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. However, this is not always a realistic elder care plan for seniors or their loved ones.
Aging in place is not as easy as it looks. It can often be expensive, exhausting, and even unsafe. Nearly 70 percent of seniors will need some sort of long-term care, including services that family members are untrained or unavailable to give.Caregiving can be hard. Family caregivers often must contend with the serious physical and emotional health consequences that come from caregiver burnout. Caregiving can leave most family members feeling exhausted, demoralized, and even depressed. It may make having a normal, healthy relationship with their senior loved one impossible as well.
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, including senior living communities.
Elder Care Isn’t What You Expect
Some seniors can resist adding senior living to their retirement plans. However, senior living communities are often the best place to enjoy retirement! Thanks to first-class amenities and support services, these active communities offer socialization and a focus on overall wellness.
Today’s senior living communities are vibrant and diverse hubs of community activity. 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
- Plenty of community events
- Regular exercise 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 lobby or bistro.
If your senior loved one is reluctant to talk about their elder 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 yours. This option works best for seniors who are fairly independent and 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. This option may seem ideal, but seniors living at home alone can often find themselves feeling lonely and socially isolated. Unfortunately, social isolation has been linked to serious health consequences including rapid cognitive decline and even premature death.
- 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. There are multiple options to choose from, including independent living, assisted living, and memory care. These communities offer peace of mind, personalized assistance, and healthy socialization for a cost that is quite affordable for most retirees.
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
When 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.
When 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 at least 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 homeownership — 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. Veterans Affairs (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 may 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 retirement to 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
- Support organizations, such as the Alzheimer’s Association
- Local community groups, such as Facebook neighborhood associations
- Listings at local senior centers
Learn more tips for starting the conversation about senior living with your loved one by downloading our free guide, “How to Talk to Your Parent About Senior Living.” Then, begin your research to find exceptional senior living near you.
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!
This blog was updated in January 2021.