We hear it frequently at AgingOptions: a loved one urgently needs to move to assisted living and the family is caught completely unprepared. But in many if not most cases this “urgent” need to make a senior housing choice for mom or dad probably could have been anticipated, and properly planned for. How can seniors and their families do a better job of looking into the future and making the move to assisted living less stressful and more intentional?
Making Assisted Living Choices in the Midst of a Crisis
That’s the topic of this helpful article that we discovered on the NextAvenue website, an article we think does a good job not only of pointing out the need to plan ahead but also of providing some good tips and resources on how to do it. “Most of us believe there will always be enough time to plan for long-term care,” writes NextAvenue columnist Leida Snow. “Then, life happens, and all of our hopeful expectations are dashed, including for our loved ones. When all is well, it’s difficult to convince mom, dad, a partner or other loved one to plan for the future. The alternative is much worse, because it means facing decisions during a crisis.”
This is exactly what we see time and time again in our practice: a failure to plan. Whether the issue is housing choices, legal preparation, financial planning, medical coverage or family communication, our natural human tendency is always to think “there’s plenty of time.” Then when the inevitable crisis hits, it catches families completely off guard and forces us to make important decisions under pressure. This is why we place to much emphasis here at AgingOptions on the process we call LifePlanning. We’ll share more about that in a moment.
From Fear of Assisted Living to “Great Relief”
Author Leida Snow in her NextAvenue article includes some anecdotes that sound very familiar. “Recently, a man behind a store counter confided that he’d had to relocate from another part of the country with little preparation to make arrangements for his parents suffering from dementia,” she writes. “[Another] acquaintance of mine is in dangerously failing health, and her husband feels helpless.” She also describes an aging relative who put off the decision to move to assisted living until it was almost too late. “[She] started falling about five months ago, and her doctor suggested assisted living, but Helene resisted. Then, her fatigue got so bad she could barely move, and she was taken to the hospital. That’s when Helene began to assess her situation.” At first, this lady was “deeply distressed” about the idea of assisted living, but now that she’s getting the care she needs, she calls it “a great relief.”
This discussion about assisted living comes at a time of unprecedented demographic change in the U.S., says NextAvenue. “By 2030, the national population of people age 65 and older is expected to increase dramatically, and older Americans will outnumber children for the first time in U.S. history,” the article states, quoting data from the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the Bureau, the 2030s – the decade when most boomers will be well into their 80s and looking for senior housing options – will be “transformative,” with slower population growth and rapid aging. Today more than 65 million people in this country are caregivers for a family member or friend. Will there be enough caregivers in the future, as the population ages, to meet the needs of those needing care? Assuming the answer is no, the need to plan for the possibility of moving to assisted living becomes that much more urgent.
Assisted Living is Just Part of a Bigger Picture
A big part of that planning includes finances. As Lindsay Goldman, director of healthy aging at New York Academy of Medicine told NextAvenue, financial preparedness is essential. She said “the most important issue is to ensure that someone will be financially secure” so they have sufficient funds to allow them to choose the housing option they want. “You shouldn’t have to impoverish yourself to get on Medicaid to get the level of care you need,” Goldman added.
If the NextAvenue article prods some families to plan ahead and prepare financially and emotionally for an eventual move to assisted living or other forms of senior housing, it will have served a valuable service. There are some key steps we at AgingOptions suggest you and your family take in order to face the future with solid planning and clear expectations.
- First, we think families should come together for a family conference, facilitated by a member of the AgingOptions professional staff, so that parents and adult kids can better understand the dynamics of aging and the different roles each will be expected to play.
- Second, when it’s time for professional advice about housing options, consider using a care coordinator such as Better Care Management. On your own, you can waste countless hours sifting through websites and marketing materials trying to make an informed housing decision. Instead, save time and money and choose the best housing option with the help of people who already understand the senior housing landscape.
- Finally, as you look ahead and consider where you might want to live one day, don’t focus narrowly on housing alone. As we said above, the best planning tool is one that addresses housing needs within the context of all the other essential aspects of retirement: your finances, your health care, your legal protection, and your family dynamics. What we’re describing is a LifePlan from AgingOptions.
We would love to meet you and to answer your questions about an approach to retirement planning that blends all these critical elements of retirement together. Rajiv Nagaich invites you to join him at a free LifePlanning Seminar near you. You’ll find details plus a complete calendar of currently scheduled seminars here on the AgingOptions Live Events page. Join us soon! Invest just a few hours and discover a brand-new way to think about and plan for a bright, secure retirement future. Age on!
(originally reported at www.nextavenue.org)