'It's a real crisis': Long-time MPS teacher feels the impact of high medical costs for the elderly and sick

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Long-term care is costing more and more as people live longer and the need for workers grows. 

Boomers, the generation that's now turning 70, will have an even greater impact on the system. Some experts recommend people start to save for long-term care by 40 years old or sooner. 

CBS 58 talked to a long-term Milwaukee Public Schools teacher who fell sick in her 70s and learned the high cost all too well.

Marybeth Gaborsky called Lloyd Street Elementary home for more than 20 years. She surrounded herself with her students, and any chance and extra income she had, she put back into her classroom.  

Just over a year ago, Gaborsky was diagnosed with Cerebral Amyloid Angiopathy (CAA). It's a brain bleed and a disease with no cure. 

Now 75 years old, the disease is quickly taking away her independence.

"I've lost all of the power in my fingers," Gaborsky said as she wiped tears from her eyes. 

She can't walk, she's losing her voice and she can hardly write her name anymore. It's a difficult reality for an artist. 

"She ended up painting, well the children did, painting the entire gym like a dark blue," said Helen Harris, the former principal at Lloyd Street. "Then she had the children use iridescent paints to paint the planets." 

Gaborsky taught art at Lloyd Street Elementary for two decades. She was known for her over-the-top murals of things like the solar system and the ocean. 

She won dozens of awards, like the Herb Kohl Teacher of the Year award and recognition for her outdoor murals. At one point, the art was even put on postcards to raise money for the school. 

"We used these notecards as a fundraiser, so this was one of the murals that was on one of the fences," said Harris. 

She dedicated her life to putting art in children's hearts, as one newspaper article put it. 

"Art lets kids see everything," said Gaborsky reflecting on her time as a teacher. 

It was her passion and it payed a livable wage. 

"Someone who gave basically her whole life to education," said Gaborsky's daughter, Anna, of her mom. 

Anna Gaborsky has spent the last few months struggling to get her mother the care she now needs. 

She wanted to make sure her mom, a lifelong Milwaukee east sider, could stay in the area that she calls home. 

Gaborsky needs an assisted living home that offers constant care. After looking at the options available, she soon realized she couldn't afford them with her income.   

Julie Ellis, a professor at UW Milwaukee, says the Gaborskys are not alone. It's a story she's heard over and over again during her 40 years in nursing. Ellis has worked in a lot of different fields, from nursing home care to care management for an insurance company.

"Nursing homes are closing, they can't get staff, it's harder to find a bed," said Ellis. "It's a real crisis actually, the long-term care crisis, and now that the Boomers are in their late 70s," said Ellis. "The boomers were a big generation. That's only going to get worse and worse and worse." 

We asked Ellis, do you think as a society that we are educated and prepared enough for old age?

"Not at all," said Ellis. "Because number one, we don't even want to think about old age." 

Ellis says 90 percent of people will live to be old and need some type of care -- from Meals on Wheels to living in an assisted living facility.

While prices can vary based on the amount of care, the average cost of an assisted living facility in Milwaukee is $54,000 a year, and that price tag jumps up to $100,000 dollars a year for a nursing home. 

"The cost of care comes as a shock to everyone, unless they have a social worker, nurse or somebody like that in the family and they know the details," said Ellis. 

While both Medicare and Medicaid are tools people can use, they each have provisions that disqualify some. 

Medicare will not pay for assisted living and it only covers 100 days in a nursing home.

While Medicaid will pay for assisted living, it requires you have no more than $2,000 in assets and not all facilities accept it.  

Ellis says most people will have to care for a parent or a family member at some point, and she urges people to plan early. 

"The more education, the better about options," said Ellis. "What's out there? What does Medicare pay for? What does Medicaid pay for?" 

Marybeth Gaborsky was able to get a concession to keep her monthly cost at $5,000 for the next year at her current assisted living facility.

Still, that is more than she brings in a month. Anna Gaborsky has started selling her mother's artwork. She also started a fundraiser to help her mom.

The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Milwaukee County is a resource for those looking for help with options. 

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