Story by KEN MOCHIZUKI
Examiner Staff
Are you baby boomers ready to get old, or ready to care for aging family members?

“Options For Aging Services,” a two-hour seminar held at the Kawabe Memorial House on Saturday, Sept. 30 put the baby boomer generation on notice to confront some issues it may be reluctant to face. The seminar, sponsored by the Memorial House and Nikkei Concerns, featured eight professionals who deal with the local aging population.

Jackie Lum, an investment representative specializing in retirement planning, announced he had some good news and bad news for the audience of over 50 listeners. The good: “You are going to live a lot longer than you think.” The bad: “You are going to have to pay for it.”

Holding up the obituary page of a local newspaper, he counted that, out of the 13 obituaries, three quarters of those who had died were 80 years old and older. He cited national statistics that read that if a person is 65 years old and female, “you will live 22 more years. If you make it to 86, you will have seven more years.”

Lum continued that there are 76 million baby boomers in the United States, and those 65 years old and older have increased by 40 percent in Washington State. “There will be a lot of competition for the kinds of services you will want and demand,” he said. “And the competition will be fierce.”

Connie Devaney, executive director of Kawabe Memorial House, said “Washington state has more options and services than most other states,” but that it is “common to put off aging issues until a crisis.” It is time to place a loved one in a senior care facility, she said, when health needs can’t be met at home, the caregiver is exhausted, or the caregiver or the one being cared for are no longer safe.

She outlined the three options for senior care facilities: “independent living, “which usually maintains an on-site staff (retirement communities fall under this category) and residency is determined by age and income-level; “assisted living,” which includes staff that come in and assist patients in their living quarters; and “skilled care” – the nursing homes.

Toni Crutchfield, caregiver advocate for Senior Services of Seattle/King County, said those 85 years old and older comprise the “fastest growing segment of the population” and that “caregivers often die first.” Caregivers can find assistance and support from agencies such as Senior Services of Seattle/King County or through Web sites belonging to government agencies such as the Washington State Department of Social and Health Services, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development or www.seniorservices.org.

“If you are the caregiver, take care of yourself,” she said. “If something happens to you, who’s going to take care of your loved one?”

Sam Wan, chief executive officer of Kin On Health Care Center and Community Care Network of Kin On, said that for someone between 50 and 65 years old, there is a 10 percent chance that person will need long-term care, 40 percent if 65 years old or older, 80 percent if over 85 years old.

When selecting an assisted living facility, “make sure you know what they are talking about – the service package,” he said. “What are your needs, and how much do you want to pay for it?” Residency in a skilled nursing facility costs an average of $200 a day in King County, Wan said. A skilled nursing facility would cost $60,000 a year, he said. Assisted living: $35,000 – $40,000; home health outpatient visits (three times a day): $22,000; nurse visits three times a week: $22,000; home health aid (assistance with household chores): $10,000; adult daycare (three days a week): $9,000.

Those needing long term care can have most of their costs covered by Medicaid, Wan said, however, Medicaid “is based on need and income,” with “income and asset limits.” Bill Coulter, a long term care insurance consultant, said facilities such as assisted living “can discriminate against Medicaid” patients. He advised that those who are between 50 and 70 years old to start researching long term care policies.

There is a one in 1,250 chance that a person will file an insurance claim for a home fire, he said, a one in 250 chance for an auto insurance claim, a one in 17 chance that a medical insurance claim will be filed, and a one in two chance long term life insurance will be used if a woman, and one in three chance if a man.

Lum advised to financially “plan for yourself – you will live longer than you think.” Does a person have the finances to retire, and by when? If retired, is it enough? What improvements can be made – “spend less or earn more?” And if changes are necessary financially, “what will it cost?”

“Use some forethought while you have the luxury of time,” he said.

Crutchfield recalled when her mother was discovered near death on the floor of her mother’s home. She remembered she “couldn’t say” whether medics should resuscitate her or not, since no “durable power of attorney” in a Living Will was designated to make that decision. Alma Kimura, an attorney specializing in wills, stressed the importance of making legal arrangements as to the wishes of a person upon death, and who inherits the property of a deceased person.

When drafting a will, she said it is typical for many in the local Asian American community to state, “I don’t have much.”

“My clients have a lot more than they acknowledge to themselves or their children,” Kimura said.

Sid Ko, manager of Asian community affairs for Bonney-Watson Funeral Home, said he hoped seminars such as this one would “plant seeds” in the minds of audience members to “think about what’s important – who do we want to take care of things for us.”
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