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Kirkland Nonprofit’s Nationwide Tour Stops in Bellevue to Educate on Elder-Care ‘Tsunami’

Kirkland Reporter

Dr. Marion Somers likes to quote former first lady Rosalynn Carter when it comes to planning for long-term care: “There are only four kinds of people in the world — those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers and those who will need caregivers.”

A long-time geriatric specialist and author, Somers was in Bellevue on May 14 to talk about long-term care and how most people are not adequately prepared for it.

She joined forces with two local entities: 3 in 4 Need More, a Kirkland-based nonprofit, and Emeritus Senior Living. Together, they have launched a nationwide senior talent competition to raise awareness of the importance of planning for long-term care. It began April 30 and will run through July 31.

Traveling in a 1967 Greyhound bus that has been converted to living quarters and studio for the summer-long tour, Somers spoke first to the Master Builders Association in Bellevue. Sherry Schwab, president of that organization, noted “one of us celebrates that 65th birthday every day; boomers are healthier, living longer, many live in our community, but haven’t prepared adequately for long-term care.”

Jonas Roeser, president of 3 in 4 Need More, added: “Statistics show that nearly three out of four people are going to need long-term care at some point after they reach age 65. … When you’re a business owner, this represents three out of four of your employees.”

Somers spoke passionately on the topic. “We have a crisis in this country. We have an elder-care tsunami heading this way,” she said. “We need to individually, collectively, as family, as a community, deal with the elder-care issue.”

She is concerned that many people don’t realize that long-term care planning needs to start early.

“Check out your resources now - the knight in shining armor is not going to come knocking on your door and say these are the resources available to you,” said Somers, who has been a featured speaker on The TODAY Show, ABC News Now, Good Morning America Now and dozens of local morning news shows. Also, her public service announcement “Dr. Marion Minute” elder care program currently airs on more than 300 radio outlets coast-to-coast.

One must know what the triggers are before long-term insurance might kick in, such as activities for daily living, eating, brushing teeth. Somers said, “Are you heavily drinking? Smoking? Not getting enough sleep or exercise? Start right now taking care of yourself.”

The average person doesn’t understand the limitations of Medicare, Medicaid, or the restrictions imposed by one’s own income bracket, she said.  Personal savings can disappear in a month with hospital expenses. Planning is needed. People need to be sure their families know what care they want and for what benefits they are eligible.

Somers added, “This is a political hot potato; nobody wants to deal with it, because nobody knows how to fix it. It comes down to what you can do for yourself. The government can provide tax incentives, but only you as a voter can help government decide what works. Awareness is key — spread the word.”

Boarding her vintage Greyhound, Somers then traveled to Emeritus Senior Living in Bellevue, where she spoke and emceed the senior talent competition.

Special guest 48th District state Rep. Ross Hunter, D-Medina, chairman of the budget committee, asked: “How do we fund long-term care (and) have the financial wherewithal for seniors to be comfortable in their old age? We face all the boomers in our Medicaid system. If I were you, I’d want to make sure you’re not dependent on the guys in Washington, D.C.”

The talent competition included an “Armchair Fitness Opening Act” in which seniors exercised to music. Next, Claire Tompos, accompanied on the piano by Herb Steuer, belted out the song, “That’s Why the Lady is a Tramp.”

The exhibition of more talent followed, including original paintings, pen and paper art, knitted gems, poems, short stories, original piano compositions and soloists. The event concluded with Steve Klos playing the harmonica. The audience joined in singing “Sailor.” The competitors were mostly residents at the Emeritus community.

The talent competition, which is nationwide, will wrap up Aug. 13 and winners will be announced then. First-prize winner will receive one free year of rent at any Emeritus community of their choice; 11 runners-up will each receive one free week.

Somers’ tips

• Toss out throw rugs! Once you break a hip, your whole life changes. Don’t risk it.

• Correct poor lighting.

• Become pro-active; know your resources. Educate yourself about the emotional and financial impact of long-term care.

More information

For more information visit: www.3in4NeedMore.com. It has a calculator that enables you to research your own situation.

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