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I-Team 10 investigation: Senior Sticker Shock

Posted at: 08/06/2012 6:50 AM
Updated at: 08/07/2012 9:05 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

An I-Team10 investigation looks into the sticker shock that so many people face when they are  thrust into the position of putting their parents into a nursing home or assisted living facility.

We met a woman who was suddenly forced to find a safe place for her father to live. She started calling a dozen nursing homes and assisted living facilities and that's when she realized that her father's care was going to take a ton of money.

"It was very stressful," Alicia Memmott said. "There were just times where I just sat in my car and just cried because I didn't know what to do and I was just worried about him."

Alicia's father -- George LaFleur -- is a World War Two veteran who raised a family and worked just about everyday of his life. But when he started falling several months ago, Alicia and her sister knew it was too much for them to look after. So they were forced to find a place for him to stay.

Alicia says the conversations at local nursing homes and assisted living centers were polite but the questions always went straight to money.

"Does he have 100 grand in the bank?"

"Does he have 100 grand in the bank? Does he have $150,000 in the bank? How much does he have in the bank? He doesn't. He has a few thousand dollars. Well I'm sorry, we can't accept him," Alicia said, recounting the conversations.

Like most people, Alicia didn't plan for this. She thought the cost would be paid by medicare, medicaid or her father's supplemental insurance. After all -- he spent his life paying into the system.

"He just worked his whole life and now when he needed help, legitimate help, it was hard to find."

George LaFleur is at Grande Ville -- an assisted living center in Greece. He pays $2,600 a month. But his social security only covers $1,100 of that, leaving Alicia and her family to figure out how to make up the difference.

"You need to have all your ducks in a row," Grande Ville Administrator Tina Brown said. "You need to have a good idea of what mom and dad's financial portfolio consists of."

There is a difference between a nursing home and an assisted living facility. But the costs are straight forward and we wanted to show you exactly what the bottom lines are.
So here's a sample of the numbers we found.

Nursing Homes

St. Ann's: $405/day, $147,000/year.
St. John's: $390/day, $142,000/year.
Shore Winds (Charlotte, the least expensive we found and 90% of clients get medicaid) $300/day (private room), $110,000/year.

You could buy a house for that kind of money. Most of it is private pay and the more expensive places want you to prove that you have at least one year's pay in the bank. They'll take medicaid -- but you have to be on it already.

Assisted Living

Episcopal Senior Life: $3,900/month, $46,800/year
Atria (Greece): $4,00/month, $55,200/year
Rochester Presbyterian Home: $2,325/month, $27,900/year

"I think we view the cost as somewhat of a value," said Rochester Presbyterian Home program director Jim Owens.

We asked him to explain why nursing homes and assisted living is seemingly so expensive. He gets the same question from his clients and he says his answer reduces the sticker shock.

"We provide meals, house keeping, medication, supervision, full supervision, staff. Here we have nurses around the clock. So I think when they see that and they see the cost which ranges from $2325 to around $4400, they see that as a value," Owens said.

"It's not just the accommodations that they're staying in," Grande Ville's Tina Brown said. "You're paying for service. You're paying for someone to be with mom and dad and take of them 24 hours a day."

Alicia's father pays $2,600 a month at Grande Ville. But his social security only covers $1,100 of that, leaving Alicia and her family to figure out how to make up the difference.

"It's just something my parents never brought up to us," she said. "We never brought it up to them. We were just living life one day at a time. I definitely wish we had thought of this before."

So, what should you do?

Coming up next in part two of "Senior Sticker Shock" (Tuesday night after the Olympics) we'll give you advice on how you can plan and protect the money your parents have saved their whole life. And you'll see the little known benefit that Alicia found to cover the $1,400 gap for her father's care. And we know it can help thousands of people in our area.