As researchers look for hopeful clues from the past as to why dementia was not as prevalent or costly decades ago, the truth today is that the country is in the midst of an “epidemic of dementia.” Few Americans perceive how widespread it is because it begins on a micro level — family to family. Without an effective means to connect shared experiences, families are unable advocate and influence critical changes at both the state and national level. Some in the media write about dementia’s prevalence. Few detail its far-reaching, financial impact. Economists track the instability of the macro-economy while woefully unaware of the shadow economic crisis that is deepening from town-to-town and state-to-state across America that rocks the foundations of families..
A tsunami of health care debt is welling to a point where it will undermine the national economy. Families are already caught in the undertow. Forbes Contributor, Todd Hixon, warns: “If the trends of the last 20 years continue, health care spending will eat up U.S. GDP in our children’s lifetimes.”
It is far more complicated than economic charts reveal. Lost amid high demands for a “cure” for dementia and Alzheimer’s are the hard realities of the high costs for the “care” that is required until a cure is found. Nationwide, unexpected needs of loved ones suffering from gradual to severe to debilitating memory loss have families emotionally and financially torn. The wealthy have a financial cushion. The poor have a government safety net that financially covers their needs. The middle-class is left adrift to fend for itself. Anger builds at a government spending large in Washington using American’s tax dollars to become the world’s caretaker while abandoning its own people in need. As the economic and health crisis worsens, America’s middle-class is forced to financially support burgeoning groups of global dependents who leave their countries to seek America’s health care and welfare dollars at a time when American families do not have or receive enough money to care for their own.
The article “Scamming Alzheimer’s” (Restoring Liberty – Jan 5, 2016) reveals that, “Many forms of dementia are today claiming more people than at any time in the history of the disease.” Studies show that one form of dementia, Alzheimer’s, alone increased 68% over ten years while, according to the U.S. Census, the elder population only increased by 15.1%.”
It is established fact that most patients with memory related brain diseases require long-term, high-skilled and supervised attention at substantial costs. Slammed the hardest, middle-income wage-earners insist that nobody in Washington understands the urgency of how tough it has become for them and their families as this unexpected health care crisis drains incomes and savings.
Economists warn that so goes the middle-class, so goes the country. The question is: How goes the middle-class in today’s economy as it faces this mounting, financial headwind?
· America’s shrinking middle-class is now “in the minority for the first time ever” according to Pew Research Center.
· The average worker’s wages have remained flat or down for ten years.
· Fewer Americans are working since 1977 while “the percentage of adult Americans actively looking for a job stands at 62.6 percent, the lowest level in nearly four decades.”
· The number of Americans in poverty continues to grow.
· Single female heads of households are significantly poorer and face greater challenges providing aid to an elderly parent or grandparent that is in need of care.
“Hand-to-mouth nation: Roughly 40 percent of US households live paycheck to paycheck but two thirds of these families are not considered poor by economic definitions.” — My Budget 360
The struggle becomes can adult-children sock a few dollars away for the long-term care of an aging parent, apply it towards their teen’s college fund, or save for their own retirement and potential future illness and care needs. The demand for dollars exceeds the supply.
Many Americans do not know that neither Medicare nor Medicaid help foot the bill for skilled, ongoing long-term care except under the most dire of circumstances. Once financially depleted and living at the poverty level, only then can an individual or their family seek government dollars to help pay for continuing long-term care. Stringent Medicaid qualifications require that an individual be legally poor as well as mentally or physically incapacitated.
Americans remain on borrowed time with a shrinking workforce that is kowtowed to ever-increasing government spending and decades of waste by this and former administrations. In the face of long-term care for their loved ones, inflation, mounting taxation, unemployment and underemployment have placed a rising burden of debt on multiple generations. Despite the ballyhoo about wealthy seniors, the reality is, the majority of our elders and their families have small nest eggs, if any, in the way of savings.
The rapid increase in dementia and other brain diseases is occurring at a time when middle-income American’s discretionary spending is being tapped out. For growing numbers of families nationwide, long-term health care costs, both inside and outside of the home, are unsustainable:
“On average, nursing home costs would consume 246 percent of the median annual household income of older adults. Home care generally is more affordable than nursing home care, allowing consumers to stretch their dollars further. But at an average of 84 percent of median income, the typical older family cannot sustain these costs for long periods. This finding has profound implications for the entire LTSS system [Long-Term Services and Supports]. States have limited ability to control the costs of care for those who pay privately.” — Raising Expectations, 2014
The cost of long-term, skilled nursing care for people with dementia and Alzheimer’s averages $5000 a month which equals $60,000 a year. The latest data from Social Security reports that 51% of working Americans now make less than $30,000 a year. Bankruptcy looms for households nationwide as economists warn that the American consumer is already on the edge. The NY Federal Reserve’s Consumer Expectations Survey reports that “household income expectations have fallen.” Spending growth expectations have plunged to record lows.
Discretionary income that would otherwise go towards purchases in the marketplace, entertainment, travel, charities or into investments is being diverted into the massive care system. Large and small businesses are denied additional consumer dollars that might have otherwise come their way. As a result, a deepening economic crisis is taking root.
The bottom line. America’s ability to provide for American families and their elderly loves ones is threatened by a shrinking tax base and a government that increasingly funds and prioritizes global need. America must provide care and protection for its own, in particular for those unable to care for themselves. It is inherent upon members of Congress, State Legislators and economists to factor this shadow economic crisis into the nation’s current and future planning. It is incumbent upon American families to demand it.
Sharon Sebastian, author of the book, “AGING: WARNING– Navigating Life’s Medical, Mental & Financial Minefields,” is a columnist, commentator, and contributor in print and on nationwide broadcasts on topics ranging from healthcare, culture, religion, and politics to domestic and global policy. Sebastian’s political and cultural analyses are published nationally and internationally. Website: www.AgingWarning.com