Unexpected elder care costs place heavy burden of debt on local seniors

GREENSBORO — Susan Weimer’s daily routine as primary caregiver for her 89-year-old husband came to a halt this summer when she unexpectedly spent nearly a month in the hospital.

Because her husband has dementia and suffered a stroke in April, he needs around-the-clock care at their Greensboro home. Although a couple of family members were able to provide some relief, they needed more help.

Keeping him at home in surroundings that were familiar and comforting to him was a priority.

“He’s worth it,” Weimer said.

She soon found herself with nearly $50,000 in credit card debt to ensure he received the necessary care while she was unable to be home.

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Susan Weimer, 80, of Greensboro is the primary caregiver for her 89-year-old husband and keeps a daily journal, which has helped her document important health information and milestones.

Even though their health insurance paid the bulk of hospital bills, payments from long-term care insurance cover just a small fraction of the expense of home health care for her husband.

“There’s no way you can plan for this,” she said. “It seems like I should be able to get some help from somewhere.”

She is grateful for those who have been able to assist from time to time.

“But they have lives to live. We’re all working together,” she said. “I can’t imagine how difficult it is if you don’t have the support system there.”

In her kitchen, Weimer keeps track of daily events and important updates through writings in journals, which include small, detailed drawings with colored pencils. She also creates smaller albums with her favorite scriptures and artwork to keep nearby.

Also within reach is her laptop, which she uses to help monitor payments and deposits. Her strong faith, she said, keeps her grounded amid what may seem like a stressful time in her life.

“I just know things will work out,” Weimer said.

She said things may have been different if they had considered moving 10 years ago into a place where they may gradually need assisted living care.

“You need to prepare for those challenges,” she said. “Things are going to change, period.”

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Susan Weimer has created multiple booklets of her drawings and favorite scriptures, which she says has helped her daily as she tries to provide for her husband’s care and reduce their debt.

In her living room, Weimer thumbs through an album filled with photos from years of her participation as a swimmer in local Senior Games competitions. Her husband also used to be an avid cyclist.

“I think that’s why I’m able to do what I can,” she said.

At age 80, Weimer cautions those approaching retirement to save enough money now for elder care costs not covered by insurance.

She said it’s a lot to manage while trying to pay monthly expenses, especially while the cost of nearly everything has increased significantly.

“All I’m trying to do is give him the best care I can,” she said. “He deserves it.”

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2022-11-12 11:45:00

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