Nikkei Manor founders Tosh and Toshi Okamoto. • Courtesy Photo
Nikkei Manor founders Tosh and Toshi Okamoto. • Courtesy Photo

Tosh and Toshi Okamoto have been married for 67 years and couldn’t imagine being apart now. They are currently residents of Nikkei Manor, a senior residential facility in Seattle’s International District. They are also two of the founders of Keiro Northwest (formerly Nikkei Concerns) that oversees Nikkei Manor and other senior health and wellness programs including the Keiro Rehabilitation & Care Center. They are able to live comfortably in one of the facility’s single bedroom apartments. Tosh and Toshi rely on personal savings to cover the cost of their care.
 
Washington State’s older adult population is set to double in the next 25 years. According to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 70% of Washingtonians over 65 will need long term care services. One-third of Americans age 40 and older have reported doing little or no planning for their long term care needs and less than 8% have long term care insurance.
 
Staying in a facility like Nikkei Manor isn’t an option for everyone. It is one of only a handful of facilities in the area catering to the unique needs of Asian American seniors. As a result, it’s very popular and there is currently a waiting list to get in. As with most assisted living facilities, there are a limited number of apartments available for people on Medicaid, and three years of private pay status is required before a senior is considered for a room.

For many seniors, finding an affordable, high-quality option for long term care is daunting. According to a recent Cost of Care survey by Genworth, in 2015, a month in a nursing home cost nearly $10,000. Assisted living private rates averaged $4,625 per month, and home care service rates were comparable. If the average Washington citizen requires two years of care, families face costs of between $100,000 and $200,000 or more, regardless of their long term care setting.
 
Without personal savings like the Okamotos, many seniors rely on social security for their care. In 2015, the average social security payment was $1,328 per month. Long term care insurance is costly and Medicare doesn’t cover the cost of long term care. Relative caregiving is a huge financial and emotional burden on the caregiver. Many families have no choice but to spend down their savings to qualify for Medicaid-funded care.
 
The good news is, Washington State is working to lessen some of the stress seniors and caregivers have when it comes to paying for long term care. Hawai‘i lawmakers are currently debating whether to become the first state in the United States to provide a long term care benefit for seniors, in the amount of $70 a day. This is one of the possibilities Washington lawmakers could consider.

Later this year, the Legislature will receive the results of a study exploring long term care financing options that will help Washington seniors plan now for peace of mind later. That report will provide important insights and recommendations for the 2017 legislative session. The bill to fund the study was endorsed by Washingtonians for a Responsible Future, a coalition of aging and disability advocates, long term care providers, labor organizations, and consumer rights organizations seeking to protect the financial health and well-being of individuals and families who need long-term care.
 
For more information or for ways to get involved, visit the Washingtonians for a Responsible Future Facebook page.

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