The Costs of Aging

Looking for an inexpensive nursing home for your loved one? Don't look in the Stamford area.

A national survey has found the region has the highest nursing home costs in the country.  A survey by Westport-based Metlife Mature Market Institute found private rooms cost an average of $394 per day and $144,000 a year. According to the institute, the daily average has climbed 6 percent in the last year alone.

The New York City metro area is a close second at about $361a day, followed by the Hartford area at $359 a day. The metro sections of Boston and Cherry Hill, N.J. rounded off the top five most expensive list.

All are well above the national average of $212 a day.

Marie Allen, executive director of the Southwestern Connecticut Agency on Aging, blames it on high housing costs in the area. 

"So it follows that nursing homes would be more expensive in the region," Allen said.

Area nursing home administrators blame it on other costs.

Wendy Kaufman is an assistant administrator at Courtland Gardens Health Care Center in Stamford. 

"The bulk of the costs we face are labor-related," she said.

Specifically, a labor shortage in terms of talented nurses in the area. To get talented nurses, they have to offer higher pay as incentive.

So how do residents afford it? Typically -- Medicaid. The state Office of Policy and Management reports nearly 70 percent of the 27,446 nursing home residents in Connecticut are covered by Medicaid.

The office reports that Medicare pays for about 15 percent of residents, while 14 percent of patients pay themselves.

David Gottchen, a director of OPM's policy development and planning division, said Medicaid costs Connecticut more than $2 billion a year.

Kaufman said that despite the support of Medicaid, many seniors are still worried about how they'll pay for long-term care costs.

"They still worry," Kaufman said. "Look what's going on with the government. All their Social Security benefits go to help the nursing home provide care, except for a small amount each month. But they worry about their children."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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