Housing and Care Options for Older Adults

I recently had the opportunity to interview Paige Kelley, Sales Leader for Holiday Retirement Renaissance in Sherman, TX. The purpose of the interview was to learn about the various housing/living options available to seniors at different phases of life. We can all benefit from knowing which option makes the most sense financially and heath wise so we can truly Spend Life Wisely as we age. 

My grandparents had various health problems as they aged. My grandmother passed away with Alzheimer’s at a Memory Care unit in 2015, so this is a topic that is near and dear to me. My grandfather who has dementia is still living at his home and my uncle has moved in to help take care of him. My mother goes to his home daily to help take care of him and cook meals, which is a full-time job in and of itself. I know, from experience that, deciding on the best living situation for a loved one as well as those who will be impacted by the decision can be difficult. Often, family members will wonder if we are making the best decision. I hope after reading this article you will feel more empowered to make knowledgeable choices that will meet your unique needs based on finances, safety goals, and the quality of life desired. 

At what point should someone have the talk about housing/living options with an aging family member? 

One of the best times to discuss this subject is at or following retirement. For most people this is an exciting stage of life so talking to your parent, spouse, or loved one to learn how they want to live out their golden years is very important. This will allow you to ask questions to help them see their desires come to fruition. Here are some things to ask: Do they want to live at home or in an active retirement community? How much can they afford to spend? How much financial support will they need from family members? How close do they want to be to family and friends? What would they like to see happen when they need help with their daily living activities? Often aging is a discussion that is not fun to talk about, so we avoid it much like talking about how much money a person makes per year. Frequently, those discussion do not occur until a family member, spouse, friend, or neighbor recognizes there has been a change in their loved one’s life, then a search for a solution begins.

What are the various living options available and who is the best candidate for that option?

There are many options to choose from, so how do you choose the right option? 

  • 55+ Retirement Community or Active Adult Community (No services) – This would be a housing edition and or apartment complex where all residents are over the age of 55 but still maintain their own home.
  • All-Inclusive Independent Senior Living – A community where residents maintain personal health care needs with the convenience of meals, transportation, housekeeping and social activities are all included.
  • Assisted Living – All the benefits of Independent Senior Living in addition to 24-hour assistance with Activities of Daily Living. Activities of Daily Living are bathing, dressing, toileting, wheelchair transfer assistance, and often Incontinence care.
  • Memory Care – A Memory Care Community has all the benefits of Assisted Living plus it offers a physically secured environment that specializes in helping individuals with Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and communication barriers.
  • Skilled Nursing – A skilled nursing facility is a special facility or part of a hospital that provides medically necessary professional services from nurses, physical and occupational therapists, speech pathologists, and audiologists. Skilled nursing facilities provide round-the-clock assistance with healthcare and activities of daily living. There are numerous federal and state regulations regarding what skilled nursing facilities must and must not do.

It is never too early to start the conversation about senior living with your loved one. Often the older adult knows a change should be made but might feel embarrassed to admit help is needed. Adult children sometimes express feelings of guilt for wanting to have these conversations, but the wait turns into a frantic decision during “crisis” mode. Start having conversations early before the decision must be made. The best way to better understand what the appropriate type of community is for your loved one would be to just get out and visit the communities in your area that provide these different levels of care. 

What are the key signs to look for that should prompt a conversation?

  • Your loved one expresses being lonely.
  • Driving is becoming harder or scary and so isolation begins.
  • Eating habits go from balanced meals to fast food or frozen meals.
  • Your loved one is forgetting simple tasks.
  • Mobility devices are being used, which makes steps and trips outside of the home difficult and scary.
  • Frequent calls to emergency personal and/or trips to the ER.

What costs are associated with the various options? 

According to Genworth Financial, the average cost of assisted living in 2018 was $4,000 per month. Furthermore, According to Genworth's Cost of Care Survey, on average in the United States, a private room in a nursing home costs $8,365 per month, or $275 a day. For a semi-private room, the average cost of a nursing home is $7,441 per month, or $245 a day. The average cost to hire a private caregiver in the home 24/7 is $13,000 per month or for Monday to Friday all day care is $9,120 per month. The bottom line is that none of the options are cheap. Be sure to start saving early for the various options and phases of life so you can have the care you desire and need.

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