Looking at Senior Living Communities – Where Do I Start?

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What is home?  This writer believes home is a major part of our identity. Chances are a married couple bought the home at a very exciting time of life.  Families are raised in the home.  Memories surround each room and piece of furniture. Vibrant bedroom colors may have been chosen by adult children when they were young. Great memories; but great memories do not always translate into a good and safe future.

As our bodies change with age what was once simple may have become more complicated:  laundry in the basement, steps coming into a house, shelves up high, maintenance and sometimes just living alone. In many cases, people can privately hire home care and receive assistance with help around the house. It is worth a couple of phone calls to see if this could be useful.  However, that may not be practical or too costly. Sometimes a home is where our heart is, but our body needs a bit more security and/or help.  That’s were senior living complexes become realistic alternatives.

“Senior Living Complexes” vary substantially in independence, services and cost and the way you would plan for the future.  Your parent(s) could need an apartment with little to no services up to skilled, hands on daily services, or more likely, a place in the middle.  A newer concept is a facility offering a complete continuum of care.  They have apartments and/or condos, assisted living with some services, to memory care or skilled nursing center for someone who needs rehab or a great deal of care and all of this is provided on one campus. Other people move into a very nice complex and decide that they will move to another location if ever they have the need.  In either case, it may prove to be no more expensive than living at home, but would provide opportunity for socialization, excise and probably well balanced meals.  In the long run living in a senior community may provide better quality of life and actually may save money on healthcare.

So what drives the type of senior living community right for you or your loved one?  The place to start usually revolves around a person’s income and assets.  Depending upon income and assets people can choose “assisted living” or “supportive living”.  Both can provide hands on care; however the substantial difference, other than the amenities/etc, is the type of state license.  Supportive Living provides a living environment for people either on or that may be spending down to public aid; assisted living is private pay.

People who can privately pay for services from the assets, long term care benefits,  a VA pension named the “Aid & Attendance Pension” may wish to consider a “Continuing Care Retirement Community” (CCRC) or “Endowment Home”.  The difference from most other communities is that people in a CCRC and Endowment Home have qualified assets/income and they can usually stay there the rest of the life.

In addition, Central Illinois has several good “memory units” where they specialize in care for people with dementia.  Other facilities specialize in rehab services, to provide therapies to get a person back home following an accident, surgery or debilitating illness.

A plan for the future can be created to give your parents, you and your siblings’ peace of mind and lessen the chaos of a crisis.  If there is a medical condition such as Alzheimer’s where your parent will decline in daily abilities, it would be best to consider and visit living facilities.  These buildings are designed and built for seniors with the limitations of aging in mind.  As many people are reluctant to move from their home, they may find themselves much more socially active and happier in the long run.

Coordinating care for your children and parents simultaneously is not easy.  What can you do to manage this?  Three words of advice: Plan, Plan and Plan.  Legal, financial, residential, mental and physical healthcare elements must be addressed prior to a crisis.  A sandwich generationer should guide their parent through these issues and the primary issue of safety, while being careful not to take all control away from a parent.  Once again, it is important to start talking, making suggestions and guiding early, do not wait for a crisis.

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Steven A. Buttice is the president of Medical Reimbursement & Management Services, Inc., a firm specializing in issues affecting seniors, including seminars and consultation on Medicare Plans, Long Term Care and other types of insurance, claims issues, and sales/service of insurance products since 1984.

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