All too often, the move to an assisted living facility or other type of senior living residence is made in response to a crisis. The family is caught off guard and they’re unprepared for this major life change. But in most cases, the need to make a senior housing choice could have been anticipated and properly planned for.
How can seniors and their families do a better job of looking ahead and making the move to assisted living less reactive and stressful?
Recognize that life has a way of happening. Whether the issue is legal preparation, financial planning, or medical coverage, our natural tendency is to think that there’s always going to be plenty of time. Most of us believe there will also be sufficient time to plan for our long-term care. It can be difficult to convince a spouse, partner, parent or other loved one to plan for their senior care when they’re still fairly healthy and robust. And then there’s the “head in the sand” mentality—don’t discuss it and it will go away. But the harsh reality is that tragedy can happen anytime. The alternative to planning ahead means facing major life-changing decisions under extreme pressure, and that can lead to some serious negative consequences.
According to AARP, nearly 70% of Americans over the age of 65 will need long-term care at some point. The U.S. is also on the brink of unprecedented demographic change due to our aging baby boomer population. By the year 2030, the U.S. Census Bureau projects that the national population of people age 65 and older will increase dramatically, and senior Americans will outnumber children for the first time in history. Will there be enough caregivers in the future to meet this growing demand for senior care? With data like this, the need to plan ahead for the possibility of moving to assisted living becomes that much more urgent. Here are some smart steps to take now in preparation for the day when you or a loved one requires long-term care.
Get educated. Nursing homes have evolved into what are now known as “skilled nursing and rehab centers”, and there are also many more long-term care options, depending on the level of assistance required. Independent living, 55+ communities, assisted living residences, continuing care retirement communities (CCRCs), home health services and adult day care all fall under the senior care umbrella. Start by learning what each one does and the services it provides. That way, you’ll have a sense for what setting may be best based on your specific needs or the needs of your loved one.
Find out what’s in your area. Most seniors prefer to remain in the communities they’re accustomed to. Armed with an understanding of the range of senior care options available, research what facilities are in your vicinity or are close to your aging loved one. Some county and state agencies for health or aging have websites that offer consumers a list of long-term care providers. The federal government offers searchable databases for skilled nursing centers and home health agencies, as well. But don’t rely solely on the internet or online reviews. Once you’ve identified a few potential providers, set up a tour to learn first-hand about the care they provide.