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

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

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

Keeping him at home in an environment that was familiar and comforting to him was a priority.

“It’s worth it,” Weimer said.

She soon found herself in nearly $50,000 in credit card debt to ensure he received the care he needed while she couldn’t be home.

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


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

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

She thanks those who have been able to help her from time to time.

“But they have a life to live. We all work 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 journal entries, which include small, detailed drawings with colored pencils. She also creates smaller scrapbooks with her favorite scriptures and illustrations to keep close by.

Her laptop is also close at hand, which she uses to monitor payments and deposits. Her strong faith, she says, keeps her grounded in the midst of what can feel like a stressful time in her life.

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

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

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

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Susan Weimer has created several booklets of her favorite drawings and writings, which she says have helped her day to day as she tries to support her husband and reduce his debt.


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

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

At 80, Weimer warns those nearing 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 when the cost of almost everything has risen dramatically.

“All I try to do is give him the best possible care,” she said. “He deserves it.”

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