I opened the packet with the assisted living facility’s new lease for my 89-year-old cousin, and I was glad she wasn’t sitting next to me. She might have had a heart attack. The monthly fee of $6,747.91 was a shocker.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a lovely place and cousin Marilyn is safe and relatively happy here. But this is a lot of money for someone with a limited income and dwindling resources and I worry about her future.
When she was in better shape, she asked me to serve as her power of attorney and take care of the details of her life when she couldn’t. That time came about around four years ago. My husband and I found the assisted living facility and helped Marilyn, who never married, move out of the apartment where she had lived for 50 years.
She wasn’t crazy about giving up her lifestyle, but it was also clear she couldn’t live on her own. She wasn’t getting dressed, complained of not feeling well, and called 911 to take her to the hospital every time she had an upset stomach or a backache. Now her health is stable. She uses makeup, wears red lipstick, dresses up each day in matching blouses and slacks or skirts. She delights in her jewelry, and totters around on little kitten heels as she pushes her walker through the common areas.
The advantages are clear. There are activities, people to talk to and eat meals with, a doctor who comes to the facility and a dedicated staff that likes her and helps her every day. But cousin Marilyn can’t always admit that this is a good thing. I visit once a week, and she tells me regularly, “This is no life.” I always nod and smile and say, “I understand.” I do. I really do.
But I’m also convinced that assisted living is a good solution when you are unable to live on your own, if you can afford it. So when the lease was up, I automatically said we’d renew. We pay a basic rent that follows a New York formula and then there are extra fees for basic services. That brings the bill to a little over $5,300. But because Marilyn’s health has declined and she needs extra assistance, we pay $995 a month for personal care, plus $425 a month for the staff to give her medication.
So we get a bill that gives us sticker shock. The ladies at the facility talk about the fees, and Marilyn is likely to have heard about the cost. But she always says, “I know you’ll do the right thing. You’ll take care of everything.”
I’m doing my best. And I hope I can stretch the pennies as far as Marilyn’s parents did when they owned the candy store that built them a handsome nest-egg. It’s their legacy that’s given her the income to live so nicely. I also look forward to Marilyn telling me, “This is no way to live,” for a long time.
Please root for us all.