When it comes to deciding the best plan for your senior years, every situation is unique and must be tailored to your individual lifestyle and needs. For many, this decision is a very difficult one to make. In my experience, the instinct for many seniors is to remain in their home and age in place, relying on family and friends to help them with the normal activities of daily living.
Unfortunately, under normal circumstances, there will be a time when a senior will need more care than family and friends can manage. When that time comes, a “for hire” care team will have to pick up where the family leaves off. Those costs, plus current expenses and the costs of maintaining a home, can be daunting.
So which one is best for you? If you are one of those struggling with this decision, the next three steps should help you make the right choice.
Level Of Care
Retire At Home
The first question you need to ask yourself is: How healthy are you? A physical and blood work may answer those questions for you. Do you anticipate needing additional care in the next 10 years? No one has a crystal ball, but you can look at family history and your own lifestyle to determine if extra care might be a possibility.
Senior Living Options
Once you reach the ripe old age of 55, a world of senior living options opens up to you. When considering a lifestyle change, you must first determine what level of care you require, if any.
Independent Living Communities
Senior communities start with independent living, resort-like properties for those active seniors who want to enjoy high-end amenities without the hassle and expense of maintaining a home.
Assisted Or Supportive Living Communities
The next level of senior living would be assisted or supportive living communities, which offer the same as independent living along with daily personal assistance.
Memory Care Communities
Next, we have memory care communities providing secure specialized care for those living with acuity issues, such as dementia or Alzheimer’s.
Long-Term Care Homes
Long-term care homes or better known as nursing homes where 24-hour, skilled medical care, rehabilitation, and pain management assistance is administered. In addition to the choices listed above, there are a couple of other options that fit within these levels of care.
Residential Care Homes
One option would be residential care homes where a private home might be upfitted to provide care for a smaller group of residents (usually no more than 15) offering short-term and long-term care.
Continuing Care Retirement Community
Also, another option is a continuing care retirement community better known as a CCRC. These communities offer a continuum of care from independent living through skilled nursing. In this case, a resident can live the rest of their life in one location, moving between care levels as needed.
When To Move
Retire At Home
This can be a very subjective decision. Think about what you like to do or not do at your home. Do you still enjoy yard work? Do you like to cook? Is cleaning relaxing or stressful? Do you feel safe, both physically and mentally? How is your overall balance? Are you comfortable driving? Do you like your independence? Do you have family and friends close by who can help you? These are questions to consider when deciding if staying home is the right choice.
Senior Living Communities
As a senior, you will more than likely know the right time to make a lifestyle change. In many cases, seniors make the decision on their own, usually well in advance of actually needing care, as to not be a burden on their families. But some may not be willing or simply cannot make that decision for themselves, which puts the burden on others to determine the right time. The ones closest to you are normally the first ones to see a decline and that’s usually the right time to gingerly suggest an appropriate senior community.
The results of that conversation usually go one of three ways. The senior may actually be ready for that move and a bit relieved to have someone else broach the topic. They can be strictly against it and absolutely refuse, or they will appease the family member by investigating the options and even touring a few communities.
If the third option applies and they actually do agree to tour a community or two, the tours almost always end the same way. And if I’ve heard this once, I’ve heard it hundreds of times, “I just don’t know if I’m ready to give up my home yet.” My response is always the same, “Don’t think about what you’re giving up, think about what you are gaining.”
These decisions always seem easier earlier in the process when a senior can actively participate in the decision, a lot of care is not required, and the benefits of a senior community can be realized. If the decision is made later, let’s say at the memory care or skilled nursing level, it’s usually not a smooth transition, unless the senior is not cognitively aware enough to even know a move was made.
None of us want to think about aging, but it’s inevitable. Think about your choices well in advance and act when the right time comes.
Cost Versus Value
Retire At Home
For many seniors, cost is key when deciding how to live out their retirement years. If your home is paid off, you may not want to have the monthly expense of a senior community. Staying in your home may also bring you peace of mind knowing your monthly bills and other expenses. For example, if you are not interested in housekeeping or meal service, you might be better off staying in your residence.
Senior Living Communities
In any level of senior living, the amenities are endless and most are all inclusive. Just think, you no longer have to pay for:
- Trash removal
- Property taxes
- Homeowners insurance
- Lawn care and maintenance
- Home repairs
- 24-hour security
- Social, cultural, and recreational events
- Exercise and wellness
- 24-hour medical alert system
You simply pay a monthly rate for your residence, renter’s insurance (if desired) to cover your contents — which is normally a very minimal expense — and any additional care you may need. Everything else is included. Now keep in mind, not all communities include the same amenities, so make sure you are very clear on what’s included and what is billed separately.
As you might imagine, the cost of senior living goes up as the need for care increases. In general, independent living is the least expensive as no care is provided by the community. However, almost all independent living communities have partnerships with home health agencies who reside in the community and can provide as much or as little care a resident may need in a direct payment plan with the agency.
Moving down the line, again generalizing, assisted living is less expensive than skilled nursing and/or memory care. Although all communities provide some level of care, the care provided rises with the need and the expense. Lastly, as we mentioned earlier, CCRCs usually require a six-figure entrance or buy-in fee and their monthly rates increase as you move through the continuum of care. However, all levels of care are offered in one location.
So, as you can see, the options are endless. Deciding if, when, and where is an individual decision based on lifestyle, amenities desired, and required care levels.
Retiring at home or moving into a community also applies to caring for an aging loved one. While the above information is a great start, there are additional questions to ask and things to consider, provided in this article.
If you or a loved one is ready to make a lifestyle change, check out these wonderful retirement locations: