Saturday, February 16, 2013

Elderly Couple needs Advice

Dear Ferfal,
My husband and I originally read your book three years ago and it changed our lives. We even considered buying a Dogo Argentino but settled for a Labrador Retriever. We are now at a point where preparing for a societal decline conflicts with preparing for our personal decline due to advancing age. We are in our seventies. Our health is good but could change in an instant. We would greatly appreciate your advice about our imminent decision: (1) to stay in our current rural village; (2) to move to a town located twenty miles away; or (3) to move closer to our daughter and her family in a suburb of a large city.
Our first option is staying where we are (we like it here) and hoping we are physically able to deal with the rigors of rural life until we are truly incapacitated and ready for a nursing home — or dead. Twenty-five years ago we moved to this area of a Northeastern (USA) state for job reasons. We have no family here. The closest big city (210,000) is a little over an hour away. We chose to live in a village of 2,500. Our house is on five acres. We paid off our mortgage years ago.
Our house is relatively isolated. We can see two other houses but they’re not close. Our property is not generally suitable for crops because it’s heavily wooded.  We found the massive trees charming 25 years ago and never thought we may have to grow food. On the positive side we are able to heat with our own wood that we pay a neighbor to cut. We have a well and a creek and we’ve stored water barrels in our walk-out basement.  We have good neighbors.
We’re on friendly terms with the local business owners; however our village has few businesses and fewer services. There’s a doctor but the nearest hospital/emergency room is 20 miles away. We have a volunteer fire department but no village police. We’re served by the county sheriff’s office, head-quartered 20 miles away, and the state police pass through periodically. While fire response to 911 is fast, police response is slow. Crime is actually very low — probably because most home owners (including us) are also gun owners.
We’ve have been prepping since reading your book and have about 1-1/2 years of stored food for ourselves and our daughter and her family. We’ve also collected barter materials that would probably get us food from farmer neighbors. In addition to our stored water we’ve stockpiled several kinds of filters. We have a septic tank/septic field. In the event of a disaster, we had hoped to provide a safe haven for our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren but fear we may no longer be able to manage the day-to-day demands of rural living while awaiting the apocalypse.
Our second option is moving to a relatively prosperous, low-crime town of 10,500 that is 20 miles northwest of our current home — closer to our nearest big city.  We have no friends there but it has a wide range of stores, medical specialists (whom we’ve been using), a good hospital/ER and a police department. There are none of the gated communities you recommend. There are senior-living communities but their admission fees plus monthly fees are staggering. We would buy a house or townhouse with enough room for our daughter and her family if things go very bad. We’d move our prepping supplies but we’d have to deal with public water and sewers.
Our third option is moving closer to our daughter and her family who live in a small city of 120,000 about 2 hours due west of where we now live. They are both employed in highly skilled jobs that are not generally available. Our relationship is strong and we’ve regretted the long round trip has prevented us from seeing them more than once a month.
Their small city is contiguous with a rapidly declining major city of 270,000. The small city seems prosperous although real estate listings show lots of foreclosures. It has all the necessary businesses and services including a hospital/ER. We would have to use public water and sewers.
There are no gated communities and zoning severely limits the number of condos/townhouses. We would buy a small house and move our supplies. Our daughter argues she could help us with shopping/appointments as we grow even older, while her husband and children could help with grass mowing/snow shoveling/dog walking. They plan to stay where they are until the youngest child graduates high school — six years. It would be wonderful to see our family frequently, and a relief to have help on hand, but we dread not being able to offer the people we love a place of safety should a disaster strike.
With your experience of a country in collapse, would you recommend we stay where we are now or make one of the two possible moves? If we do move we should do it while we have our health/strength. We’re afraid we’re blind to an important consideration that’s obvious to someone like you. We will be grateful for any advice and apologize for the length of this letter. If it’s published please delete our email address. Thank you!
You bring up several important points.
A key aspect of sensible preparedness is preparing for those things that are likely to happen first. One of the few certainties in life is that time passes for all of us and (if lucky enough!)we all grow old. As that happens we’re more likely to need a hand from time to time.
My dear grandmother had to make a similar decision recently. Now almost 90 years old and being a very smart lady she understood that she would need a bit more help than before soon enough.  Moving with my aunt meant sacrificing some of her cherished independence but she understood that it was the best thing to do.

I would agree with your daughter about them begin able to help as needed. Also, it looks as if being close to them would mean seeing them more often, being close to your grandchildren as they grow older. That’s just priceless. I know I didn’t fully appreciate my grandparents as a teen, you could say I took them for granted, but luckily as I grew older I realized that I had to spend as much time as I could with them. It was great to drop by my grandparents and have dinner or lunch with them, or take them out for dinner or for tea to a cafĂ© near by. I think your grandkids will appreciate that one day too.

Being closer to your doctor and hospital sure is an advantage. The same goes for being closer to your family so that they can help you and you help them when needed. From a practical point of view moving close to your daughter makes the most sense to me and it sounds as if you would enjoy seeing them more often. Having said that, its also important to live were we enjoy being. If you like your current home and enjoy your life there then that’s good enough reason to stay, so ultimately and choice you are happy with is ok.

I wouldn’t worry about not having a house out in the country for them to go to. You would still have a home for them to go to and the supplies you have would still be of great value. Besides, being closer means you can help on other less dramatic things like watching over your grandkids. That alone is a lot of help and saves your daughter from having to spend money on a nanny.  I know I would love to have my grandmother nearby. Just knowing that she’s keeping an eye on things is a lot of help.
Take care and I wish you both the best!


k said...

They better ponder and research some more about what to do.

How stable is the son-in-law's or daughter's job? Would they have to move if they suddenly had no jobs?

A big problem with moving is having to make new friends in a new neighborhood again. Building up trust with them will take time. A big risk is that after moving is not getting along with the new neighbors.

How good is the infrastructure in the new locations under consideration? A nightmare that could occur is they move to a new place where the water supply of sewers get worse and worse, but taxes to "pay" for them just keep going up and up.

Would they be moving to a state with bad gun laws and terrible economy?

The going rate for stealing a person's house in America is $35. If they are not careful they could buy a house and then find out that a big bank claims ownership and then forecloses on them.

Don Williams said...

Some things for H&H to consider:

1) Medicare only pays for short term healthcare (and prescription drugs if you pay for the supplemental insurance.) It does not provide long term care for
assisted living if an elderly person becomes disabled (stroke, etc.) It does not pay, that is, for someone to come into the home to bathe a disabled patient, to feed them, to cook for them, to help them to the bathroom, to go shopping for groceries,etc.

2) One elderly spouse may be bankrupted by the cost of care if the other spouse becomes crippled and needs to be cared for in a nursing home.

Long term care is especially expensive in the northeast USA. In Connecticut, it may range from $48,000 per year (for a home health aide ) up to $135,000 per year for a semi-private room in a nursing home. A disabled person may need up to 3 years of care before they die.

It is cheaper in Texas and in the southern USA. See

3) Long term care insurance is offered by companies like John Hancock, Genworth, Merril Lynch,
etc but its cost is very high as well and people in their 70s probably would have difficulty obtaining it (the insurance companies tend to sell to people in perfect health in their 40s and 50s who will be paying premiums for decades.) They can also raise premiums at will -- John Hancock almost DOUBLED the premiums on EXISTING contracts a few years ago. Plus the insurance companies' have a lot of stringent conditions to milk the profits:
You get a maximum of 3 years of care, inflation adjustment costs extra (costs a LOT), and
you cannot just hire someone cheap to help you out --you are reimbursed for home care
expenses only if the provider is an expensive, certified and
registered home care provider. See

4) The US government program Medicaid will provide some austere care but only if a patient's
net worth is less than $4000. If they provide care to spouse 1 then they will let spouse 2 live in
their home but will attach a lien to the house and sell it to recover the cost of spouse 1's care after spouse 2 dies. To repeat, Medicaid is only for the poor -- a patient must spend their life savings and be bankrupt before they can apply for Medicaid.

And the situation is going to get much worse because Medicaid is state run and many state governments in the USA are close to bankruptcy.

5) There are consequences to letting the Republicans and Democrats in Congress prostitute themselves to the Richest 2 percent -- and to letting the 2 percent raise their share of the national income from 8% in 1978
to 25% today.

Unless you plan to commit suicide -- or count on dying quickly -- then you will need your children to care for you. One way to pay for that is to help them care for your grandchildren today and give the husband and wife more free time.

6) For more information see and

Don Williams said...

1) One other warning re US long term care insurance contracts: you can pay $6000 per year for 10 years -- a total sum of $60,000. If you then let the contract elapse -- because the company increases the premium to $10,000 per year and you can't afford it -- then you lose the $60,000 you have paid. Which, of course, gives the insurance companies incentive to raise the premiums so they can force people our and not have to pay for their care.

2) I talked with a friend who works as a lobbyist in healthcare in Washington about the above after I researched the matter -- and he told me that he and his wife did not buy long term care insurance. That the politics of the industry is messed up and they concluded they could not have faith in the long term contracts.

However, some financial analysts like Suzy Orman think long term care insurance is still worthwhile --especially for the wealthy.