My friend John — a young boomer — is learning Czech.
He’s not learning Czech because he loves the language. He’s learning it because his mom’s main home aide has gone back to the Czech Republic to clear up some family problems, and the main aide recommended a woman who speaks only Czech as her temporary replacement.
John went on a Web forum for caregivers to ask what he should do, whether he should look harder for a fill-in aide who can speak some English. The other, more experienced caregivers on the forum told him: Get real. Learn Czech.
If you have a dependable, kind aide that you like and can afford, you do what you can to keep that aide, the veteran caregivers told him.
John wondered, vaguely, what putting his mother in a nursing home might cost him. He noodled around on his phone while we were at brunch, ended up on a website posted by Genworth Financial Inc., Richmond, Va. (NYSE:GNW). Genworth informed him that the median annual cost of a private nursing home room in John’s mother’s state is now about $140,000.
John then started musing about the cost of long-term care in Mexico.
The people who help run the long-term care insurance (LTCI) operation at Genworth understand exactly what John’s going through: They’re going through it, too, with their own parents, at a time when the economy is in the doldrums, the
nation as a whole is too scared to think about an investment with a payoff likely to come more than about 30 days in the future, and rating analysts and securities analysts do cartwheels and somersaults when insurers announce they are getting out of the LTCI market.
Genworth sent a team into New York recently to announce that it was taking an inexpensive, risk-free, but potentially life-saving component of its LTCI business — the LTC information, counseling and assessment services program — and marketing that component as a stand-alone LTC life preserver through an affiliate of AARP, Washington.
AARP President W. Lee Hammond dutifully presented caregiving statistics similar to those he has presented many, many times before.
“There are 4 kinds of people in the world,” Hammond said. “Those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who are going to need care. In other words, caregiving is an issue that’s going to affect virtually all of us at some point in our life.”
In the United States, relatives and friends are already helping to provide informal care for 10 million Americans, and that care has a value of about $450 billion per year, Hammond said.
“In 2040, the number receiving care will likely be more than 20 million,” Hammond said.
AARP surveys conducted for about a decade show that most Americans know little about any kind of LTC, including caregiving, Hammond said.
Amy Goyer, a blogger and official AARP “family expert,” tried to break through the soundproof glass wall between caregivers and everyone else by talking about her life as the daughter of two rapidly aging parents. She has had to move to Phoenix, from Washington, to be with them, and, even though she has been a specialist in aging issues for years, she was not sure where to turn for information about the Phoenix LTC market when her parents started to need more help than she could provide on her own.