Showing posts with label aging without adult children. Show all posts
Showing posts with label aging without adult children. Show all posts

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Retirement Housing for Aging Alone - Are You Prepared for the Future?

Millions of Americans are aging alone, often because they are divorced or widowed.  Others may never have married.  Large numbers of them may not have children, or their children may have their own physical, mental or addiction problems which make them unlikely to be of much help.  Although most of us believe we will be able to take care of ourselves for the rest of our lives, this is not always realistic.  What happens if you are diagnosed with a serious illness or dementia?  Everyone needs to understand their options for aging alone, so they are prepared when the time comes and they need extra help.

Reach Out to Others for Help

The first thing you need to realize is that few people really need to be totally alone, unless they are unwilling to reach out for help.  Organizations such as your church or place of worship, the local senior center, and Meals on Wheels have resources to help you, whether you need permanent or temporary assistance, such as after a surgery. 

If you wish to remain in your own home as long as possible, contact the organizations mentioned above, as well as your nearest state Social Services department, and follow their suggestions.  You may qualify for financial assistance, discounts on your utilities, special telephones for the hearing impaired, free or discounted transportation, Meals on Wheels delivered to your home, and handicapped accessible equipment to make it easier for you to live alone.  For many people, these services make it possible for them to remain in their own home much longer than would otherwise have been possible.

It is likely that there are also businesses in your community which will make it easier to stay in your own home as you age.  Find out if you can get your groceries delivered, your cleaning picked-up, and a maid service to clean for you.  Does your local transportation authority have buses or ride share services which will take you to shopping centers or doctors' appointments?  Are you taking advantage of online banking?  All of these conveniences make it easier to live alone, even when you have trouble getting around on your own.

In addition, set up your own circle of friends and relatives who may be in the same situation.  Create a phone circle so you regularly make phone calls and receive calls from others.  In this way, you can help check on them and they can check on you.  This can bring peace of mind in the event you fall or are injured, knowing someone will check on you and, if you do not respond, they will call a neighbor, relative or the police to do a wellness check.

A friend of mine has a 90 year-old neighbor whom she worries about.  Together they came up with a plan that the 90 year-old would open the blinds in her kitchen window by 10:00 every morning.  When my friend sees the blinds have been opened, she knows her neighbor is OK.  A simple plan such as this one can make it easier to live alone, while knowing that your neighbors are looking out for you.

You can also use technology, such as a Great Call device or similar wearable alarm system, so you can easily reach someone in an emergency.  You simply need to push a call button and the agent who answers can call a neighbor, friend, police or ambulance service for you, depending on the situation. You can even do something as simple as taking the time to make sure you always carry your cell phone around in your pocket.

Finally, pull together a few social circles.  These can be people who get together on a regular basis such as book clubs, quilting clubs, lunch pals, or dinner groups.  Join a bridge group or take a class at a senior center or community college.  Send cards or emails to friends and relatives so you stay in touch.  All these social contacts can enrich your life and help you feel less alone, which is important for both your mental and physical health.

Housing for Those Needing More Care

Once you have exhausted all the programs which have enabled you to live on your own, what should you do when you eventually need more care than is possible for you to get in your own home?  This is when you or a person you trust should plan ahead for the best type of housing for you.  You need to consider the types of care you may need, the activities which interest you, the amount of socialization you think you would enjoy, and how close you want to be to your current community support such as your church, old friends and relatives.

You can start by using a reputable agency to hire a personal caregiver.  This may help you stay in your own home even longer.  However, it is important that a friend or relative checks on the caregiver regularly, to make sure they are giving you appropriate care and not taking advantage of you.

You may also consider moving into an over-55 community where you can live in a separate home of your own and participate in community activities, but have an added layer of security as well as the company of neighbors who are also aging in their own homes. 

Several of my friends have moved into a wide variety of special senior living facilities and wondered why they waited so long.  Modern assisted living communities have parties, cocktail hours, special events, classes, trips, pools, art studios, gyms and more, while providing meals, housekeeping and other types of care.  Once they have gotten settled, most of my friends have loved their new homes!

Personally, I am currently living in an over-55 independent living active adult community.  I have plans to move in the next couple of years into senior apartments which include dinner, lunch and housekeeping, but no nursing care.  In the event this is not enough care, I also have long-term care insurance so I can move into assisted living or a memory care facility when I get really old!  However, I'm not in a hurry for that to happen and, perhaps, it never will. 

There are a number of senior housing choices available:

Independent Living Apartments:  These are ideal for people who want the security and simplicity of living in a senior community, but do not need any assistance with daily living needs.  In some of these communities, you prepare your own meals and do your own grocery shopping.  In others, your meals are provided.  Some locations have a hybrid system in which dinner and, perhaps, lunch are provided, but you are on your own for breakfast.  You should check out a variety of communities until you find one which seems right for you.  If you are financially limited, many cities provide senior apartments which can be rented on a sliding scale, depending on your income.  You may need to go on a waiting list, so sign up as soon as you begin to think this is something you would like to do. 

Assisted Living Residences:  These are ideal for people who do not need medical care but who might need assistance with the normal activities of daily living, such as bathing, eating, dressing, using the bathroom, walking or transitioning back and forth from a bed to wheelchair.  They usually provide meals, housekeeping, transportation, medication management, and fun, interesting activities.  The cost can range from about $4,000 to $10,000 a month, depending on the amount of help you need, the size of your room or apartment, and the area where you live.  Long-term care insurance may help with the expense.

Continuing Care Retirement Communities or a CCRC:  These are sometimes called life care communities and it is something you may want to investigate years before you expect to need one.  In this way, you will have a say in where you may end up living.  A CCRC is composed of senior apartments and cottages which have a tiered approach.  You start out living in an independent living unit.  Then, as the need arises, you may be moved to a skilled nursing or memory care facility in the same community, so you can get the assistance you need while still maintaining your connections.  Most of these communities require that you are able to function on your own in an independent living unit when you first move in, so it is important you plan ahead.

A few CCRCs are rentals and some allow you to use your long-term care policy to cover the cost, which can vary depending on the amount of care you will need.

However, most CCRCs require you to buy into the community and they will not accept a long-term care policy.  The "buy-in" can range from $100,000 to $1 million, with the money often coming from the sale of your home.  In addition, the monthly fees can range from $3,000 to $5,000 per person.  There are different types of contracts available including unlimited life care, modified life care with limits, and fee for service, with the responsibility for expensive long-term care lying with the resident, not the facility.  Before you choose a CCRC, you will want to visit all the ones in the area where you plan to live and compare whether they are rentals or the type where you pay an entrance fee, the monthly cost, potential extra fees, as well as what type of contract you will have.  It can be complicated to compare them, so you want to investigate your choices thoroughly while you are still in good health and of sound mind.  The benefit of a CCRC is that you can settle comfortably into one and, if you have planned well, you will never have to move again.  They will take care of you for the remainder of your life.  This brings a great deal of peace-of-mind to many people.

Board and Care Homes:  If you are looking for a comfortable, homey setting which is less expensive than most assisted living residences and CCRCs, then you may want to investigate your choices in board and care homes.  They are private homes which have been converted to small senior living facilities with professional staff.  They do not feel as institutional as other facilities and they can feel safer and more supportive than trying to remain alone in your own home.  You will be living with a small group of other people and have a staff to make your life more comfortable. 

Nursing Homes:  Also known as skilled nursing facilities, they will care for you and provide around-the-clock medical care.  Some of them are also rehabilitation facilities and you may stay in one temporarily while you recuperate from surgery, such as a hip replacement.  They have a higher level of care than an assisted living facility or a Board and Care home.  If you pay for a nursing home out-of-pocket, it can average $82,000 a year or more to stay in a semi-private room, according to a 2016 National Nursing Home Survey.  However, your costs may be covered by a long-term care policy or, in some cases, Medicaid.  You should investigate your financial options as soon as you move into one, before any Medicare or health insurance benefits expire.

Plan Ahead for Late In Life Care

If you expect to age alone, it is smart to start early to investigate your various options for receiving appropriate medical care should you have surgery or become seriously ill.  If you are fortunate, you may discover you never need to use the most expensive, comprehensive care, such as a nursing home.  However, if you do have a need for this advanced care, even temporarily, it is smart to know your options and consider how you will pay for it.  Put your choices in writing and give the information to one or two trusted family members or friends, so you are sure your wishes will be honored, should you not be able to speak for yourself.

Whether you age in your own home or move into some type of senior housing, you should make sure you have a will and trust, your finances are in order, and everything is as organized as possible.  Make certain you have a trustee who can handle everything for you, should you become unable to handle things yourself.

While you are at it, you may also want to consider discussing your healthcare wishes with your doctor and putting them in writing, too.  A Living Will or Healthcare Directive is another way to make sure your wishes will be honored during the last few years of your life.

In you are interested in learning more about aging, common medical problems, where to retire, financial planning, Social Security, Medicare and more, use the tabs or pull-down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional articles.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

How to Successfully Retire Alone

How do you prepare to retire if you have no spouse, no kids and no one to perform the role of caregiver in your life?  Many people outlive or divorce their spouse; they either have no children or they outlive them; they have no near relatives who can take care of them if their health or memory begins to decline.  How can these people make sure they have adequately prepared for the future?

Scary Numbers for Single, Childless Seniors

Currently, about one-third of people between the ages of 45 and 63 are single.  About 15 percent of women in the 40 to 44 age group have no children.

According to Dr. Maria Torroella Carney, in a presentation at the American Geriatric Society's annual meeting, approximately one-fourth of Americans over the age of 65 lack a family member who can take care of them.  Carney refers to them as "elder orphans."

How to Prepare for the Future

Many of the suggestions about how to prepare for the future are the same for single people as they are for those who do have spouses and/or children ... save money, maximize your Social Security, choose a Medicare Advantage or supplement plan, find an appropriate place to live and budget wisely.   However, it can be even more important that they follow through on these suggestions if they are single and/or childless.  Below are some tips to help you navigate your senior years.

About two-thirds of seniors will eventually need long-term care.  It is wise to either buy long-term care insurance or put aside a large enough nest egg that you will be assured there will be money available for your care when you need it.  If you do not qualify for long-term care (and many people do not), you may want to move into a CCRC while you are still ambulatory and do not need assisted living.  Many of these appealing communities do not accept people who are already in need of assisted living or skilled nursing.  A final way to prepare for long-term care, especially if you are a low-income retiree, is to visit and select a Medicaid Approved nursing home in your community so you know where you would like to live, should the time come that you cannot take care of yourself.  Medicaid pays the lifetime cost of nursing home care for low and moderate income retirees with few assets.

Plan for your future housing needs by buying a home or moving into a CCRC - a Continuous Care Retirement Community.  Even if you are not in a CCRC, you may want to move to a location where you can remain independent as long as possible ... with no stairs and within walking distance of doctors and grocery stores or with a convenient bus/train/taxi service.  You may also want to see if there is a local grocery store that can deliver your groceries to you if you have surgery or become too frail to do the shopping by yourself.  Explore other neighborhood assistance that may be available to you, including Meals on Wheels, taxi vouchers, senior apartment complexes, and senior centers.  Keep a list of these services handy so you can contact them easily.

*  Prepare for medical emergencies by getting a comprehensive medical insurance plan, usually a Medicare Advantage or supplemental plan, and putting aside additional money to take care of any out-of-pocket expenses you might have as you age.

Stay connected with other people, both new friends and old friends.  Without a spouse or adult children, you may need the assistance of friends from time to time.  Socializing with friends also serves to keep you healthy, happy and less likely to decline rapidly.

Choose a trusted friend or relative to be your proxy.  Make sure they know where you keep your important documents.  Designate that person as your durable power of attorney for health care decisions, before you begin to lose cognitive function.  If you have no one you can trust, contact an elder care attorney for a reference to a professional who can become your legal proxy as you age.

Make it a priority to stay healthy as long as you can.  Eat well and get daily exercise.  Work your brain as much as your body.  People who do these things and socialize with others tend to age better than those who do not.

Put together an "In-case of Death" Notebook.  What would happen if you were found unconscious in your home by a neighbor, relative or emergency personnel?  You should have an easy to find notebook that lists the names of people to contact, physician names, your health insurance carrier information, life insurance policies, religious preferences, funeral instructions and any other information that you believe they would need.  My personal notebook even includes a copy of our will and trust, as well as a brochure for our children that explains what needs to be done when someone dies.

If you take these steps, you will know that you have done everything possible to make your life easier as you age.  You will also have made things easier for the distant relatives or friends who might be contacted upon your death or serious illness.  Otherwise, they may not know what to do or what you would like done, should the time come when it is difficult or impossible for you to make decisions for yourself. 

If you are interested in learning more about where to retire, health considerations as you age, financial planning and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
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