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If We’re Going to Talk Cost, Let’s Really Talk Cost

Recently, the Charlotte Observer picked up a New York Times piece by Jane Brody entitled “Dementia makes picking a nursing home harder.” It was a good read. But something about it was also nagging at me. It was the omission of the affordable alternatives.

I realize that the story was intended to speak specifically about nursing homes. But the inherent risk in introducing such a narrow conversation is this: it holds back our continued development in how we consider care solutions for our loved ones with Alzheimer’s or dementia. The days of nursing homes being the default answer are long over, but our culture is still getting over its handwringing habit and un-learning our age-old approach to dealing with “the problem” when it rears its head in our families. We are still getting used to widening our field of vision so we are able to actually see and assess the other options – ones that actually hit the elusive sweet spot of affordability, quality, wellness and independence.

One of Brody’s key messages – the exceedingly true statement that “more expensive is not necessarily better” in dementia care – would have been a perfect occasion to expand the conversation in this way. Why limit the cost analysis exercise to just nursing homes – comparing the cheap ones to the expensive ones and then scratching our heads as to why price might not correlate to quality? Why not seize this opportunity to show just how true the pricier-doesn’t-mean-better mantra really is? Adult daily care from The Ivey and other centers in Mecklenburg County is far more cost-effective than nursing homes. In fact, The National Adult Day Services Association reports the average cost per person for adult day services is $16,900 annually, versus $77,380 for nursing homes. That means you’re stretching your care budget nearly five times as far, and also getting an arguably superior service and experience for it. And for families weighing in-home care, The Ivey provides a blend of the professional care services, life enrichment, healing socialization and family engagement not possible with home care alone.

Whenever possible, our loved ones truly deserve the best of both worlds: a safe, nurturing sanctuary during the day, and the comfort of family and home at night. If we can have it all – and all for less than the cost of any nursing home out there – then we shouldn’t be spending valuable time readjusting our blinders. We should be taking them off.

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