Nothing is more heartbreaking then having to prepare for the inevitability of growing old not so gracefully. The sting of haphazard lifestyle choices and “treating ourselves” with unhealthy eating plays a toll even more as we get older. For those of us who live long enough and are just strong enough to require assisted living the traditional options ring of a bleak existence. The growing issues of dementia and the possibility of becoming disabled due to too many falls have made the need for either home care, nursing homes, or assisted living a reality that doesn’t just affect our parents, but also impacts how we must live in the wake of our parents aging.
However, having our parents dependent is still preferable to not having them at all. Anyone who has had good parents, want their parents to have the best, if we are not freed up to care for our loved ones we want the next best thing for them. Which in many cases requires assistance from outside of our home to accomplish. Smaller families with less children means for a growing trend to have to depend outside of the nucleus family for help. As I watch my parents and Aunts and Uncles age and many suffer from the unfortunate mishaps life can bring I am seeing the difference it makes in having a large family. My mom’s family there exists ten siblings and nine surviving and most of them still live in the town they were born and raised in. Having this large family structure meant that my grandmother could finish her days living in her own home, even with dementia, being cared for by her children with home health care being provided in assistance with the family surrounding her. My uncle who is not even the oldest who suffered some medical trauma himself that required him to be admitted to a facility for therapy has the benefit of several siblings who are popping in and out to ensure that he is getting quality care and encouragement. For my immediate family such a buffer doesn’t exist. As for my mom she only has two of us and as for my dad he only has three of us to depend on in which all three of us live a considerable distance from them in the event they were in need. Our circumstances would require that either our parents would have to leave the place they called home to stay with us, or would have to depend on their remaining siblings and/or facility aided care.
It’s heartbreaking and emotionally draining, as children you would like to be the one caring for your parents who brought you in this world and cared for you, and what’s even more disheartening is when they haven’t prepared for what could possibly happen to them during their golden years, so while you would like for your parents to have the very best possible care and living situation, your finances may at worst put them in a predicament where they could be miserable and neglected. This has caused me to re-evaluate a lot of things, not just for my family, but for myself, if God forbid I find myself in a future situation that would require me to have to make such decisions. I personally could find myself on my own since I have no biological children which is really causing me to analyze my future options and weighing how I should plan for that possibility.
While I have always been an advocate for living healthy so that you can live until you die, and this of course is the best way to avoid many tragedies that befall those who become sick due to auto-immune disease, the reality is it doesn’t protect you from a plethora of other things that could happen that can cause you to have to live out your days in an assisted living situation. Tragedy can strike in multiple ways in which diet, exercise, and proper rest can’t prevent. We all know that person who ate healthy, exercised, and slept on a clock who either died young, or tragedy struck. On the other hand we know that person who smoked a pipe, ate ice cream every night and lived to be 103 having no need of assistance. So I say that to say nothing is for certain, and no one is untouchable as it relates to sickness, disease, or the potential for disability.
For those of us who bought into the belief that less is better and cut our family down to one or two, or if you are one of those unfortunate enough to not have children then even more so you’d better start planning and saving for the facility that you would like to go into should you find yourself in need.
There are several options available for the financially prepared that may be most comparable for an assisted living situation should you not find yourself in a completely dependent state. You can opt to have in home care if you were wise enough to own a home that is already set up or easily convertible for handicap assistance. This may be the most affordable option for those who are in a limited financial preparedness situation. If you are in a situation where you are in your early thirties or forties I would encourage you to consider these factors when choosing a house. Many of us purchase homes with stairs and many of those stairs are needed to access places that are essential to daily living. Such as kitchen, bathroom, and bedrooms being located between or at the top of the stairways. If this is you expect that you will probably have to move should your lifestyle situation have to change due to impairment. If you own the house this would only be a temporary setback, which can be major if you don’t have a spouse, living children or trusted people to care for you. If you live in a house that is loft style or open concept then making the adjustment will be relatively easy to live out your days or as many of your days as possible within your home with daily assistance or home care provision.
Unfortunately none of us know what our future holds, obviously advance notice could allow for us to prepare for the future more carefully and would possibly change the way we live our lives in the here and now. But since we don’t know, the smartest option is to install the fire extinguisher in our lives. Fire extinguishers hopefully will never have to be used, and in many homes it isn’t, but unfortunately there are times when it is needed and there is far less damage when one is there then when it is not. If you know that you have limited income and you don’t expect to win any lotteries nor have any rich uncles or aunts who just love you to pieces then you should consider when purchasing a home or moving into neighborhoods what would be the fire extinguisher necessary in the event you should find yourself in need of medical attention or assistance.
- Buy a home that is in close proximity to the hospital you would want to be admitted to in the event tragedy struck. Many times we don’t think about this as being an important factor in choosing where we live. We focus on school zones, but the reality is after you begin looking for a home that will suit your needs not just a family home the most important thing you want to ensure is that you live close to a hospital you would be okay with going to in the event assistance is needed. Many places don’t let you choose the hospital you go to when EMT is dispatched. You are forced to go to the nearest hospital and the nearest hospital might not be the best option for you or the one you would like to be admitted to. But this is critical because it is nearly impossible to get transferred once you’re there.
- Choose your home style wisely. When you buy a house you aren’t thinking necessarily about future possibilities, but in the midst of you falling in love with the kitchen, décor, flooring, and grand entrances, make sure that you look at things like how open is the area? Do I have to go up stairs to access main areas of the home like the kitchen, bathroom, etc… Is there at least one bedroom or an area that could be a bedroom accessible on the main floor? Are there stairs outside the home? These are things that may not cost you a lot in purchasing, but can cost you your life or your lifesavings in the event that you had to function at limited capacity in that home.
- Do I live in a desirable neighborhood? More important than having the fancy home is living in the fancy area. Even if your house value depreciates due to wear and tare, if you live in a sought after area, you would still be able to quickly sell your home if that became necessary to move into an assisted living facility. This is critical because unless you have $20,000 or more stashed away somewhere if you had to move into an assisted living situation tomorrow, this is not a scenario that would be cheap. Depending on the assistance you need and where you live you can easily be looking at anywhere from $2000 to $5000 a month. While that covers all your necessity of life living expenses it certainly doesn’t leave most money for anything else, and since your working days would be over having cash on hand will be essential and being able to sell your home quickly will be as well.
For more information on assisted living planning, please read my article A New Reality For Assisted Living.