Family of oldest living veteran says more help is needed to continue home care

(KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — At 111 years old, Austin’s beloved Richard Overton is not only America’s longest living veteran, he’s now the oldest man in the country. But funding Overton’s 24/7 home care isn’t cheap, which is why his family is putting out a plea to keep the donations coming.

This Thanksgiving, the Overtons are thankful to still have Richard by their side.

“It has made a major difference, it’s like he has a second lease at life,” cousin Volma Overton said, talking about the around-the-clock care Richard has had for nearly a year now. “He’s really enjoying his ride now, you know? It’s great to see him happy.”

The problem, the Overton family tells us, is the money raised through GoFundMe can only go so far. Even after raising $200,000, they only have about a month’s worth of funding left before they have to scale back the level of care.

Here’s a breakdown of the 24/7 home care cost:

  • $480/day
  • $3,360/week
  • $14,400/month
  • $175,200/year

“Most people that I’ve talked to, they have no imagination how expensive it is. But I’ve talked to a lot of folks who needed care and so many said we just could not afford it. And we as a family could not have afforded it,” Volma said. “Just the sad thought of moving him out of his home would be, you know, devastating.”

Richard told KXAN, “I want to stay at home.”

He isn’t alone.

“All the research shows that people want to age at home,” Tom Knutsen, who serves on the board for Capital City Village said.

Capital City Village is a community of seniors committed to aging at home, with financial and practical reasons also coming into play.

“Almost any place around there that is a retirement community has a long waiting list,” Knutsen said, giving an example of a 5-year waiting list. “When you’re 85, that’s a long wait.”

Knutsen told KXAN what he recognizes as a big problem in our community is people just not knowing what resources are available.

“We don’t have a central clearing house of information on how to get services,” he said. “A person sitting at home, whether he’s in West Lake Hills or Tarrytown or in east Austin in a house that a family’s owned forever, it’s very hard to find information about where to go and what to do and how to stay healthy.”

Options for the families of Austin’s rapidly growing population of seniors who, just like the Overtons, need guidance and support.

“We’d like to just keep this wonderful thing going as long as possible, keep him smiling and happy as long as we can,” Volma said.

This is something more and more families are wrestling with. At the start of the decade, the Brookings Institution found the Austin metro area had the fastest growing population of pre-seniors in the nation. The area also ranked second in population growth of seniors, people 65 or older. The estimate is that by 2040, more than half-a-million senior citizens will be living in the area.

“That means that there’s going to be more and more people here who are going to need more and more kinds of help,” Knutsen said.