With the Baby Boomer population aging rapidly, the topic of senior housing is quite hot. How can we prepare ourselves for the future, and more immediately, what about our aging parents?
Being a Boomer myself, this is something I’ve given a lot of thought to. My father passed away last year, and although my mother is quite healthy and vibrant at 87, we really have to think about her living situation, and what her options are. Having seen many of my friends go through this, it seems that the most important task is getting the discussion going as early as possible.
What happens too often is that families are forced to make a decision in a time of crisis, and that can lead to hasty and unwise decisions. It’s not always easy to have those types of discussions with parents, and many will resist talking about it, so you have to choose your time and method wisely. Again, don’t wait until crisis decisions are thrust upon you.
There are so many factors that affect what direction is best for you and your loved ones, such as health status, financial status, and much more. Many widowed seniors (or senior couples) strongly prefer to stay in their homes, which is ideal if the home is conducive to that. Are there stairs? Is there a lot of maintenance needed? Do they have family and/or friends close by? Will they be able to get their needs met should they not be able to drive anymore? Will they be too isolated in their current home?
Another important factor is whether it will be possible both financially and space-wise, to be able to have home health care if it’s ever needed. All of these factors need to be weighed carefully before making the decision to stay in the home.
If your parent(s) are going to be staying in their current home, there may be some modifications necessary to accommodate their needs as they age, such as ramps and grab bars. Check out this article for an exhaustive list of things to consider for seniors staying in their homes.
So, let’s say you and your loved ones have decided that it’s best for them to leave their home – what are your options? Of course, this varies widely, depending on the health status of the people involved, and their finances.
Here are some of the basic options:
- Independent Living – these communities generally don’t include any medical care, but offer dining, transportation, activities, housekeeping, etc.
- Assisted Living – residents are generally still in private apartments, but the facility provides some medical services, as well as help for those who need assistance in the activities of daily living.
- Nursing Home – when someone is unable to care for themselves and needs 24-hour supervision, this is the best fit.
One of the best options, if it’s affordable, are the “three-tiered” communities that offer all of the above-mentioned options. Most of them have Independent Living, Assisted Living, and Nursing Home facilities all on the same campus. Seniors are able to move from one level to the next, as it becomes necessary to do so, without paying any more, or having to move to a different community. This can be very important, as it enables seniors to maintain consistent relationships, which is vital to both mental and physical health.
Some communities are strictly rental, and some have an upfront “buy-in,” which provides for lower monthly fees, and often have a guaranteed buy-back program. The prices of these communities vary greatly, based on both the level of service provided, and like everything else in real estate – location, location, location!
In my mother’s case, it would be considerably less money for her to move to a community in another area, as she lives where land is scarce and real estate doesn’t come cheap. However, cost is not the only factor. She has many friends and family close by, and to take her away from them would be detrimental to her quality of life.
So, the basic lesson here is to do your homework, and do it before you think you really need to. That way, when the time comes, you’ll be in a much better position to make a decision. This approach also will give you flexibility if you need to sell a home and/or wait for a spot in just the right new place to open up.