People in the U.S. can pretty much out-plan anyone when we set our minds to it. You may have heard by now that NASA plans to have an expedition on the planet Mars in about 15 years. Preparations are well underway with meticulous consideration being made for food, fuel, and mental stimulation. Everything is being planned in phenomenal detail for the 140-million-mile journey into outer space.
Individuals or families don’t begin to rival the enthusiasm of rocket scientists, however, when it comes to their planning for the future. Sadly, only one in three people have funds set aside for retirement. More than half don’t have a will. Needless to say, few people even give serious thought to their future housing needs long before it’s time to make that important decision.
This lack of planning is a critical error and is something that would likely doom a space mission before it ever took off from earth. When people don’t plan for senior living, decisions can get made in a hurry, usually only after one’s physical or mental health takes a turn for the worse. Families then tend to go into crisis mode and make choices without adequate forethought or insight.
Prepare Ahead of Time
Rather than seeming like a chore to tame, early planning gives a family a stress-free opportunity to make decisions around an adult’s living situation. Adult children get a chance to learn about mom or dad’s lifestyle, interests, passions, and concerns. The older adult in turn, get to explore options thoughtfully, without the pressure of a discharge deadline or some other artificial timeline hanging over their heads.
This planning phase can be a moment of enrichment for all involved, as well as a golden opportunity to organize and prioritize — all with an eye toward setting up a loved one for the best possible housing experience going forward. Not all senior living options are the same. There is a broad and varied market with the possibility of meeting a wide array of personal needs. It goes without saying, that finding the right fit takes care and forethought.
Older adults and their families will want to consider a range of factors when planning in advance for senior housing alternatives. The following information includes some of the biggest priorities that will take some time and planning.
What Can You Afford?
Finances are typically the main or at the very least a primary consideration. As with any housing option, the conversation may well begin with the question: How much can I afford? This will be a calculation encompassing retirement savings, the possible sale of a home, as well as other sources of income. Online calculators and other services, including the skills of a CPA or other financial professional, can help a family get a handle on their numbers.
The flip side of that coin: How much does it cost? It pays to do one’s homework here, as the cost of senior housing is a widely variable factor. Different types of housing — independent living, assisted living, memory care, nursing home — have different financial models. Costs may vary even among similar-seeming communities. Staying at home and receiving in-home care isn’t necessarily less expensive either. It pays to do research while you are planning ahead.
Type of Community
The style or type of community is always a major consideration. A vibrant, engaged community like The Classic at Hillcrest Greens — one where residents have ample opportunities to express themselves, discover new interests, and engage with others, is ideal. Not all senior housing options are cast in this mold.
A little research will uncover a big difference between assisted living and nursing homes, for example. Assisted living residents generally enjoy a far higher level of autonomy. They can engage in not only the basic functions of daily living but also participate in a wide range of other activities. It’s important to note that not all assisted living communities are the same and as the trend continues to move more individuals towards this type of residential setting, early planning is essential. Many communities continue to have full occupancy, so don’t be surprised if you are told that you need to be placed on a waiting list.
Location, Location, Location
You must consider location as well and just as mentioned above, early planning is once again key. If parents are going to relocate to be closer to their children, a head start helps make that complex transition go smoothly. Older adults also may want housing close to a particular medical provider or near towns or sites of particular personal interest. Either way, if a move is in the cards, early planning helps make the adjustment easier because you can ensure a location will be available near you.
Making a Rushed Decision
Those who wait to consider even discussing the topic of moving, or putting matters off until “something” happens, often find themselves in an uncomfortable situation. When families wait until a crisis arises to make their senior housing choices, emotions can get in the way and it can be difficult to make the right choice.
A hurried decision can lead to financial mistakes. Older adults find their choices constrained by the lack of advance planning, especially if they are unaware of the costs associated with housing. Those who don’t know the financial side typically have difficulty allocating their resources appropriately. Putting off the “money conversation” as uncomfortable or inconvenient as it may seem, inevitably leads to fewer options down the road.
Likewise, those who don’t think through the different housing types may find themselves unprepared to address the complex senior living landscape. As a result, a rushed choice may land mom and/or dad in a community that simply doesn’t fit — a place that doesn’t respond to their lifestyle needs, personality, or intentions. Forethought helps ensure a fit between the individual and the place they will be calling home. As in most major life decisions, a hurried choice typically yields lukewarm results at best.
Planning Early is Crucial
Finances, housing type, and location. These three key considerations significantly help inform the choice of senior housing. The sooner you and your loved ones begin exploring the options, the better. Those who fail to act and end up making a decision based on emotion rather coordinated research, often regret not having acted sooner. Early planning is more than just smart. It’s essential for those who wish to take what some find to be a daunting task and turn it into a process of joyful exploration and an enriching experience for all involved.