Long Term Care: Some Feel it’s Better to Just Cruise

There were four people from my family that went on our cruise to Alaska. Since the window seats in the restaurant seated six people, we ended up eating with different people each meal. One night I overheard a couple at our table talking about a trend in long term health care. Instead of paying several hundred dollars per day to a nursing home, some retirees are simply cruising. Living on ships, they receive stellar treatment, their own room, and fine cuisine all at a price lower than the average retirement community will charge. Personally, I was shocked. After some research I found that Snopes.com did a piece on this back in 2005, and actually revealed two people in their article who did this very thing. What I heard was actually true!

On the one hand, I thought that it was an entirely smart and wonderful idea. I was on the same cruise as all of these people and knew that the service was amazing. Food could be had 24 hours per day for no extra charge (unless you ordered from the super-premium restaurant); you could even call in the middle of the night and get a plate of cookies and milk or a cheeseburger delivered to your room. There were over 800 complimentary movies behind the counter just waiting to be delivered to our rooms. Twice a week we had a formal evening, bingo was at 4:00, and you really couldn’t beat the view. On the other hand, I was deeply saddened by this information. These ships were likely not equipped with the type of medical treatment elderly may need. And if your family wants to visit you, they would have to pay a hefty price.

But most of all, I was curious. How much did a room at the average nursing home cost compared with the cost per day of the average cruise? How did these people deal with medical issues? Would long term health insurance cover any of the cost? To give you an idea, US News reports that “[p]rices for a semi-private room in a nursing home fluctuate between a median of $44,165 per year in Texas to $218,453 in Alaska”. This is a cost of between $121 and $598 per day. Finding the average cost of a cruise ship room per night was difficult to do. The ranges I saw (we’re not talking about the verandah rooms) was $70-$200 per night depending upon location, cruise line, etc. So depending upon which state you would be retiring in, cruises can be cheaper than retirement homes.

So, onto my next question: would a long term health insurance policy help cover the costs of a cruise? I know it is a pipe dream, but thought I would ask an insurance rep anyway. I signed up for long term care insurance (LTCI) through my employer when I first began my job in late 2008 since I work as an environmental investigator and could potentially be exposed to chemicals while onsite at facilities. I decided that it was worth paying the $22 monthly premium in case something should happen to me. LTCI generally covers home care, assisted living, daycare for adults, respite care, hospice care, and nursing home fees. But what if I choose to live on a cruise as my nursing home when I can no longer fully take care of myself but am not ready for 24/7 care? Cruises offer food delivered to your room, fresh sheets/towels each day, daily room cleanings, accessibility to each deck and facility for people with needs, and there are metal bars in the bathroom to assist with showering.  Aside from the care side of things, it is the business of cruises to cater and service your every need…to a background of exotic locations and foreign countries. What could be better?

It turns out that my question must not be a typical one. In fact, the verdict is still out on whether or not an insurance company would cover some of the costs of cruising like they cover some of the costs of a nursing home.

To be continued…

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