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Money Advice for Life
Retirement homes: when, where & how much
Beginning the conversation with a loved one about transitioning to a retirement home can be emotional, intimidating and overwhelming. This MONEYTALK Blog breaks down tips on how to have the conversation, retirement home options, and factors to keep in mind when making your decision to make the process as easy for you and your loved ones as possible.
Ready or not?
Over the past couple of years, my mom has been dealing with some health issues. She just celebrated her 84th birthday and is still living in her own home. For the most part, she is capable of taking care of herself but my siblings and I are starting to wonder if her living situation is safe and healthy. We’ve been gathering information on retirement homes and have learned a lot along the way. Here are some helpful tips and things to consider so you or your loved one are best equipped for a seamless transition to an assisted living facility.
Time to talk
There are so many options available for retirement living. Seniors are no longer resigning themselves to the retirement homes of old. They are choosing a lifestyle, a new freedom to focus on, and a place that brings them happiness with reduced chores and responsibilities. They are living their best retirement taking advantage of safe, social and active living opportunities. Sounds like a dream, right? But not everyone, including my mom, is ready for such a big change. Now what do we do?
First and foremost, we had to accept that this is her life decision, not ours. She needs to be ready to make the move when the time is right for her. Although we have good intentions and want only what’s best, we also have to adhere to her wishes. My advice to you, if you are nearing the same situations with your parent(s) – plan ahead. Start planting the seed for them to think about what their plans are for the future so that they don’t feel defensive or offended when they are older. Be proactive while they are in good health to start exploring their options without the sudden urgency to decide for them.
Retirement living options
Here are some info and tips on the different options available based on needs and affordability we learnt:
Mom, like many seniors, is determined to live in her home as long as she can. Many communities have home care services and emergency life-line communications systems available to assist those wanting to maintain their independence. You can also make a few changes to their home like lifts, handrails, or step in tubs so that your loved ones are able to continue living safely and comfortably. To assess if this was still a possibility for my mom, we considered:
Could she manage her day to day care (ie: cooking, cleaning, shopping)?
Was additional care available in her community if needed? Home care costs vary depending on the type and level of care
Does she have friends and a social life? My mom is a social butterfly so we knew this is really important for her mental health
What is the actual cost of staying in her home?
Together we made a detailed list of all of the expenses incurred on a monthly and yearly basis. The mortgage may be paid for, but there are other costs including:
Vehicle: gas, maintenance, insurance, license plates
Medical: prescriptions, lifeline medical alert, ambulance
Home: upkeep, appliance replacement, insurance, taxes, yard care
Groceries/personal items or meals on wheels
Utilities: phone, cellular service, power, gas, cable, internet
Retirement residences are not just a home, but a community. They are privately run but provincially regulated. This presented an option where she could kick back and enjoy a worry-free lifestyle in her own self-contained suite and where her daily needs (meals, housekeeping, laundry) would be met. A place where she was free to socialize and take advantage of all the active living opportunities and amenities available. How to choose which is the best facility really comes down to personal choice. It’s good to have choices but too many can be overwhelming. So, we started to do our homework:
First, we needed to determine what general area or community she wants to live in – close to her current home or closer to her kids and grandkids
We asked friends whose parents are in homes for their advice and feedback
We started searching online. Most residences have a website you can poke around to see what they offer. Does it look clean and well kept? Does it meet her needs and have some nice to haves?
We created a list of questions
What are the size options and any extra costs in the personal unit (ie: internet, cable and telephone service)?
Is there transportation available for personal appointments?
What amenities are included (ie: housekeeping, laundry)?
Are pets welcome?
What is a typical weekly menu?
What are the recreational activities included?
Are there outdoor areas to enjoy?
Are guest stays available?
And the big question: “What does it cost per month? What are considered “extra care costs”?
Next, we started booking tours. Take advantage of staying overnight or for the weekend. It will give you the option to try out the food and talk to the residences and staff in order to get a feel for the place. Ultimately you should be able to envision yourself staying there long-term.
Everything comes with a price and there can be a big difference between facilities. We found monthly costs ranged from $2,500 to upwards of $10,000. In some communities, low income housing options are available. Keep in mind that the cost is like choosing and paying for an all-inclusive vacation. You truly get what you pay for. Remember: it’s your loved one’s choice. Don’t push your preferences on them. Let them weigh the pros and cons of each place.
Other options down the road
When the time comes, we know we may have to consider other living arrangements when Mom needs more hands-on care:
These can be government or privately run for people with some limitations in physical or cognitive health. They provide 24-hour care with assistance with grooming and personal care, mobility, medications or anything related to your disease care. There is usually a base cost and then additional charges based on care required. It’s important to find out the level of care. Some offer level 1-4 care so you won’t have to move multiple times.
Long term care
With these type of facilities, you need to be assessed and referred by your family doctor. The cost of long-term care is actually shared by the government. They pay for everything to do with care and you pay for the space. They do provide basic furnishings including a bed, nightstand and chair. It’s up to you to make it as homey as possible given the limited space. Cost is based on your income.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. For every place we have been in contact with so far, the staff have been wonderful and very helpful. They have dealt with many individuals and families who are struggling to make one of the biggest life changing decisions they have ever made. Their patience and empathy were welcomed and they provided us packages of information and checklists to help in our decision making.
Like with retirement savings, you’re never too young to start planning and educating yourself. I’ve already started asking my spouse where he sees us in the next 10 – 20 years.
In closing, remember whose decision this is and that as long as your loved one is happy, safe and cared for, there will be less worry all around. Hey, if things don’t work out, they can always come live with you. I’ll save that blog for another day.