent the opinions of KMS Financial Services, nor is it an official prediction or recommendation of any kind. The opinions expressed in this column are generalizations. For advise catered to your specific financial circumstances, contact Jeff directly at jeff@jgmoormeier.com or 425-931-8898.

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