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Home vs. Senior Living: How to Choose

When choosing between home and a senior living community, a thorough assessment of the current situation can help ease the way. An honest look at needs, help required and finances can go a long way toward making the best decision.

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    Making the decision for a senior to remain at home or move to a senior care community can be an emotional struggle for families. Change is often difficult and seniors who have resided in the same place for years or decades may not be open to transitioning to a senior community, even if they know it’s a good idea.

    To relieve family and loved ones of some of the emotions and stress of this decision, here are several essential aspects to consider in assessing the current situation and future needs. Being open and honest will help determine whether or not moving to a senior community can improve the quality of life for everyone involved.

    1. Assess the senior’s daily living personal needs. Consider everything required, including meal preparation, hands-on help with cleaning, personal care and medications, and other assistance. Don’t forget tasks like going outdoors to get the mail, caring for a home and lawn, and even taking a trip to the grocery store or hair salon. If help is needed to accomplish daily tasks, how many friends and family members are involved in helping each day, and can that help be sustained into the future?
    2. If daily help at home is being provided by a paid caregiver, the costs can add up quickly, even if the hired help is there only a few hours a week. In addition to cost, the right caregiver can be hard to find and even harder to keep, leaving gaps in the continuum of care. So, when comparing staying home and moving to a senior living community, be sure to factor those costs and concerns into the bottom line in decision making.
    3. Safety is important so for those who live alone or with an elderly spouse or partner, make a list of safety concerns. Take into account their ability to walk and climb stairs, as well as possible scenarios in the event they fall or are taken ill. Keep in mind that according to the National Council on Aging, “Falls are the leading cause of fatal and non-fatal injuries for older Americans. Falls threaten seniors’ safety and independence and generate enormous economic and personal costs.” Be sure to include activities that may become more challenging or impossible over time, such as bathing, climbing stairs, and driving a car.
    4. Isolation is another very important consideration for seniors living at home. As it becomes more and more difficult to get out and about, many find themselves alone much of the time, and eventually become lonely. Ultimately, this way of life can sap their strength, impact sleep and even bring about depression. For loved ones who live alone, the AARP Foundation’s Connect2affect program offers an assessment that can reveal if isolation is a concern before it becomes a problem.
    5. For many seniors, the concept of living in a senior community is immediately associated with high costs. But before jumping to financial conclusions, take the time to compare the costs of owning and maintaining their home versus living in a senior community where everything is managed and maintained for them. Be sure to include all the costs related to the home, not just rent or mortgage payments; taxes, utilities, maintenance, insurance, and any paid caregivers (as noted in #2) should also be added to the comparison.Because Medicare generally does not cover senior living that is not medically necessary, financing options should also be investigated. Make a list that includes long-term care insurance, veteran’s benefits, pensions, proceeds from the sale of real estate, and other sources of funding in their portfolio. Also consider meeting with a financial advisor and ask their help in determining the financial and funding possibilities available.
    6. Talk to family about all findings and concerns. Include everything from how much help they can continue to provide, to concerns about isolation, and the comparative costs associated with staying home versus moving to a senior living community.

    This may seem like an overwhelming project, but there’s help available! 12 Oaks Senior Living has compiled everything needed in one place in our “Family Decision Guide.” It contains checklists, help with cost comparisons, how to budget, tips on starting the discussion with family, and more to help families make the best decision possible.

    download our family decision guide

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