When deciding on the best senior housing plans for you – and your loved one – you’ll want to consider current needs, as well as those that may arise in the future.
As we age, we may need help with some physical needs, including activities of daily living. This could range from shopping, cleaning, cooking and looking after pets to more intensive or personal things like bathing, moving around, eating, toileting and dressing. You or a loved one also might need increased help with medical things. These could arise from a sudden condition (heart attack or stroke) or a more gradual condition that slowly needs more and more care, like memory loss.
Of course, aging in place – living in your own home – is an option. But, if you’re living alone, sooner or later, your current home may become too difficult or too expensive to maintain. You may have health problems that make it hard to manage tasks such as housework and yard maintenance that you once took for granted.
Also, as you age, your social networks may change. Friends or family may not be close by, or neighbors may move or pass on. You no longer may be able to continue driving or have access to public transportation in order to meet with a friend or a group. Or new social experiences aren’t your thing – you’d rather stay home where you’re comfortable and know where everything is, thus no surprises, discomfort or adjustments. Problem is, you risk becoming lonely and isolated.
Modifying your home and long-term care both can be very expensive, so balancing the care you need with where you want to live requires careful evaluation of your budget.
There’s a broad array of options available now – from staying in your own home with varying levels of assistance to specialized facilities that provide round-the-clock care.
In our earlier post, we identified signs that suggest you or a loved one might be physically, financially or emotionally better served in a setting other than your current housing, it’s time to see what’s out there – and which might best meet your needs.
It really never is too early to find out what kinds of options you have so you can have time to consider the best solution for you.
The names of different types of facilities can be confusing – especially if you haven’t investigated options before.
In general, the different types of senior housing vary according to the amount of care provided for activities of daily living and for medical care. Make sure everyone understands your specific needs, and be sure you understand what each CAN – or cannot – do for you.
The advantage to aging in place is that you’re in a familiar environment, and you know your community. Staying at home may be a good option if the following things are in place:
- You have a close network of nearby family, friends, and neighbors.
- Transportation is easily accessible, including alternatives to driving.
- Your neighborhood is safe.
- Your home can be modified to reflect your changing needs.
- Home and yard maintenance is not overwhelming.
- Your physical and medical needs do not require a high level of care.
- You have a gregarious personality and are willing to reach out for support.
- You fall within the confines of an integrated community, such as a Village.
Independent living is a general term for any housing arrangement designed exclusively for seniors. These may be apartment complexes, condominiums, or even free-standing homes. In general, the housing is friendlier to senior adults because it’s more compact, easier to navigate, includes help with outside maintenance, and offers some catered living services.
Assisted living may be a good choice if you need more personal care services than are feasible at home or in Independent living situations – and if you don’t need skilled nursing services.
Memory care or an Alzheimer’s Special Care Unit is a good option if the resident has special needs relating to dementia or memory loss. In these settings, personal care services are available in a secure (contained) environment.
A nursing home would be a good choice if both your medical and your personal care needs have become too great to handle at home or in another type of facility. Sometimes nursing care is temporary, to get back on your feet or to another level of senior housing.
Tips for Talking
Talking with a loved one about current needs and long-term care is never easy. A successful conversation depends on the relationship you have with the individual, as well as his or her mental, physical and emotional condition. You may think it’s easier to avoid serious discussions simply to avoid conflict or awkward conversations. However, NOT taking the time to understand your loved one’s wishes and establish a mutually agreed-upon plan may result in more conflict, heartache and suffering.
Here are some tips for having these kinds of conversations.
- Be honest and open about how you see the current situation evolving – and about your own ability to provide care.
- Let your loved one know that you want to make sure to carry out his wishes as much as possible and that he can depend on you always to act in his best interest. Make it clear that you are not trying to take over.
- Don’t brush off any anxieties your loved one might express. Instead, try making a written list of concerns that will need to be addressed when making plans for care.
- Don’t wait until it’s too late to figure out where key records, documents and financial paperwork are stored.
- It’s also a good idea to talk about the circumstances under which your loved one would like you to become his Power of Attorney.
Brian Rega is the Director of Senior Services/Housing for St. Bernards Healthcare based in Jonesboro. St. Bernards offers almost 300 housing units for adults age 55+ including the flagship St. Bernards Village; Cottage Homes; Benedictine Manor, (affordable housing for low-income elderly), and the latest addition, St. Bernards Villa featuring memory care and assisted living. He has held the position since 1998.
A native of Ash Flat, (Arkansas); Rega is a licensed residential care/assisted living facility administrator, and is an instructor in the administrator certification program. He holds a bachelor ‘sdegree in communications from Arkansas State University-Jonesboro, and is a certified business trainer. In 2006, he completed studies to become one of only two “Certified Aging Services Professionals” in the state of Arkansas, through the University of North Texas. He was first elected to the Board of Directors of the Arkansas Residential Assisted Living Association in 2000, and then appointed chairman of the board by his peers each year between 2003 and 2013. He remains on the Board today.