There are more housing options than ever for seniors – from aging in place to life plan communities to moving in with the kids. Where your parents will spend their senior years is a decision that affects the whole family, so how can you help them decide which is the best option?
Ideally, this is a conversation that happens before any immediate changes need to be made. But in reality, this isn’t always the case. Registered nurse and long-term care expert Stella Henry, author of The Eldercare Handbook, notes that 95 percent of the families she consults with are unprepared to make decisions and have put off the conversation until they find themselves in a “crisis situation.” To avoid this, start talking to your parents now and try to begin a conversation about their housing plans. Here are a few factors to consider as you make this decision.
Where should they live?
Often, families spread out as they grow up. When siblings move out of state or out of country, you have to decide who your parents’ primary caregiver will be. Even if you choose a life plan community or assisted living facility, the bulk of the decisions and responsibilities will fall on the family member who lives closest. Consider work and family obligations: the child that travels three weeks out of every month for work may not be the best choice. Talk with your siblings about what life is like where they live for retirees – are there active senior centers? Access to quality medical care?
How much will it cost?
Cost is a major factor in choosing retirement living. Find out what kind of budget your parents have for retirement. If you are looking into assisted living or life plan communities, find out all of the costs associated with living there, not just the room and board fees. There may be more costs for higher levels of service, like dementia care or delivered meals.
Also talk to your parents about aging in place (adapting your parents’ current home to accommodate their needs as they age), or – if it works for your family – moving in with you as these might be more affordable options. In fact, about 19 million Americans are a caregiver to someone over 75; adult children and other relatives provide about 75 to 80 percent of the long-term care in the U.S. You can also hire a professional to help – home-health assistants, nurses, and geriatric care managers can help your parent with everything from preparing meals to bathing to driving them to doctor appointments.
What kind of care is needed?
When you have your first conversation with your parents about their senior housing plans, it may be because they’re not getting around as well as they once did, or maybe you’ve noticed some memory issues. If your parent has someone nearby to check on them – to make sure they haven’t fallen and are able to do daily activities – it may be fine for them to stay in their own home for now. However, when your parent does need more assistance, an assisted living facility is an option. These types of assisted living communities don’t generally provide medical care like nursing homes do, but the staff is trained to watch for and react to medical issues. Some facilities will also take residents to doctor appointments or even plan shopping trips or recreational activities.
Do you have a long-term plan?
Some seniors may not ever need more care than assisted living provides, but others will eventually need a facility with more medical care available. Life plan communities let you plan for this shift by offering a full range of housing – from independent senior apartments to staffed medical wards – all on the same property. Life plan communities are not inexpensive, but an entry fee (usually from $75,000 to $250,000) and monthly rental payments guarantee that your parent can continue to live in the community and receive whatever level of care becomes necessary.
The most important thing to remember is to make a plan. Have this conversation now, and bring your parents and the rest of your family into the conversation, before a fall or other medical crisis forces you to make this decision for them.