“In 1990 there were slightly more than 3 million Americans over the age of 85. Now there are almost 6 million. By 2050 there will be 19 million approaching 5 percent of the population” This year, the cost of dementia care will be $200 billion, by 2050 $1 trillion. And today’s 5 million demented will catapult to upwards of 15 million by 2050.”

I read this article in New York Magazine and was blown away with its absolute honesty. As much as I want to bury my head about the choices we face with our aging population – and avoid the reality of what writer Michael Wolff is talking about – I couldn’t stop reading.  Wolff’s mother, once vibrant, is now non-functioning, her demise is tearing at his heart strings, challenging his family dynamics, costing a fortune, and causing him to question what this means for us. He talks about how non-resolution on this topic is costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and his personal nightmare raises the issue for all boomers – what’s going to happen to us?

I’ve been debating the Long Term Care (LTC) Insurance should we or shouldn’t we issue with my husband all year.  He says absolutely NOT. He’s not buying it. His argument is that the statistics show that by the time the insurance kicks in most people die. I am thinking — is this financially sound– because if he’s wrong and health care support may be needed for a long time period,  the costs could be so high that we could end up bankrupted by health care (just like our country).

This article weighs in on the contrary. Wolff thinks we won’t die quickly. He claims that if you make it past a certain age because of good nutrition, exercise and genes, you will last longer and longer and longer – actually too long, and the LTC just helps you prolong life even longer. And to what avail?  “The longer you live the longer it will take to die. The better you have lived the worse you may die.”  He writes this because he is dealing with his mom who’s demented, in diapers, and he knows she doesn’t want to be here.  How do we deal with the financial and emotional costs of investing in all this care?

His frustration and inability to follow a prescribed plan with a clear end in sight for his mom’s health is a topic we all have to think about – like it or not.

Wolff concludes he doesn’t want LTC because he believes boomers will figure out a way for us deal with this extended life expectancy and figure out a way NOT to prolong our lives past what is humane.

SO – my question is — when is enough enough?  I am not in this situation (yet!!) but I think about its impact on my family, friends, my spouse, myself, and our country.  Reading this article made me feel like I was being irresponsible not be thinking about it.

We as a nation need to address this issue. It’s not just my own family – we are talking 19 million people over 85-years-old. Should we just go along and deal with this later? Do we let the insurance companies collect off our fears to the tune of $5,000 per year (the cost for our 58 –year-old male author)?

What’s the alternative?   At one point, Wolff’s mother was going into surgery; she didn’t want it but the doctors insisted and he and his siblings couldn’t deal with not going forward. He now sees he should have listened to HER and let nature takes it’s course. So there’s one good alternative – we can listen to our elders. But, not an easy one for many.

I wrestle with this topic – it’s a hot one. We never really know how we will feel at that time– but is it possible that we should have a choice – what about that pill that you get to keep at home – and you can use –if you decide? Why isn’t that an option?  It’s a hotly debated topic called “end of life choice.”

I don’t think this issue is going away and if you Google it, you will see the debate is raging. The spiraling population of over 85-year-olds is forcing this issue onto our tables.

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