Okay, so if you’re a born-again believer, you’re probably gleefully envisioning heaven or are at least adding “if the Lord tarries” to the question. And if you’re not, and you’re over 40, you may be counting on moving in with your children or enjoying a living arrangement like the Golden Girls’ of 1980s TV fame.
But just say none of these alternatives pans out, and you find yourself unable to live on your own. Will a decent nursing home be an option for you?
The truth is that only God knows for sure. If our economy crashes and the Huns
overrun our country, all bets are off. But let’s keep playing make believe and pretend that America’s still the Beautiful and we still have some viable financial resources to work with. What’s likely to be available?
It turns out to be a disturbing question.
On the one hand, the demand for nursing-home care is expected to more than double by 2050, according to a study by JAMA and the Kaiser Foundation.
On the other hand, the supply looks like it’s destined to dwindle. A long-term-care insurance expert in Green Bay, Wisconsin, points out that a third of U.S. nursing homes are already, at best, showing no profit. The rest are losing money, thanks to dwindling Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates.
And don’t count on the government. County-owned nursing homes across the country are already losing money, with many struggling to survive and some already closing their doors.
What will happen when we're ready for these services?
As one columnist put it several years ago, the question is "literally schools versus nursing homes."
Who do you suppose will win in this contest? Will the "elderly problem" ultimately move the U.S. ten steps closer to being "just like Europe"?