Most seniors say they want to age in place, remaining in their homes for as long as possible. They envision an idyllic retirement spent relaxing and perhaps getting periodic help from loved ones as needed. No one wants to think about the myriad difficulties that aging brings, such as osteoporosis, dementia, mobility impairments, and chronic illnesses. Yet sooner or later, age catches up to us all. Nearly 70 percent of seniors will need some sort of long-term care. This can make aging in place difficult. In one survey, about half of seniors reported needing help with one or more activities of daily living.
Caregiving can be hard. It can leave you exhausted, demoralized, and even depressed. It may make having a normal, healthy relationship with your parent impossible. It can even undermine your career, your relationship with your children, and your ability to pursue your own interests. So the realities of aging in place often fail to align with what you or your senior loved one hoped.
How can you bridge this gap? The right elder care plan can support you as the caregiver, ensure your loved one’s needs are met, and preserve your loved one’s independence for as long as possible. Here’s what you need to know as you explore your elder care planning options.
Elder Care Isn’t What You Expect
Many seniors allow fear to guide their long-term care planning. They worry about being abandoned in a nursing home or left in a boring retirement community with little to do. Today’s senior care options are nothing like this. The senior care industry is booming, filled with people who are deeply committed to fostering seniors’ long-term well-being.
Today’s senior living communities are vibrant and diverse hubs of community activities. They offer numerous amenities, including:
- Gourmet dining in gorgeous dining areas.
- Highly nutritious food that caters to your dietary needs.
- Stunningly landscaped grounds for exceptional views year-round.
- Beautiful, expertly designed homes.
- Amenities such as pools, tennis courts, and well-stocked libraries.
- Lots of community events.
- Regular classes such as yoga.
- Group outings.
- Transportation to fun events, the grocery store, the doctor’s office, and anywhere else you need to go.
Seniors lead longer, happier lives in senior retirement communities. And with so many activities available, it’s easy to make healthy, life-affirming choices. You don’t have to worry about calling, coordinating with, and then driving to a friend. Just walk down the hall. Forget about paging through your community college’s calendar to find senior-friendly aerobics classes or hobbyist events. Just head downstairs to the community center.
If your senior loved one is reluctant to talk about their long-term care options, consider touring a senior living community with them. Dispelling myths about senior living can ease your loved one’s fears and encourage them to make choices that promote their long-term well-being. Options to Consider:
The search for the right elder care solution can feel overwhelming right from the start. It’s helpful to begin by assessing your options. Those include:
- Family caregiving. You or another family member can provide care to your loved one, either at their house or at yours. This option works best for seniors who are fairly independent and who only need a little help. Otherwise, your loved one may need to move in with you. If your loved one’s needs are extensive, you may need to blend family caregiving with other supportive options, such as adult day care or respite care.
- In-home care from a nurse or certified nursing assistant. This option offers flexibility to seniors who need help a few hours a week. It can also work well for family caregivers who need some time off. If your loved one needs extensive care and does not live near you, however, in-home care can be very pricey. Moreover, this option does not address your loved one’s social and recreational needs.
- Senior living. Senior living offers all-in-one care and recreation tailored to your loved one’s needs. It comes in many forms. Independent living is for active seniors who simply want better and easier access to community activities and luxury living. Assisted living offers help with daily activities. Memory care ensures seniors with dementia remain safe and supported.
If you’re not sure which option might work best, try calling local care providers to ask about pricing and care options. This can help you narrow down your options and get a feel for what’s available in your area.
If you opt for senior living, get a referral from someone you trust, such as a friend, doctor, or your local senior center. Spend some time reading online reviews and scouring through the community’s website to get a feel for how the community presents itself and what it offers. Then schedule a tour with your loved one so you can both decide whether this option might work for your family’s needs.
How to Get Started
Once you’ve decided which option is best for your loved one, it’s time to start matching their needs to the available options. Don’t make the decision without your loved one’s input. Instead, talk to them about senior living. Sometimes this conversation is difficult, especially if your loved one is resistant to accepting help.
To start the conversation, begin with the facts — no emotions or blame. Share with your loved one what you think they need, then ask about what they think they need. If they disagree with your assessment, ask them to share their own assessment and plan. Sometimes simply asking someone to present an alternative can shift the conversation in the right direction. Be patient, and understand that you may need to have multiple conversations.
Sometimes it’s helpful for multiple family members to talk to a loved one. If your family disagrees about senior care options, get on the same page first. A family therapist or elder care coordinator may be able to help. Your loved one’s doctor is also an invaluable resource. They know your loved one’s prognosis and can help you make decisions rooted in medical realities, not blind hope or the terror of worst-case scenarios. If your loved one or a family member is in denial about their condition, a family meeting with the doctor can work wonders.
Don’t try to force your loved one into a specific option. Seniors are just like the rest of us: They want to live life on their own terms, free of coercion. So present the discussion as a collaborative one — not an opportunity to tell your loved one exactly how they’re going to live their life.
Once you and your loved one have agreed to the right course of action, work together to list their goals for the future. Then list the various senior care options you’ve identified. Narrow your list down to those that meet all or most of your loved one’s needs.
As you move deeper into your elder care journey, financial concerns may constrain your choices. Many caregivers worry that the price tag of senior living will simply be too high. If your loved one owns their own home, however, senior living might be more affordable than home ownership — especially if you can partially fund senior living by selling your loved one’s home. For help assessing and comparing costs, check out our senior living cost calculator tool.
In addition to savings and home sale proceeds, a number of programs can help you fund senior living expenses. Those include:
- Medicaid. For eligible seniors, Medicaid funds a wide range of care options. Family caregivers may even get reimbursement for their work.
- Veterans benefits. The VA may fund a portion of senior care or offer care in special VA facilities.
- Long-term care insurance. If your loved one has long-term care insurance, it will likely fund senior living.
- Life insurance. Some life insurance policies allow you to cash out. This offers fast access to a chunk of cash that could help fund senior living.
The initial price tag of elder care can look exorbitant. When you factor in that senior living means no longer paying for a home, however, the price can feel more affordable. Many families fund senior living through a combination of sources. Your loved one's Social Security check can help. When combined with the proceeds of a home sale, contributions from loved ones, and perhaps a small retirement savings account, your loved one’s modest income may be enough to fund a senior living community.
Where to Find Elder Care
The right elder care options are often hidden gems, nestled just down the street from your home or just up the road from your doctor. So take your time scouring listings to find the right option. In addition to a referral from someone you trust, the following sources can help:
- Online caregiver support groups
- Associations such as the Alzheimer’s Association
- Local community groups, such as Facebook neighborhood associations
- Listings at local senior centers
The Arbor Company has spent the past 30 years building the perfect senior living solution for just about every need. We’d love to help you explore your senior care options. Give us a call to set up a consultation or schedule a tour. We can’t wait to meet you!