When an Aging Parent is Suddenly Widowed The cost of staying at home vs. an Assisted Living Facility
Awkward transitions, including end-of-life transitions, have a way of hitting us on the head with the subtlety of a sledge hammer. And when aging Dad is suddenly widowed, you pull out your contingency plan and, together with your siblings who each now their exact responsibilities for a crisis of this nature, you go to work.
What, no fully agreed upon and updated contingency plan? Oh-oh, prepare to be put through the grinder.
First things first though: where is Dad going to live?
There is a “temperamental rule of thumb” that serves as a good starting guide. This has it that if Dad is of the extroverted type who would benefit from exposure to others and from an elaborate regimen of social activities, you may first want to consider an Assisted Living Facility (ALF). On the other hand, Dad may be cantankerous and old style, preferring to do his own thing, so to speak, in which case by all means delve deeply into the stay-at-home option.
The cost of caring for Dad at home
Here again there is a “let’s be realistic rule of thumb”. This calls for a quick assessment of how much time you are prepared to devote to helping to manage Dad’s life from this point on. If the answer is not all that much, because you might be living in a different state or be too preoccupied with your career and other home responsibilities, then you had better start getting in touch with home care agencies -or, alternatively, start visiting the ALFs in your neighborhood.
The cost of an agency Certified Nursing Assistant (CAN) is about $20 an hour. If Dad thus needs help at the rate of 4 hours a day, let us say for 7 days a week, the agency caregiver would cost you $2400 a month. If Dad needs say 8 hours a day, the cost would come to $4,800.
In addition, don’t kid yourself into thinking that hiring privately would be a cinch. Sure there would be good savings, but you’d have to vet, screen and interview endlessly, only to vet, screen and interview again every time the old boy kicks his caregiver out –or she decides life is too short, and she’s not going to take it any longer, as frequently happens when the care recipient is too demanding.
The Assisted living option
Let’s say you neither want a BMW nor a Honda Civic, but rather something in the middle. You can count on an ALF costing somewhere between $5,000 and $7,000 a month, so say $6,000/month.
That would compare with at-home Dad requiring 8 hours a day of an agency caregiver ($4,800) which, when added to other home costs (mortgage payments, home maintenance costs, and more), would come more or less close to the ALF. If Dad requires less assistance, then, there would be significant savings for Dad staying at home.
What if you’re undecided?
The best thing to do when there is massive hesitation in that regard is to let your old man have the final say: talk him into trying a preferred ALF to see how he might like it or, better still, hire a caregiver for a week or so to see if that can be made to work.