“I don’t know what to do. I’m supposed to be discharged next week. I want to go home, but I can’t afford someone to help me.”
These are the words I hear from my patients almost every day in my work as a speech-language pathologist (SLP). I work at a skilled nursing facility where people arrive for a short-term rehabilitation stay. Unfortunately for some, their injuries, such as a hip fracture from a fall, leave them too disabled to return home safely and independently. In those cases, the care team discusses alternative options such as moving into a long-term care facility. While a number of factors affect where a patient ends up, very often the decision about where one lives and the quality of one’s care post-rehab is a financial one. For those with limited financial means, their placements are based on what is available and what they can afford.
Living accommodations are not the only thing patients worry about. Day-to-day issues concern them too, like being able to afford medications or a cab ride to a doctor’s appointment. I’ve often been in the middle of a speech therapy session when a patient begins to cry and pour out their worries to me, as though they are speaking to a psychologist instead of an SLP. In these instances, I’m reminded how much good financial health matters.
Good financial health includes managing your income, expenditures, and savings to positively impact your life. When you have good financial health, you are better able to withstand financial emergencies and have more options open to you. For my patients, they may be able to afford in-home help and not have to worry about how to pay for a ride to a doctor’s appointment. The result is better financial security and mental well-being now and in the future.
My patients are often hard-working people who worked their entire adult lives but still ended up in difficult financial situations by the time I met them. When I ask them for advice, I most often hear “don’t grow old.” Since that’s impossible, the next best thing is to prepare for old age. So what can we do today to improve our future financial well-being?
We can start with small efforts such as creating a budget and putting aside money each month to build an emergency fund. From there, we can move on to tackle larger issues such as saving for retirement. Everyone has his or her own path to achieving good financial health, but each step taken, no matter how small, is a step towards achieving that goal.
As for my patients, I wish that each of them could receive the best care and living accommodations available, no matter their financial situation. That is sadly not the case. But in seeing their situations, they’ve taught me how important it is to prepare for the financial demands and stresses that come with growing older. No one knows what the future holds, so let’s start preparing by becoming financially healthy today.