Three Reasons Seniors are Failing to Cope in Their Final Years
February 12, 2021 | by Thomas Day
If a senior or a senior couple is relying on investments and savings to augment income such as Social Security or pensions, and for various reasons those retirement accounts did not produce the anticipated results, many seniors find themselves in a bind in their later years where they are unable seek employment to make up the difference.
Income might also not be keeping pace due to an unwanted accumulation of debt, particularly credit card debt. For whatever reason, banks have been particularly liberal about issuing credit cards to older individuals who may not have the capacity to service debt. The debt may have been necessary because of a major home repair, or unforeseen high medical bills, or because of a bad investment due to unreasonable expectations, or exploitation from those who prey on the poor decision-making of seniors. Servicing debt is a major drawdown on income.
Another major factor for inadequate funds could be that income flow from year-to-year is not keeping pace with inflation. This is particularly true for seniors on Social Security or fixed pensions who must pay for the high cost of medical care. The cost of seniors’ medical care, due to aging, increases faster than yearly increases in Social Security. Also, in some areas, the cost of maintaining a household due to higher utility bills, higher taxes and higher maintenance costs rises faster than the cost-of-living adjustments in Social Security income. The latest yearly increase in social security income was a mere 1.3%.
Health can deteriorate over a period of time or can change suddenly. Sudden unexpected changes in health might be from a cancer diagnosis, a heart attack or stroke, or some other acute health issue.
Health that deteriorates slowly will eventually result in chronic disability – the inability of the senior to care for his or her own physical needs. Chronic disability often requires someone acting as a caregiver to assist in such things as dressing, bathing, toileting, ambulating, needing help with incontinence, preparing meals, paying bills, shopping, running errands and so on. This need for a caregiver usually requires making some major decisions for the remainder of that person’s life. Generally, chronic health failure over a long period of time is not going to reverse itself and will only get worse, resulting in a permanent need for caregiving. Common contributors to chronic disability can be musculoskeletal disorders such as arthritis, joint deterioration, muscle deterioration or back pain.
A worsening of health for a senior – especially a senior of advanced age – will typically trigger the need for intervention and the need for making some serious permanent decisions about living arrangements, care costs, government support and family support.
Seniors can lose their independence simply because of advanced age and a general weakness and frailty – requiring intervention and support from others. A more common cause of losing independence, however, is dementia. The risk of dementia or a loss of cognitive capacity increases considerably as one grows older. For aged seniors who are age 80 and above, the risk of dementia is almost 50%. This means almost half of all aged seniors are experiencing some form of cognitive impairment – either mild or severe.
Families often wait too long before intervening to help the aged senior to maintain independence. Perhaps it is because the family is in denial or perhaps it is because they hope it will go away or perhaps it is due to a desire not to offend. As part of the planning process, all families should prepare for the contingency of their loved ones losing their independence and should be ready to step in at the appropriate time. Unfortunately, very few families plan for this.
For example, both the average cost for home care and assisted living for a single occupant in the U.S. is about $4,000 per month. Often, these types of living and care arrangements are crucial as these services can adequately provide memory care and assistance with activities of daily living. $48,000 per year in new expenses can really impact a budget.
Members of the National Care Planning Council Can Help Solve Many of These Issues
A financial services practitioner, care manager, elder law attorney, placement specialist, eldercare service, home care agency, Medicaid planner, or a geriatric health care practitioner can help solve a lot of the issues addressed above. These professionals are experienced with helping aging seniors cope with the challenges they face in their final years of life and can guide family members or other supporters of aging seniors as they help their loved ones as they age.