The good news is more Americans are living longer and healthier lives. There are medical breakthroughs and commitments to healthy lifestyles that have redefined the terms of “retirement”. However, this comes with many difficult decisions that face seniors, future seniors, or “sandwich generation” children helping aging parents as they choose how to best age wisely and gracefully. And many Baby Boomers and subsequent generations will need to approach these issues differently than their predecessors because of longer life spans, uncertainty about entitlement benefits and rising medical costs that impact these choices like never before.
Of course, there is no way to precisely predict what each individual’s mental and physical health might look like as time goes by. There are several factors in play to choose the best path: physical and emotional status of the senior, convenience, family participation and cost, for example. The trend has been to find a way to live independently. Many are choosing to stay in their home and have it retrofitted with safety or convenience items to make it more feasible to stay there. For instance: first floor bedrooms, special chairs, ramps, bath and bed handles or even voice-activated command items. There are many perks to this living-at-home arrangement. There is minimal impact on comfortable routines and the familiar surroundings can be uniquely suited to the individual. Family members can stay more in charge. In fact, it is estimated that some 80% of senior care is provided by family and friends. Home care services can offer a supplement to the burdens of those nearest and dearest. There are many levels of home care to consider, depending on the condition and needs of the senior. Some may try using 100% family and friends to help or alternatively combine a regular care-giver with home care service that can provide homemaking, companionship, personal care, transportation or even specialized live-in or respite care to give the regular caregiver a break. Many resources for seniors or their caregivers are available to give support and advice. Overall, aging-in-place can be a more cost-effective and less disruptive choice. Check out AARP, Angie’s List, or other web resources for information.
Independent living can also be achieved in a more managed setting. There are many senior communities that have private senior homes, apartments or rooms, but that share other parts of life with the community. This can mean participating in meal plans, transportation and recreational activities. There are many benefits with this choice in terms of safety and socialization, while maintaining some independence. There may be on-site medical care or easy access and transportation to medical facilities and appointments. Socializing, dining and interacting with others in your age group is known to combat depression and benefit digestion and general well-being. There may be help with personal or home maintenance tasks. This solution can be a reassuring transition for seniors and their families and not as burdensome on individual caregivers.
Finally, there is the assisted living or nursing home option. This solution can be for long-term care or for a finite recuperative scenario. Assisted living facilities can provide varying degrees of care, but usually there is basic on-site medical care or physical therapy, assistance with personal daily activities like bathing and dressing, preparation and service of meals and the ability to stay in a safe and controlled environment. This situation generally also provides much-needed socialization and recreational activities for the seniors. About 60-70% of people over 65 will need some type of long-term assistance during retirement. These types of facilities can average $200 per day or more and sometimes up to $100,000 a year, which can be daunting for those that are unprepared.
Funding for long-term care is typically done using one or a combination of the following:
- Self-funding using your personal investment resources.
- Purchasing a Long-Term Care Insurance Policy that typically provides a daily benefit (after a 90 day “elimination” period) for home care or a facility, subject to limits on number of years and total dollars paid.
- Opting for a reverse mortgage. More people are using their home to stay at home. The FHA-insured Home Equity Conversion Mortgage (HECM) program has recently undergone major changes by lowering fees and providing more flexibility in their use.
Decisions on how best to age wisely and gracefully are among the most important and difficult an individual or family will make. At DWM, we help you evaluate your future residential needs or long-term care options as you age. Planning for your future will ease the burden for you and your loved-ones and allow you to truly get the most you can from your Golden Years! Give us a call, we are happy to help.