As we approach retirement age and beyond, it’s natural to start thinking about future care. Aging is a surety and, for those of us fortunate enough to live into our advanced years, so is the eventual need for help with the necessities of daily life. But when do you actually start planning for and taking steps toward a move into assisted care?
The best answer may be to start the process of lining up future care before you need it.
We plan for other life stages and events early. Why not senior care?
Think about this— throughout our lives, the most prudent of us are continually planning ahead for various stages of our lives.
When we were children, our parents put away money for our college educations, for weddings, or made provisions for us in their wills. When we are teenagers, we had paper routes and fast food jobs to save up for education or major purchases like cars and homes. In young to middle adulthood, we start buying life insurance policies and setting up our IRAs and 401(k)s. We might even buy ourselves and our family members cemetery plots.
We do all of this without fear. Because it just seems like a good investment and the day we will need them seems so very far off.
But when it comes to planning for future care, we seem to shy away? Why is that? For one thing, it isn’t very common for working-age Americans to plan for it. Hale and hearty in the midst of a strong career, most adults don’t necessarily see themselves as tied to a particular area.
We even tend to rationalize the oversight: Why plan for an eventual move to an assisted livingin Cincinnati if my career may take me to Orlando or Des Moines in the next few years? What if I’m in a car accident tomorrow and pass away quickly? I might not even need advanced care.
To adults or late middle and early-age seniors, planning for assisted care may feel like surrender.
It’s easier to understand why younger adults aren’t very savvy about senior care planning. But what about Americans who are rapidly approaching retirement or are, in fact, recent retirees? What about those people ages 55-75 who are most likely to need assisted care at some point within the next 10-15 years? Why the reticence among them?
The answer may simply be discomfort. Even fear.
If you have just retired, you’re finally enjoying a period of rest after a lifetime of working hard. And you don’t want that to end. Planning for assisted care may seem like an acknowledgement that an end isn’t far off.
But that’s a misconception.
Planning for and needing are separate things.
We’re only talking about starting a process. Gathering our thoughts. Visiting potential future homes. Putting wishes in writing. We’re not talking about retiring and then immediately moving into the proverbial “old folks’ home.”
Most retirement communities these days aren’t, strictly speaking, nursing homes. And “assisted living” doesn’t equate to “nursing home” at all.
Many communities are now planned and built as Continuing Care Retirement Communities (CCRCs). This means they provide different levels of service to different residents, based on that individual’s specific needs.
A person might move into a CCRC when he or she is entirely well, just to get away from the rigors of home maintenance and to be around age peers. But as needs change, assisted living, or eventually skilled nursing care, may become a part of the services received from the retirement community.
And you won’t be losing any privacy. Assisted living isn’t invasive. Residents have their ownapartments, condos or townhome-style units. Staff provides very basic support: help with getting around when your mobility changes, help with daily tasks like dressing, bathing, or meal preparation if you can no longer perform those tasks for yourself, medication monitoring and social support. And because skilled nursing and professional medical services are typically not needed, assisted living is (on average) less expensive than traditional nursing home care.
The Time Is Now.
It doesn’t matter how young or old you are—whether you’re a recent college graduate just embarking on your career path or you’re an older adult whose work path is nearing its final destination. The answer to the question of when you should start planning for the future is always “Now.”