There are several ways to preplan and consider when you might want to move from your home. How do you set the milestones and stay accountable … or do you need to be accountable to anyone?
My parents bought into a Life Care Community (previously called Continuing Care Retirement Communities) in 1998. However, for more than a decade, they treated their apartment like it was a vacation home and visited on the weekends. When they started to have health issues, like my mom’s stroke or my dad’s hip fracture, they didn’t consider using the Community for rehabilitation or recuperation.
The reality was that my parents thought they were never “old enough” to move in. Today, most of the Life Care communities in metropolitan D.C. report the average age of new residents in the low 80s.
That coincides with an AARP report that 9 out of 10 adults choose to continue living in their homes as they age. Most people don’t recognize the benefits of Life Care Communities earlier.
One of the most important, but little-known benefits, of a Community is access to rehabilitation or skilled nursing. According to an ARN Network report from the Association of Rehabilitation Nurses, 25 percent of all older adults are hospitalized each year and many of them will need rehabilitation services.
For those of us who have known someone in this situation, the facility with an “open bed” is usually not the one you would choose. For this reason, I recommend that my clients consider getting on the waiting list for a Life Care Community they like. That way, should they ever need rehabilitation or skilled nursing services, they will have access to a bed in a community they pre-selected. Most communities will allow individuals on their waiting list to get access to rehabilitation or skilled nursing services if there is an opening.
I watched as my dad brought my mom back to their 3-level townhome after my mom’s stroke. He asked me to stay with her when he had to leave for appointments. That seemed like a good time to consider moving more permanently to their Life Care Community.
Six months later, when my dad fell on the racquetball court and broke his hip, he fully expected my 100-pound mother to be able to care for his 200-pound self in the townhouse when they discharged him 3 days after surgery. Thankfully, the social worker intervened so that he was not discharged into my mother’s care. She admitted she could not manage my dad’s needs at their townhome.
He was discharged to the rehabilitation unit of their Life Care Community so he could get physical therapy and assistance getting out of bed, dressed, and to the toilet. As soon as he was discharged, my parents returned to spending most of their time in their townhome.
When Is It Time to Move?
Watching this, I wondered if I would recognize when it was time to move. How can you determine when it’s time? Key issues to consider include:
- Cost. For most Americans, the equity in your home is needed to help make a deposit for the move to the community. For communities that don’t charge an entrance fee and charge month-to-month, you might even rent your home for income. Most people assume it’s cheaper to stay at home, and in some areas, given the cost to maintain the home, pay taxes, mortgage and any support services, you might find moving into a community is less expensive. Most of the communities include utilities, at least one meal, and cover all the maintenance expenses.
- Some weekends in the Spring, I’d rather be riding my bike than in the back yard pulling weeds in the garden. Do you enjoy the home maintenance or might you prefer to spend your time on other pursuits? Do you have health issues or physical limitations preventing you from being able to maintain your home the way you would like? Independent Senior Communities, Assisted Living and Life Care Communities take care of all maintenance and lawn chores leaving you free to spend time on other pursuits.
- In her testimony before the US Senate Aging Committee, Julianne Holt-Lunstad, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience at Brigham Young University, explained that isolation is as devastating to our health as smoking 15 cigarettes every day. Unfortunately, our friends move, and some of them die, and those social networks we had constructed start to thin out. For those who give up the car keys, getting out and to the events you loved becomes more challenging and often adds another expense to staying in your home.
Some simple ways to evaluate when it’s time to move include:
- Is it more expensive to stay in my home? In general, if you are hiring people to maintain your home, care for your lawn, and attend to health care issues, you will typically find it more expensive to stay in your home.
- Will I find more enjoyment in a community? The ease of access to a host of social activities from board and card games to more active pursuits like pickle-ball and hiking might be appealing. It’s also easy to rebuild your social network and there are ample opportunities to meet new friends. There are also transportation options and day-trips to local sites that appeal to a wide variety of interests.
- Am I able to get the type of support I need to safety stay in my home? For individuals with chronic health issues that need skilled care, your best choice might be to move into a community due to the cost and availability of skilled care. However, for manageable health issues you may just get overwhelmed scheduling and finding home care aides that meet your needs.
A mentor told me “failure to plan is planning to fail.” We were in the habit of planning and mapping out our careers, but when it comes to planning for our care needs, we are woefully unprepared. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS),“most Americans underestimate the risk of developing a disability and needing long-term services and supports (LTSS). In fact, they estimate that about half (52%) of Americans turning 65 today will develop a disability serious enough to require LTSS.”
We looked to retirement as a time when we don’t have to plan and live care-free lives. However, what I see play out again and again is how a critical health incident disrupts the lives of family and loved ones. The worst time to plan a move into a community is from a hospital bed. Most of the desirable communities have year-long waiting lists. If you are lucky, you might find a new community with availability, but usually you have limited choices when you have a few days to select a community.
For those of you who want some control over a future choice you might consider visiting the communities in your area. Select one that would meet your needs, and make a deposit to join the waiting list. When an apartment is open, you can decline and only need to accept and make the move when you are ready.