There are two major takeaways from John Oliver’s latest main segment on Last Week Tonight: 1) Regardless of your age, it’s important to plan for the care you’ll need in old age and 2) hippos are godless killing machines (though more on that second thing later).
This week, Oliver dug into the unregulated world of professional guardians, the court-appointed caretakers responsible for caring for senior citizens without family to advocate for them. As the baby boomer generation ages into what has been dubbed the “Silver Tsunami” (no, seriously), many will lack resources or access to care as they get older. Oliver warns that, as a result, many elderly Americans will be left in the care of guardians appointed by state and local governments. These guardians have full access to the finances and medical records of their wards, despite having having no previous relationship with them. Most states do not require any specific training or even a background check to become a guardian, and there are frequent (if not predictable) abuses in these arrangements, such as one guardian who charged their ward over $1,000 to determine the effect a Phoenix Suns game had on her mood (“Spoiler alert: it made her sad,” says Oliver).
Oliver encouraged his audience to have unpleasant but necessary conversations with their families about how geriatric care will be provided. Out of consideration for more crotchety audience members who may have remained unconvinced by his sprightly presence, Oliver enlisted the help of, er, more distinguished celebrities to discuss the importance of having those difficult conversations. Fred Willard (78), Rita Moreno (86), William Shatner (87), Lily Tomlin (78) and Cloris Leachman (92) stressed selecting someone to serve as your healthcare representative, and the sooner the better. At any given moment, any of us could get struck by lightning, eat too many Tide pods or get attacked by a hippo (the last, in their opinion, being the most legitimate threat since “hippos are fucking killing machines”).
Hear Oliver’s take on the risks of guardianship below.